CC Alphand maintains Rally of Tunisia lead for Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia
FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup, round 2

Weather conditions: warm and windy - 22 C

Leg 5: Sabria - El Borma
Transfer: 8 kms, Special stage 299 km (shortened by 30 kms), Liaison 76 km

For immediate release
Friday, April 8th, 2005


Japan's Masuoka takes second fastest time with flat tire;
Frenchman Alphand maintains lead with punctured rim

EL BORMA, Tunisia - Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team driver Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard maintained their overall advantage in the Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia over the revised fifth selective section between Sabria and El Borma, today (Friday).

At the wheel of the first of two Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolutions, Alphand began the day 5m 23s ahead of Japanese team mates Hiroshi Masuoka and co-driver Pascal Maimon and 11m 15s in front of his nearest Volkswagen rivals Bruno Saby and Michel Périn.

The former World Downhill Skiing Champion was first into the stage this morning, but sustained a flat rear left tire 100 kms from the stage finish. He eventually took the third fastest time and now leads Masuoka by 4m 45s and Saby by 7m 12s.

~The stage was great today, ~ said Alphand. ~We drove the dunes from yesterday in reverse and they were not too bad. The first 100 kms were straightforward, but the navigation was quite tricky in one place on the pipeline and we had a flat tire about 100 kms from the finish.

~We lost about three minutes. I think we hit a stone and damaged the wheel rim. Then I had to push, because we had lost three minutes and I restarted right in front of Jutta. By the end of the stage I managed to pull about 50 seconds back. I will start third tomorrow and that should be a good position for the dunes.~

Masuoka began today's stage third on the road and finished with the second fastest time, despite a puncture.

~After about 20 kms I hit a rock hidden in the sand and got a right rear flat tire and we lost two and a half minutes,~ said Masuoka. ~Saby overtook me, but it was a very wide road and there were three cars together for the rest of stage. It was not possible to pull away, but tomorrow is another story and I will push hard in the dunes.~

Today's stage was shortened by 30 kms at the bivouac in Sabria on Thursday evening, because the organising NPO team deemed the soft white sand dunes, near the start, too difficult for some of the drivers at the rear of the field. The stage featured a similar start to yesterday, before the route passed through the Great Eastern Erg and on to the pipeline road towards the remote El Borma settlement.

Tomorrow (Saturday) features a loop stage around the El Borma bivouac. After an 11 kms transfer, the 290 kms selective section promises to be the most difficult of the entire event and consists of two loops.

The first 220 kms section crosses many sand tracks and the second 70 kms selective will cross six treacherous dune ridges and many tricky sand dunes and soft sand sections.

Positions after leg 5 (unofficial @ 12.10 hrs):
1. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 11h 20m 55s
2. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 11h 25m 40s
3. Bruno Saby (F)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 11h 28m 07s
4. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 11h 34m 58s
5.Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Buggy 11h 51m 48s

Positions on Sabria - El Borma stage: (unofficial 12.10)
1. Bruno Saby (F)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 2h 42m 28s
2. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2h 45m 53s
3. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2m 46m 31s
4. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 2h 46m 36s
5. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Buggy 2h 53m 02s


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Florian Moser
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Date issued: 08/04/2005

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