Peterhansel stays on track in the UAE

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

For immediate release
Thursday, October 23rd, 2003



Biasion rolls and retires; Vatanen stuck in the dunes

LIWA (UAE): The French duo of Cyril Despres and Jean-Louis Schlesser won the third gruelling 359.60 kms desert section of the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge through the Rub Al-Khali in Abu Dhabi today (Wednesday). Schlesser now trails overall leader Stephane Peterhansel by 12m 52s on an event he must win to have any chance of regaining the FIA World Drivers' title.

Despres, 29, began the stage fourth on the road this morning in the motorcycle category and rode his KTM 660 hard to catch his three closest rivals. The Frenchman eventually extended his overall advantage over South Africa's Alfie Cox to 9m 20s and looks in a strong position to clinch the FIM Cross Country Rallies title tomorrow.

~I had to ride hard to keep up with Alfie,~ said Despres at the stage finish in Tharwaniyah. ~He is a tough competitor for an old man! It was difficult physically today. Very hard on the body.~

Behind Despres, Poland's Marek Dabrowski rode strongly and finished second on the most difficult of the event's four desert stages. Second-placed South African Alfie Cox was third overall.

Frenchman Paul Rivet is the best non-KTM rider on his 12th-placed Honda. The highest-placed Quad at the start of the third section was 17th-placed Dutchman Sebastian Husseini on his Yamaha, with the UAE's Atif Ahmed Al-Karim Al-Zarouni in second position in the M4 class on a Honda.

In the four-wheel category, defending World Champion Schlesser edged back into contention to retain his FIA world title with the fastest time. But the Frenchman must somehow find a way past Stephane Peterhansel's Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution and hope that rival Carlos Sousa fails to reach the finish. Sousa rolled today and lost over 16 minutes, but still lies third overall. Belgian rival Gregoire de Mevius slipped back to fourth place with clutch problems.

~It was a tough stage,~ said Schlesser. ~There were no places to go really flat out. There were some holes and it was difficult to see the GPS points. I followed Stephane Peterhansel for about 100 kms and then he stopped to do something with a tyre and followed me for about 80 kms.~

Peterhansel found himself stuck in soft sand on two occasions for a total of 15 minutes and last year's winner is taking nothing for granted. ~I am not getting too confident, because on the last three races this year in Dakar, Italy and Tunisia I have had a good lead and something has happened on the final day,~ said the Frenchman.

Germany's Andrea Mayer is on course for a career-best result in her Mitsubishi Pajero. She stopped to help two team mates today and still moved up to fifth place.

Italy's Miki Biasion was forced to retire after rolling his Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution after 30 kms. The twice former World Rally Champion complained of a pain in his side and took the decision to withdraw.

Nissan suffered the ignominy of a pair of driveshaft failures on Wednesday, which put paid to the winning aspirations of both Ari Vatanen and Giniel de Villiers. The cars were refettled overnight and the duo tackled today's section for testing purposes, but Vatanen hit trouble again 55 kms into the section.

In the T4 Trucks category, all four entrants incurred a stage maximum penalty on Wednesday, but the first of three Russian Kamaz teams, led by Firdaus Kabirov, Guennadi Bodnar and Dzhamil Kamalov, had a slender 13s lead over their team mates at the start of the third leg.

~It has been a great race so far and I would like to thank my team for their ongoing hard work,~ said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the chairman of the organising committee. ~The UAE Desert Challenge is living up to its name and has been a real test for both professional and amateur teams. It is nicely poised now for an exciting finish at the DIMC at 4pm on Friday.~

Tomorrow (Friday) is the final day of the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge and there will be two timed stages between Liwa and the finish near Dubai. The opening 202 kms section starts at Thanwaniyah and passes south of the Al Ain truck road and north of the Al Ain highway.

The route then winds its way past Nahel Town and the 191.25 kms final competitive stage draws to a close on the Emirates Road, near Jebel Ali South. A short road liaison takes the surviving crews on to the finish ramp at the DIMC, Mina Seyahi, at 4pm.

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 3 - Bikes (unofficial)
1. Cyril Despres (F) KTM 660 Rally 12h 27m 46s
2. Alfie Cox (ZA) KTM 12h 37m 06s
3. Marek Dabrowski (PL) KTM 660 Rally 12h 38m 51s
4. Jacek Czachor (PL) KTM 660 Rally 12h 49m 46s
5. Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter (N) KTM Rally 13h 03m 07s
6. Dave McBride (UAE) KTM 13h 05m 51s
7. Andy Caldecott (AUS) KTM 660 Rally 13h 10m 41s
8. Francois Flick (F) KTM Replica 13h 23m 32s

Positions on SS3 - Bikes (unofficial)
1. Cyril Despres (F) KTM 660 Rally 4h 32m 22s
2. Marek Dabrowski (PL) KTM 660 Rally 4h 36m 34s
3. Alfie Cox (ZA) KTM 4h 38m 22s
4. Jacek Czachor (PL) KTM 660 Rally 4h 40m 30s
5. Dave McBride (UAE) KTM 4h 43m 32s
6. Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter (N) KTM Rally 4h 47m 05s

Positions after Leg 3 - Cars (unofficial)
1. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 11h 37m 38s
2. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 11h 50m 30s
3. Carlos Sousa (P)/Henri Magne (AND) Mitsubishi L200 Strakar 12h 38m 29s
4. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 12h 47m 28s
5. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero 13h 26m 56s
6. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero 14h 19m 25s
7. Amadeus Matzker (D)/ Dirk Von Zitzewitz (D) Land Rover 14h 31m 22s
8. Saeed Hamli (UAE)/Ahmad Malik (UAE) Nissan Patrol 14h 40m 23s
9. Obaid Bin Hathboor (UAE)/ Abdulhalim Bin Zayed (UAE) Chevrolet Tahoe 5h 03m 18s
10. Ahmed Bin Soughat (UAE)/Jassim Al-Kendi (UAE) Chevrolet Tahoe 5h 12m 17s

Positions on Leg 3 - Cars (unofficial - top 5)
1. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 4h 20m 55s
2. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 4h 36m 26s
3. Obaid Bin Hathboor (UAE)/ Abdulhalim Bin Zayed (UAE) Chevrolet Tahoe 5h 03m 18s
4. Luc Alphand (F)/Arnaud Debron (F) BMW X5 5h 12m 17s
5. Ahmed Bin Soughat (UAE)/Jassim Al-Kendi (UAE) Chevrolet Tahoe 5h 14m 58s


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



Date issued: 23/10/2003

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