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Peterhansel takes UAE Desert Challenge lead

UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge
2003 FIA and FIM World Cups, final round

For immediate release
Wednesday, October 22nd, 2003

PETERHANSEL TAKES UAE DESERT CHALLENGE
LEAD WITH CRUSHING STAGE WIN

DESPRES STAYS ON COURSE FOR FIM WORLD TITLE

Biker Cox wins day's stage; Al-Motaiwi crashes out; De Villiers and Vatanen in trouble

LIWA (UAE): South Africa's Alfie Cox and Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel won the second gruelling 388 kms desert section of the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge through the Rub Al-Khali in Abu Dhabi today (Wednesday).

In the Bikes category, Frenchman Cyril Despres finished fourth overall on the stage and continued his march towards the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship. Peterhansel surged from fourth overall into the outright lead of the four-wheel category at the wheel of his Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution.

~I am suffering a little with a headache,~ confessed Despres. ~It was very hot out there today. Really tough going. Yesterday I led from the back of the field. Today from the front and it will be a similar position tomorrow. But everything is looking good.~

Poland's Marek Dabrowski kept his faint FIM title hopes alive by completing the section in second position on his Team Orlen KTM. Australia's Andrew Caldecott slipped behind Poland's Jacek Czachor into fifth overall, despite relishing his first taste of racing across the sand dunes. ~I'm loving it,~ said Caldecott. ~It's great experience. I'm never seen dunes like it.~

In the four-wheel category, Peterhansel romped to an emphatic stage victory. ~I did some minor damage to the car with a heavy landing after a dune, but nothing too serious,~ said last year's winner. ~It was an excellent stage. I am really pleased with everything. The car feels fantastic and at the half-way point I am confident.~

Gregoire de Mevius struggled through the last 60 kms to reach the finish with transmission problems, but maintained second overall, ahead of Portugal's Carlos Sousa who was coasting towards the FIA World Drivers' title in a Mitsubishi L200 Strakar. Arch title rival Jean-Louis Schlesser remained over 11 minutes behind Sousa.

Italy's Miki Biasion began the day in third position in a Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution, but the twice former World Champion rolled after the service point and returned to the nearby assistance area to have a new screen fitted. ~It was a first gear roll. A slow one. The car doesn't look too good, but the engine and electrics are fine.~ He slipped to fourth.

Khalifa Al-Motaiwi was the first notable local retirement in his Victory Rally Team BMW X5. ~I was pushing hard this morning and was catching Ari Vatanen,~ said the Dubai driver. ~Then there was this jump not far after the start and we had an accident. That's rallying. I was pushing hard.~

Frenchman Luc Alphand started from the rear of the field this morning in his BMW X5, after collecting two punctures and being further delayed with a serious clutch problem. ~We repaired the car in Liwa and decided that he should continue as a test for the Dakar,~ said German team manager Erwin Weber. Subsequently, Alphand failed to complete today's stage.

Poland's Lukasz Komornicki retired his Mitsubishi Pajero after an engine fire damaged the underbonnet area before the first passage control. Overnight leader Giniel de Villiers succumbed to transmission problems and gearbox maladies forced Nissan team mate Ari Vatanen out of contention.

Tomorrow's (Thursday) 359.60 kms third stage begins on the Arada gatch road at 06.50 and is arguably the most difficult of the stages, with its towering dune complexes and tricky sand holes. A service point has been set up in a remote village on the Arada border road, with a passage control near Hameem. The section is scheduled to finish at Tharwaniyah.

This year's UAE Desert Challenge is being held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Minister of Defence.

Positions after Leg 2 - Bikes (unofficial)
1. Cyril Despres (F) KTM 660 Rally 7h 55m 24s
2. Alfie Cox (ZA) KTM 7h 58m 44s
3. Marek Dabrowski (PL) KTM 660 Rally 8h 02m 17s
4. Jacek Czachor (PL) KTM 660 Rally 8h 08m 48s
5. Andy Caldecott (AUS) KTM 660 Rally 8h 13m 31s
6. Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter (N) KTM Rally 8h 16m 02s
7. Francois Flick (F) KTM Replica 8h 19m 04s

Positions on SS2 - Bikes (unofficial)
1. Alfie Cox (ZA) KTM 4h 40m 00s
2. Marek Dabrowski (PL) KTM 660 Rally 4h 41m 25s
3. Jacek Czachor (PL) KTM 660 Rally 4h 41m 45s
4. Cyril Despres (F) KTM 660 Rally 4h 41m 51s
5. Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter (N) KTM Rally 4h 46m 41s
6. Andy Caldecott (AUS) KTM 660 Rally 4h 48m 54s
7. Francois Flick (F) KTM Replica 4h 49m 20s

Positions after Leg 2 - Cars (unofficial)
1. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 7h 01m 12s
2. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 7h 17m 26s
3. Carlos Sousa (P)/Henri Magne (AND) Mitsubishi L200 Strakar 7h 18m 15s
4. Miki Biasion (I)/Tiziano Siviero (I) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 7h 20m 10s
5. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 7h 29m 35s
6. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero 7h 56m 27s
7. Yayha Alhili (UAE)/Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) Chevrolet Tahoe 8h 25m 06s
8. Dominique Housieux (/Loic Fagot (F) Mitsubishi Pajero 8h 29m 08s

Positions on Leg 2 - Cars (unofficial top 5)
1. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 4h 09m 21s
2. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 4h 22m 07s
3. Carlos Sousa (P)/Henri Magne (AND) Mitsubishi L200 Strakar 4h 23m 28s
4. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW 4h 28m 21s
5. Miki Biasion (I)/Tiziano Siviero (I) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 4h 29m 36s

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge press officer
Dubai International Marine Club press office, Dubai, UAE, Tel: + (9714) 3994673, Fax: + (9714) 3994149
or Liwa bivouac press office, Tel: + (9712) 8822293, Fax: + (9712) 8822819.
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com/press releases

www.uaedesertchallenge.com



Date issued: 22/10/2003

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