NANI ROMA AND MARC COMA PLAYING LEADING ROLES IN MOROCCO
Nani Roma sets the fastest time in the morning's special and Marc Coma is fastest in the afternoon
Leg 3: Ain Benimathar - Erfoud (revised) Total 479 km
Liaison 60 km, Special 175 km, Liaison 55 km
Special 72 km, Liaison 117 km
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart drivers Stephane Peterhansel, Nani Roma and Hiroshi Masuoka finished the third leg of the Orpi Rally of Morocco between Ain Benimathar and Erfoud, in third, fifth and sixth places overall, today. The day's special was similar to the one used as the first African special during this year's Dakar Rally, but featured several modifications because of recent rainfall. After a 60 km liaison, teams tackled a 175 km stage to Anoual. After a second liaison of 55 km, a 72 km special stage from Talsimt brought crews to the original intended finish at Tazouguert, north of Erfoud. A 117 km liaison returned teams to the bivouac
Nani Roma signalled his intentions by running fastest on the second stage on Thursday before being held up in Schlesser's dust. But Roma set the fastest time in today's 175 km special to move within 10 seconds of Schlesser and fourth place. But the Spaniard lost his chance of overtaking the Frenchman in the shorter second stage, when he sustained a flat tire and dropped 3m 30s behind his rival at the overnight halt.
Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret were fifth quickest in SS5, a mere seven seconds behind De Villiers, but rival Sainz closed to within 15 seconds of the Frenchman with the second fastest time. After a frantic battle through the shorter second stage, the Spaniard set the fastest time and emerged from the third day of nail-biting action with a mere one second lead over Mitsubishi's twice winner of the Dakar Rally.
Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka and French co-driver Pascal Maimon began the day in sixth position in the third Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution and set the third quickest time in the opening stage. But they also sustained a flat tire on the shorter second selective and maintained sixth overall, 44s behind their team mates in the overall classification.
Driver's and rider's comments
Stephane Peterhansel: "This morning I tried to push at the maximum, but it was not easy to find a good way and I think that it was easier for the other drivers to follow the lines. This morning was more technical than yesterday, but the result was the same. I pushed again on the small stage and really took some risks in the wadis and over the jumps, but we have still lost some time. Now it is very exciting for tomorrow."
Nani Roma: "I am very pleased to win the first stage, but then we got a flat tire on the second stage. The road book was not good at all and the track was broken. We hit a hole and punctured the tire. Now we have a lot of work to do to catch Schlesser on Saturday."
Hiroshi Masuoka: "I could not see this hole in the stage and we had a flat tire. I was not pushing too hard, but there was no warning in the road book and we have lost our chance to move up the leaderboard."
Marc Coma: "I started the first special in second, behind Despres and after pushing a bit at the beginning, I was able to get him and ride together until the finish of the special. We've both had to make hard navigation work in order to avoid making any mistake that would condition our positions in the overall standings. Everything went much faster in the second special. It was shorter so we didn't get together and went at a very high pace. I feel very well with the bike in general terms, and also with how the rally is going. I'm leading the overall standings with a small margin over the second classified, but we should not loose concentration, because there's still 50% of the race ahead and you cannot make mistakes."
Jordi Viladoms: "Due to yesterday's navigation problems I had to start from the back today. After a few kilometres of the first special, we made a small group with Ullevalseter and Blais, and we went on together almost until the finish of the special. We've been riding at a rather conservative pace, given the difficulties with navigation and riding of the route. The second special was the same route as yesterday's first special but in opposite sense, so since we more or less knew the terrain and the dangerous points, I was able to be faster although without taking any unnecessary risks. In any case, I finished fourth fastest and that makes me happy. I'm happy with my overall performance and that of the new KTM. Too bad I lost so much time yesterday because that left me far behind from the podium places, although there is still a lot of rally ahead."
Tomorrow (Saturday) features a challenging 280 km special stage between Erfoud and the town of Zagora in the scenic Valley of the Draa. The special was scheduled to start in Rissani and head along the Algerian frontier near the Nouhaouar plateau to the village of Tissemmoumine. The original intended route heads south to a fort at Zguilma, along the Valley of the Draa to the scenic bivouac near the dunes at Nakhla. Road book amendments could change this stage as a result of the Friday evening organisers' briefing in Erfoud .
<pre> Standings Cars
SS5 (175.00 km) 1. Roma / Magne Mitsubishi 1h 41m 57s 2. Sainz / Perin Volkswagen 1h 42m 20s 3. Masuoka / Maimon Mitsubishi 1h 42m 47s 4. De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz Volkswagen 1h 43m 50s 5. Peterhansel / Cottret Mitsubishi 1h 43m 57s
SS6 (72.00 km) 1. Sainz / Perin Volkswagen 39m 03s 2. Peterhansel / Cottret Mitsubishi 39m 19s 3. De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz Volkswagen 39m 21s 4. Schlesser / Borsotto Schlesser-Ford 39m 45s 5. Masuoka / Maimon Mitsubishi 41m 35s 6. Roma / Magne Mitsubishi 42m 55s
Overall 1. De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz Volkswagen 7h 09m 50s 2. Sainz / Perin Volkswagen 7h 16m 56s 3. Peterhansel / Cottret Mitsubishi 7h 16m 57s 4. Schlesser / Borsotto Schlesser-Ford 7h 23m 17s 5. Roma / Magne Mitsubishi 7h 26m 47s 6. Masuoka / Maimon Mitsubishi 7h 27m 31s
SS5 (175.00 km) 1. I.Esteve KTM 1h47'05" 2. M.Coma KTM 1h49'10" 3. D.Casteu KTM 1h51'39" 4. F.Lopez Honda 1h56'28" 5. M.Gau KTM 1h57'17" 10. J.Viladoms KTM 1h59'45"
SS6 (72.00 km) 1. M.Coma KTM 42'06" 2. I.Esteve KTM 42'43" 3. C.Despres KTM 43'42" 4. J.Viladoms KTM 44'42" 5. C.Blais KTM 44'58"
Overall 1. M.Coma KTM 7h59'12" 2. C.Despres KTM 8h06'33" 3. D.Casteu KTM 8h08'53" 4. F.Lopez Honda 8h55'07" 5. C.Blais KTM 8h56'27" 6. J.Viladoms KTM 8h58'44"