Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution Drivers Maintain First & Second Overall Mayer joins Masuoka on the sidelines Stage shortened by 256 kilometers due to sand storms The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution crews of ...
Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution Drivers Maintain First & Second Overall
Mayer joins Masuoka on the sidelines
Stage shortened by 256 kilometers due to sand storms
The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution crews of Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret and Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard maintained an impressive pace during today's leg of the Telefónica Dakar Rally to retain their first and second positions respectively. Peterhansel now holds a 19 minute 50 second lead over his French team-mate, while Alphand is nearly 50 minutes ahead of his nearest rival. Joan 'Nani' Roma also held his fifth position overall after another punishing day of competition.
The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team did however suffer disappointment with the retirements of Andrea Mayer and former double Dakar Rally victor Hiroshi Masuoka, both during yesterday's Atâr loop stage.
"I said at the start in Spain that this was going to be a very tough Dakar and I still feel that the race is wide open until we reach Tambacounda (Leg 14)", said Team Director Dominique Serieys. "We now have three cars in the race in strong positions. As long as we stay out of trouble, the other teams have to take the race from us. But there is still a long way to go".
Extreme weather conditions have shaken the rally since its start on New Year's Eve and today's route, from Atâr to Kiffa, was no different. In the last stage to be run entirely in Mauritania - one that was already expected to be the hardest of the event - the organizer was forced to shorten the section from 656 to 400.84 competitive kilometers. From the second check-point, the crews therefore made their way to the bivouac at Kiffa as a liaison section on an asphalt road. Even so, it was still one of the most varied stages of the 2005 Dakar Rally, winding through canyons, over twisty sections, fast pistes, dunes and camel grass.
Frenchmen Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard set the pace in the team today, the Pajero / Montero Evolution crew second fastest through the section behind stage victor Jutta Kleinschmidt.
Team-mates Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret, who are pacing themselves for a second Dakar victory, were however hot on their heels just one minute 38 seconds adrift in third position. They maintain their overall lead in the event and are now focused on avoiding any problems.
Joan 'Nani' Roma and Henri Magne lost time to their team-mates but still finished the stage in ninth position to maintain fifth in Roma's debut Dakar in a car.
Mitsubishi's double Dakar Rally winner Hiroshi Masuoka, co-driven by Andreas Schulz, was withdrawn from the event by the team last night. Engine problems during yesterday's leg meant the Japanese driver's assault was as good as over and the team took the decision to concentrate its effort on its three remaining Pajero / Montero Evolutions, rather than repair Hiroshi's engine for this morning's re-start.
"It was not meant to be this year", said a dejected Masuoka, "but that is the Dakar. Everyone has problems".
Co-driver Schulz, who was contesting his 13th Dakar, added: "We are both disappointed. This was developing into a very hard rally this year. There are still four difficult stages to go and I really thought that we could have still made the podium on Sunday".
German Mitsubishi L200 driver Andrea Mayer was also forced onto the sidelines after a stone broke the crankshaft sensor in a freak incident during yesterday's Atâr loop stage. Co-driver Jean-Michel Polato attempted repairs but to no avail and the pair was forced to wait for the assistance truck to tow them to the bivouac. After a long night that saw them arrive at the bivouac at 05:00 hrs this morning, the team once again took the decision to withdraw the crew rather than overstretch its support resources as it prepared to leave Atâr.
"I am obviously very disappointed", said Andrea, before leaving Atâr for Paris this afternoon. "It was a very unfortunate thing which caused the problem".
Team Director Dominique Serieys added: "It was an unfortunate problem, which we could have repaired quite easily if we had had the time. It would have taken about four or five hours, but it was more important that the trucks all left on time this morning so that we could carry out a full service on our three cars in Kiffa this evening before the Marathon stage".
Tomorrow, the rally heads from Kiffa in Mauritania to Bamako, on the banks of the Niger River, in the Republic of Mali. A 25 kilometer liaison takes the crews from the bivouac to the start of the 586 competitive kilometer section. Navigation will be tough in the opening part of the section towards the Malian border, before the route is marked by numerous villages where drivers are required to reduce speeds dramatically for safety reasons. From here, narrow tracks to Bamako will make overtaking difficult and on arrival at the bivouac, Parc Fermé conditions mean no servicing on the cars.
The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero crew of Dominique Housieaux and Loïc Fagot led the Ralliart customers through today's stage, the French pair claiming 15th fastest time to hold 41st position. They are however being beaten by team-mates Klever Kolberg and Roldan Lourival, the Brazilians 24th in the overall classification after setting 20th through the stage.
Poland's Krzysztof Holowczyc and Belgian co-driver Jean-Marc Fortin finished the stage in 41st position in similar machinery