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CC Luc Alphand extends overall lead in Rallly of Tunisia

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

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

Weather conditions: hot and sunny - 28 C

Leg 6: El Borma - El Borma
Transfer: 11 kms, Special stage 293 kms (70 kms second loop cancelled), Liaison 3 kms

For immediate release
Saturday, April 9th, 2005

MITSUBISHI MOTORS TEAM DRIVER ALPHAND EXTENDS OVERALL LEAD IN RALLY OF TUNISIA

Japan's Masuoka suffers minor problem and maintains second place;
Frenchman Alphand second fastest on El Borma loop stage

EL BORMA, Tunisia - Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team driver Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard extended their overall advantage through the shortened sixth El Borma loop stage of the Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia, today (Saturday).

Alphand began the loop stage 4m 45s ahead of his team mate Hiroshi Masuoka and 7m 12s in front of the leading Volkswagen driver Bruno Saby. When Saby lost time in soft sand today, Alphand managed to pass his French rival and arrived at the stage finish with the second fastest.

Former Dakar champion Jean-Louis Schlesser set the fastest time from fifth place on the road, but Alphand now leads Masuoka by 8m 04s and third-placed Saby by 11m 51s with two days remaining.

~Bruno got stuck before the second passage control and we passed him,~ said Alphand. ~The stage was not too difficult today. It was just a desert race. There was one steep and difficult climb, but not bad for us. It will be tough for some of the drivers running behind. We settled on a safe tire pressure of about 2.1 bar and did not get stuck.

~Our plan today was to catch Hiroshi and stay with him. So it was a good day. Now I will start behind Jean-Louis on Sunday and he will open the stage. There will be a lot of big rocks and stones on the next stage, so we will keep to a safe pace and try not to get a flat tire.~

Japan's Masuoka and French co-driver Pascal Maimon maintained their second position in the overall standings, despite a mid-stage scare when the throttle stuck open and caused the crew a couple of heart-stopping moments.

~We were very lucky today,~ said Masuoka. ~The accelerator stuck open and we could not slow down. We came to this dune and the car nearly rolled. It was not a good experience. It flipped forwards and stopped before going over. That made me take it easy. It was not good for the heart!~

Today's stage was supposed to be the most difficult of the rally, with its two loops and treacherous second section through several dune complexes. But the NPO decided to cancel the second more difficult loop on the grounds that the course opening car had struggled to make it through the dunes the previous day. The stage, therefore, finished 500 meters from the start and was reduced to 223 kms.

Tomorrow (Sunday) the route heads east towards the penultimate overnight halt on the island of Djerba. After a 45 kms transfer, the 326 kms selective section finishes at Néfatia and a 70 kms road liaison takes teams to the bivouac in Djerba.

After starting in sand dunes, the track heads towards Fort Jneien, crosses a wadi and a large canyon and on to the service point at Nekrif. The second section offers fast tracks to the fort at Ksar Jedid and finishes at Néfatia.

Positions after leg 6 (unofficial @ 11.30 hrs):
1. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 13h 34m 24s
2. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 13h 42m 28s
3. Bruno Saby (F)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 13h 46m 15s
4. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 13h 48m 56s
5. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Buggy 14h 03m 07s

Positions on El Borma - El Borma stage: (unofficial @ 11.30 hrs)
1. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Buggy 2h 11m 19s
2. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2m 13m 29s
3. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 2h 13m 58s
4. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2h 16m 48s
5. Bruno Saby (F)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 2h 18m 08s

Ends

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Date issued: 09/04/2005

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