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CC Alphand takes commanding lead into final day of UAE Desert Challenge

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

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

Leg 4 Moreeb - Moreeb
Liaison 6 km, Special 378.90 km, Liaison 123.10 km - Total 508.00 km

Weather conditions: hot and sunny after early morning fog – 28-33C

For immediate release
Thursday, November 9th, 2006


FRENCHMAN LUC ALPHAND TAKES A COMMANDING LEAD INTO FINAL DAY OF UAE DESERT CHALLENGE

Defending champion Peterhansel maintains second position in UAE;
Japan’s Hiroshi Masuoka moves up to seventh overall in his MPR12

MOREEB, UAE – Frenchman Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard will take a 20m 45s lead into the final day of the 2006 UAE Desert Challenge after setting the fourth fastest time through the longest section of the event, an energy-sapping 378.90 km selective section that wound its way through some of the remotest desert terrain in the Rub Al-Khali region of the Abu Dhabi emirate, today (Thursday).

Team mates Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret finished the stage in third place and head into the last day in second overall, with Japan’s Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon completing the team line-up in seventh place.

Alphand and Picard began the day’s competition 22m 22s ahead of their closest team mates and immediately behind them in the starting order. But Alphand discovered that it is easier to follow than to open the stage and had gained 1m 37s on his team mate by PC1.

But Peterhansel redressed the balance at PC2 and was running second fastest on the track behind Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah. Four cars arrived in a procession at PC3 and Spaniard Carlos Sainz eventually pressed on to take the stage win, with Alphand and Peterhansel consolidating their first and second positions in the overall classification, after Peterhansel lost time with two flat tires and Alphand eased his pace to avoid taking risks over the closing kilometres.

~I was asked by the team to slow down after PC2,~ said Alphand. ~Orders! It was a pretty safe day. I was with Stéphane at one point in some big dunes with no GPS point and we lost three minutes. Then it was smarter to let Nasser and Carlos go past. They are a long way behind us. Now I must take it easy and not push to save the car. There’s one day to go. It’s looking good.~

~Carlos passed me on a fast track 30 km from the end of the stage,~ said Peterhansel. ~I tried to push and catch him, but he was driving very fast. I did not want to take too many risks. After the refuelling the stage was much faster, but it is always dangerous to drive too hard. I had a front-right puncture early on. We changed the wheel and then we had a puncture again, so we stopped again.~

Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon started behind Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and were anxious to close the gap on the seventh-placed Spaniard José-Luis Monterde, who began the day 2m 46s ahead of the 2004 UAE Desert Challenge winner. Hiroshi had gained 2m 03s at PC1 and had moved ahead of the Spaniard by PC2, despite losing some time in soft sand. He will start the final morning in seventh position.

~I lost some time in the sand this morning,~ said Masuoka. ~But I am pleased that we managed to take seventh place.~

Today’s selective section was again delayed to allow early morning fog to clear. The organizers also introduced a refuelling point at PC2 for the cars, after a request from one of Mitsubishi’s rival teams under a regulation that selective sections would not exceed 300 km without a refuelling stop.

~The strategy of the day was to stay in contact with the others and I am quite happy with our third, fourth and fifth places,~ said MMSP’s Managing and Sporting Director Dominique Serieys. ~We will check the cars tonight and look at the strategy for the final day, but the whole team did a good job. At PC2, I asked Luc to stop and let Carlos and Nasser go through, because this is not our game and I did not want Luc getting involved in a game to win the stage. There are no team orders and Stéphane will be able to drive his own race tomorrow.~

Tomorrow (Friday) is the final day of the UAE Desert Challenge and the competitive action is split into two selective sections. The fifth sandy 122.45 km selective starts on the edge of the Al Dhafrah road to the east of the Humeem desert highway and passes the Haleeba mast focal point and Sheikh Zayed’s hunting patrol station, before finishing 68 km south of the Al Ain truck road.

A 103.85 km liaison guides crews to the start of the final 163.90 km competitive section north of the Al Ain highway at Khatam. The selective finishes south of the Dubai Autodrome, near to Bab Al Shams and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum’s endurance village at L’Isaili – the home of UAE endurance racing (the equine equivalent to the UAE Desert Challenge).

A 44.85 km liaison takes crews on to the ceremonial finish at the Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) in Mina Seyahi, around 30 km west of Dubai.

Positions on SSS4 – unofficial @ 15.30 hrs
1 Carlos Sainz (E)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 4h 30m 37s
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X3 CC 4h 32m 16s
3. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 4h 34m 39s
4. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 4h 36m 16s
5. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 4h 40m 23s
6. Carlos Sousa (P)/Andreas Schulz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 4h 47m 07s
7. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Tina Thörner (S) BMW X3CC 4h 47m 35s

Positions after leg 4 – unofficial @ 15.30 hrs (includes 15m neutralization time)
1. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 14h 02m 09s
2. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 14h 22m 24s
3. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Emmanual Guigou (F) Schlesser DSC Buggy 14h 34m 05s
4. Carlos Sousa (P)/Andreas Schulz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 14h 41m 21s
5. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X3 CC 15h 09m 36s
6. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Tina Thörner (S) BMW X3 CC 15h 40m 35s
7. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 15h 42m 26s
8. José-Luis Monterde (E)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (B) BMW X5 16h 05m 21s

Ends

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Date issued: 09/11/2006

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