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CC Mitsubishi team heads out of Morocco poised to pounce in Dakar Rally

2007 Dakar Rally

Leg 5 Ouarzazate – Tan Tan
Liaison: 164.00 km, Special 325.00 km, Liaison 279.00 km, Total 768 km

Weather conditions: warm and sunny with a slight breeze: 14-22C

For immediate release
Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

TEAM REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART HEAD TOWARDS MAURITANIA
IN 4TH, 5TH, 7TH AND 8TH PLACES IN DAKAR RALLY

Peterhansel sets second fastest time to maintain pressure on leader Sainz;
Frenchman Alphand and Spaniard Roma fourth and fifth into Tan Tan;
Three punctures cost Japan’s Masouka opportunity to challenge for stage win

TAN TAN, Morocco – Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart completed the third and final Moroccan special stage of the 29th Dakar Rally handily-placed to mount a major challenge on their leading rivals, as the event heads across the border into the Islamic Republic of Mauritania on Thursday morning.

Twice former winners Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret set the second fastest time, a mere 30 seconds behind the stage winner and overall rally leader Carlos Sainz, after 325km of high-speed driving through a wide variety of punishing roads. The French duo’s performance duly pushed them up to seventh position in the overall standings.

“I feel better with our performance today, but it was not easy to set a fast time, starting 10th on the road this morning,” said Peterhansel. “There were many stones and it was easy to get a puncture. My time was not my best, but it was easy to lose time and I slowed down. Tomorrow’s stage is very fast and it will not be easy to gain too much time.”

Team mates Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard and Joan ‘Nani’ Roma/Lucas Cruz set the fourth and fifth fastest times in their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolutions and reached the Tan Tan bivouac, classified fifth and fourth respectively, in the overall results.

“We had a puncture and when we changed the wheel a pin broke in the lid of the rear hatch and we had to stop again,” said Alphand. “This cost us two minutes for repairs, so I lost three minutes for the wheel and two minutes for the pin. It was another frustrating day. Our pace is good, but we do not have the luck at the moment. Every day we are stopping for small things. If we lose five minutes every day it will not be possible to win the Dakar. Our luck needs to change.”

“It was a long day and it was not easy,” said Roma. “It was a technical stage and I had a puncture after 12km. I had to stop in one place and it was not good. Giniel passed me. The stage passed near where I had the accident on the Rally of Morocco in June and that was never going to be easy. I just had to concentrate. I am a little further behind than I would have liked and made a mistake with the flat tyre, but tomorrow is the start of a new race in Mauritania. The target is to reach Dakar, but it is not going to be easy to win. It is very hard this year.”

Japan’s Hiroshi Masuoka and French co-driver Pascal Maimon were well-placed at the first passage control, but lost over 10 minutes with three punctures. Masuoka, winner of the event in 2002 and 2003 and taking part in his 20th Dakar Rally this year, completed the stage in 10th place, albeit 12m 30s behind the overall rally leader. He now holds eighth in the overall classification, but is still close enough to the leaders to mount a serious challenge in Mauritania.

“We had a flat rear tire at 20km and then we had two more rear punctures in the next 120km,” said Masuoka. “I could not understand why. I touched no rocks and then we had a flat. I was very careful after that and we still had two flat tires. I was scared then because I had no spare wheels left. If I had one more flat tire I would have been in trouble.

“We would have needed to wait for the assistance truck and that could have meant losing four or five hours. It was not good for my heart, the thought of getting another flat tire. But we were lucky and only dropped 10 minutes.”

Today’s special stage crossed sinuous mountain roads between the first and second passage controls and this route gave way to broken rocky tracks damaged by adverse weather conditions and fast roads with many treacherous wadis and ditches to catch out the unaware.

“Punctures were not the real issue today,” said MMSP’s Managing and Sporting Director Dominique Serieys. “Stephane, Luc and ‘Nani’ did a good job, even with two punctures for Luc and ‘Nani’. In two days’ time we will do another check and see if we are still losing time or whether we are wrong in our strategy. Three or four days in Mauritania will be very tough. Maybe we will be talking about differences of 30 minutes per day in a few days…”

Tomorrow (Thursday) is the longest day of the entire rally in terms of combined liaison and special stage distances. A daunting 414km liaison steers teams from Tan Tan, through the southern extremities of Morocco and across the border into the Islamic Republic of Mauritania via the Moroccan town of Smara.

The road liaison continued into Mauritania to the settlement at Bir Mogrein and the start of a 394km special stage which finishes a mere nine kilometres from the iron ore mining town of Zouérat. The special offers a combination of fast tracks, camel grass and twisty roads along the westernmost terrain in Mauritania and is commonly considered to be the toughest test faced by teams in the 2007 Dakar Rally so far.

Positions on SSS5 –
1. Carlos Sainz (E)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 3h 36m 39s
2. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 37m 09s
3. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 3h 38m 20s
4. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 40m 56s
5. Joan ‘Nani’ Roma (E)/Lucas Cruz (E) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 41m 11s
6. Guerlain Chicherit (F)/Mattieu Baumel (F) BMW X3CC 3h 41m 42s
7. Carlos Sousa (P)/Andreas Schulz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 3h 43m 36s
10. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 49m 09s

Positions after leg 5 –
1. Carlos Sainz (E)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 12h 53m 50s
2. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 12h 57m 26s
3. Carlos Sousa (P)/Andreas Schulz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 13h 05m 07s
4. Joan ‘Nani’ Roma (E)/Lucas Cruz (E) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 13h 10m 06s
5. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 13h 14m 17s
6. Guerlain Chicherit (F)/Mattieu Baumel (F) BMW X3CC 13h 17m 21s
7. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 13h 18m 21s
8. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 13h 19m 09s
9. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Arnaud Debron (F) Schlesser-Ford 13h 29m 40s
10. Mark Miller (USA)/Ralph Pitchford (ZA) Volkswagen Touareg 13h 43m 22s

Ends

For further information please visit:
http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com/motorsports/e/07dakar/index.html
For further information please contact: press-e@mitsubishi-ralliart.com




Date issued: 10/01/2007

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