CC Mitsubishi moves within one stage of Rally of Tunisia win

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

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

Weather conditions: cold, dry and windy - 12 C

Leg 7: El Borma - Djerba
Liaison: 45 kms, Special stage 326 kms, Liaison 70 kms

For immediate release
Sunday, April 10th, 2005


Japan's Masuoka punctures, loses his way and slips to third overall;
Frenchman Alphand heads into final loop stage with commanding lead

DJERBA, Tunisia - Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team driver Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard consolidated their leading position in the Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia by setting the fastest time through the penultimate stage between El Borma and Djerba, today (Sunday).

Alphand, who finished second overall in this year's Dakar Rally - his first event for the Mitsubishi team - began the day's stage 8m 04s ahead of Japanese team mate Hiroshi Masuoka and his French co-driver Pascal Maimon. He began the day second on the road behind Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser in his V8-engined Buggy and will start the final day 15m 29s ahead of second-placed Bruno Saby.

~We started behind Jean-Louis and then we passed him,~ said Alphand. ~After the first 20 kms he went too far in a section where you needed good navigation and we went ahead. Then he passed us again. He complains about the power of the Buggy, but he has a very good top speed and we stayed behind him to the finish.

~I am sure he tried to lose us, but we stayed with him all the way and we both slowed down over the last 100 kms. It was windy, but there were no visibility problems on the stage. It was a nice stage to drive. Now I must be sensible on the final day. We have a good advantage, but it is not over. We must stay focused.~

Japan's Masuoka and French co-driver Pascal Maimon lost their way, sustained a flat tire and slipped to third place in the overall standings behind Frenchman Bruno Saby.

~It was not a good day for me,~ said Masuoka. ~At the beginning we lost our way and had to follow Bruno Saby. Then we had a flat rear right tire and that was the end of a good stage time. Now I must be careful and make sure that I reach the finish on Monday.~

Today's stage began 45 kms from El Borma - which had been affected by strong winds and sand storm conditions for much of the night - and headed along a fast track towards Fort Jneien and passed a wadi and a canyon to the Nekrif assistance point. The finish of the stage was at windswept Néfatia.

Tomorrow (Monday) is the final stage of this year's Rally of Tunisia and is the third loop stage in and out of Djerba. After a 91 kms liaison, the 264 kms selective section heads south towards the border region with Libya and onwards across a repeat track of today. The stage reaches a conclusion across a chott and on the beach 37 kms from Djerba.

Positions after leg 7 (unofficial @ 12.30 hrs):
1. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 16h 36m 00s
2. Bruno Saby (F)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 16h 51m 29s
3. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 16h 54m 17s
4. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 16h 57m 56s
5. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Buggy 17h 04m 30s

Positions on El Borma to Djerba stage: (unofficial @ 12.30 hrs)
1. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3m 01m 36s
2. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Buggy 3h 03m 23s
3. Bruno Saby (F)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 3h 05m 14s
4. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 3h 09m 00s
5. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 11m 49s


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Florian Moser
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E-mail f.moser@mitsubishi-motor-sports.com

Date issued: 10/04/2005

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