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CC Mitsubishi holds second place with Luc Alphand in the UAE

2006 UAE Desert Challenge
FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, final round

Leg 1: Abu Dhabi - Moreeb
Liaison 53.20 km, Special 284.45 km, Liaison 119.03 km - Total 456.68 km

Weather conditions: very hot, humid and sunny – 34-36C

For immediate release
Monday, November 6th, 2006


FRENCHMAN LUC ALPHAND HEADS MITSUBISHI’S UAE DESERT CHALLENGE IN SECOND PLACE

Frenchman Peterhansel displays new MPR13’s potential before delay;
Japan’s Masuoka loses his way and his place in the top five

MOREEB, UAE – Frenchman Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard led Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart’s challenge after the opening desert selective section of the UAE Desert Challenge, the final round of the 2006 FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, on Monday.

The defending Dakar champions finished the day’s opening desert selective section in second position to maintain second overall in the general classification. Team mates Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret had been the fastest crew through an earlier passage control on the desert debut of the new MPR13 version of the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution, but lost valuable time in soft sand and damaged the car’s steering in the process of reaching the stage finish.

Alphand and Picard began the day in second position and quickly passed Marc Corbett’s Nissan Pick-Up, enabling them to lead the car category through the stage. They were third at PC1 and fourth at PC2.

~The objective was to set a good pace from the start, because you never know when you are the first car in the stage what the actual pace of the other cars can be,~ said Alphand. ~It was easier than I thought. Marc Corbett was pushing quite hard in the Nissan and the bikes were making some tracks, which were easy to follow. I am happy today and in a good position for tomorrow.~

The stage was held in punishing heat and humidity and was an excellent endurance test for MMSP’s new MPR13 which had turned a competitive wheel for the first time in Sunday’s Super Special stage.

~We were going well, having a good stage,~ said co-driver Cottret. ~Then we got caught in some soft sand in a dune and lost around 25-30 minutes. We also damaged the steering, so we had to finish the stage with power steering problems.~

Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon started the stage fourth on the road and held sixth at PC1, but lost time in the subsequent section with navigational problems. ~We were running well,~ said Masuoka. ~The stage was very fast, but then we made a small navigational problem and I think it cost us a few minutes.~

The hustle and bustle of Dubai’s congested road network was a far cry from the remote and small tree-lined desert highways of the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi for teams this morning. Following the ceremonial start on the picturesque Corniche of the UAE’s commercial capital, the opening competitive stage began at Al-Dafrah and took place over fast sand flats and high-speed gravel tracks. There were three passage controls at the 78.24km, 172.87 km and 234.18 km points.

Meanwhile, service and assistance vehicles reached the Moreeb Hill bivouac, nestled in the shadow of a giant sand dune, via an asphalt highway, passing the renowned ‘Rainbow Sheikh’s’ (Sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al-Nahyan) eccentric and remote car museum and traversing the desert towns of Tharwaniyah and Mizairah and the oasis settlement and birthplace of the late UAE ruler Sheikh Zayed at remote Liwa,

~It was a good start for Luc and Gilles and they are in a good position for tomorrow,~ said MMSP’s Managing and Sporting Director Dominique Serieys. ~Stéphane proved that the MPR13 is competitive, but he has had problems today. But this is just the start. We will see what the position will be on Friday afternoon. I think that Stéphane is in a good position now to push hard over the next few days.~

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the second leg of the event and Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart will tackle a 304.50 km timed selective section across open desert and along fast tracks, starting near the Mizai’ra to Madinah Zayed highway and finishing on a gatch road, south of Khis village. Teams will then spend a second evening at the Moreeb Hill bivouac under the shadow of a giant sand dune after completing a 92.47 km return liaison section.

Positions on SS1 – unofficial @ 15.55 hrs
1. Carlos Sainz (E)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 2h 42m 55s
2. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2h 46m 38s
3. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X3 CC 2h 48m 13s
4. Ari Vatanen (FIN)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 2h 49m 31s
5. Carlos Sousa (P)/Andreas Schulz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 2h 50m 15s
6. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2h 53m 55s
8. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 09m 53s

Positions after leg 1 – unofficial @ 16.00 hrs
1. Carlos Sainz (E)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 2h 46m 01s
2. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2h 49m 29s
3. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X3 CC 2h 50m 12s
4. Ari Vatanen (FIN)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 2h 52m 27s
5. Carlos Sousa (P)/Andreas Schulz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 2h 53m 07s
6. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2h 56m 17s
9. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 12m 49s

Ends

Date issued: 06/11/2006

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