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CC Luc Alphand opens up a commanding lead in the UAE

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

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

Leg 2: Moreeb - Moreeb
Liaison 54.85 km, Special 304.50 km, Liaison 92.47 km - Total 451.82 km

Weather conditions: hot and sunny – 31-34C

For immediate release
Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

ALPHAND SURGES INTO COMMANDING LEAD MITSUBISHI IN UAE DESERT CHALLENGE

Frenchman Peterhansel climbs up the leaderboard with second fastest time;
Japan’s Masuoka delayed by clutch problems on Moreeb loop selective section

MOREEB, UAE – Frenchman Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard set the fastest time and surged into the overall lead in the UAE Desert Challenge after the second desert selective section, a 304 km loop stages around the Moreeb Hill bivouac, today (Tuesday).

They had begun the day 3m 28s behind overnight leader Carlos Sainz, but finished the leg 14m 25s ahead of nearest rival Jean-Louis Schlesser in the unofficial results after a dramatic day’s action in the towering sand dunes and treacherous soft sands which are a feature of the UAE’s Rub Al-Khali region.

Team mates Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret set the second fastest time in the new MPR13 version of the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution and leapt into fifth place overall.

Alphand had made a large hole in the Spaniard’s overnight advantage at the first passage control and he headed into the second section of the stage a full 2m 03s ahead of his arch rival. For the following two passage controls the contest developed into a game of cat and mouse, with Alphand reaching PC3 a mere three seconds ahead of Sainz, after passing him before PC1. Sainz eventually stopped with mechanical problems and Alphand reached the finish unchallenged.

~It was a difficult decision whether to stay behind Carlos or pass,~ said co-driver Picard. ~I know Michel (Périn) very well and his tactics. We passed and then had to open the road after that.~

~It was not easy to open the stage and keep to a good pace once we passed Carlos,~ added Alphand. ~But it turned out very well at the end.~

Peterhansel and Cottret benefited from a fully-repaired MPR13 to restart from ninth place in the overall standings. They were quickly into a competitive pace and were fourth fastest through the opening PC, the defending UAE Desert Challenge champion sandwiched between Sainz and Finnish legend Ari Vatanen. Peterhansel speeded up still further through the middle of the stage and was running second quickest at PC3 and maintained his position to the finish.

~Much better today,~ said Peterhansel. ~We had no problems with the car at all. It was not easy to keep to a good rhythm this morning, because the dunes were broken and it was a little dangerous to push. I tried to keep to the same pace. It will be difficult to catch Jean-Louis. I saw his dust today, but it was not possible to close the gap. The feeling and the balance of the new car is very good, but it is easy to make a mistake here.~

After opening day navigational delays Masuoka and Maimon were quickly back into a competitive pace in the second MPR12 version of the Pajero/Montero Evolution. They were seventh at PC1 and up to sixth at PC3, but the crew stopped around five kilometres from the end of the stage with clutch problems in the soft sand and were forced to make emergency repairs.

~We had to change the clutch in the stage,~ said a perspiring Masuoka at the stage finish. ~It cost us well over an hour.~

~It was perfect today for Luc and Stéphane and Hiroshi and Pascal did a good job to repair the clutch,~ said MMSP’s Managing and Sporting Director Dominique Serieys. ~The conditions were not easy, with the dunes and the soft sand, but it was a useful test for us and we are now in a good position. The entire team did a great job. We have some really positive feedback from Stéphane about the new car and I must congratulate the mechanics for their superb efforts during the night. They worked until 03.00 hrs this morning to repair his car and they have been rewarded with a stage win today.~

Punishing heat had taken its toll on some of the teams over the course of the first two days, with professional co-drivers from all three of Mitsubishi’s rival official teams being affected by dehydration and heat exhaustion during the course of the desert selective sections.

While some of the leading drivers and FIA officials had spent the night at the nearby Liwa Hotel, the majority of the teams camped under the stars at Moreeb Hill, the purpose-built bivouac now benefiting from a sealed surface access road, permanent port-a-kabins for event officials and even a small swimming pool for team members with time to spare. Arabic-style cuisine was supplied by catering staff and each team was designated its own camping and service area.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) teams tackle the third of five legs and the second loop stage around Moreeb. The 262.45 km timed section includes four passage controls and starts six kilometers from the Moreeb bivouac aside the newly-surfaced Liwa road and finishes on a gatch track to the west of Arada, 54.25 km from the bivouac.

Positions on SSS2 – unofficial @ 14.10 hrs
1. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 52m 30s
2. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 55m 51s
3. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Emmanual Guigou (F) Schlesser DSC Buggy 3h 56m 01s
4. Carlos Sousa (P)/Andreas Schulz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 4h 04m 06s
5. Ari Vatanen (FIN)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 4h 10m 58s
6. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Tina Thörner (S) BMW X3CC 4h 21m 34s
TBA. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 5h 15m 09s

Positions after leg 2 – unofficial @ 14.10 hrs
1. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 6h 41m 59s
2. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Emmanual Guigou (F) Schlesser DSC Buggy 6h 56m 24s
3. Carlos Sousa (P)/Andreas Schulz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 6h 57m 13s
4. Ari Vatanen (FIN)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 7h 03m 25s
5. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 7h 08m 40s
6. José-Luis Monterde (E)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (B) BMW X5 7h 49m 02s
9. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 8h 11m 32s

Ends





Date issued: 07/11/2006

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