Mitsubishi Motors duo retain lead as Dakar Rally reaches Egypt. Another good day for the Mitsubishi Motors Team saw StÃ©phane Peterhansel and his co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret take their fifth stage win of this year's TelefÃ³nica Dakar Rally....
Mitsubishi Motors duo retain lead as Dakar Rally reaches Egypt.
Another good day for the Mitsubishi Motors Team saw St?phane Peterhansel and his co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret take their fifth stage win of this year's Telef?nica Dakar Rally. Their n° 206 Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution / Montero Evolution was followed home by former downhill skier Luc Alphand, with their Mitsubishi Motors team mates Hiroshi Masuoka and Andreas Schulz third. At the end of today's final Libyan stage, five Mitsubishi Motors cars are now placed in the top six of the overall classification.
Today's special stage was entirely off-road, with ergs as far as the eye could see, and dunes reaching heights of 100 metres. Although the sand was generally quite hard, some of the descents could be tricky as the competitors entered the vast extents known by the Egyptians as "The Great Sea of Sand", where some of the highest dunes, not only of the Rally, but of the world, are to be found. After the end of the special stage, the teams continued across the boarder into Egypt, heading towards the bivouac at the magnificent oasis of Siwa, and a much deserved rest day.
Peterhansel completed the 438-kilometre stage in 3 hours, 32 minutes and 53 seconds, beating Masuoka by 2m 26s and recovering the time he had lost in yesterday's stage. Overall, he has a lead of 16 minutes and 32 seconds over Masuoka, with third placed Gr?goire de Mevius over 90 minutes behind. "I now have the same advantage that I had two days ago," Peterhansel explained. "However, this is not enough to secure the victory, because Hiroshi is a very strong competitor and will push hard next week. Today was a very easy stage, very fast both on the tracks and in the dunes. After 100 kilometres, I caught up with Hiroshi and we drove together".
Japan's Matsuoka, whose n° 200 Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution /Montero Evolution finished in third place, agreed with his team-mate : "There was nothing special about today's stage", he said. "It was fast, with a few big dunes".
The French pairing of Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Gilles Picard finished the stage in sixth position, 4m 13s ahead of their Italian team mates "Miki" Biasion and Tiziano Siviero. Fontenay duly moved up to fourth in the overall classification, as Germany's Jutta Kleinschmidt dropped back with a blown turbo and had to be towed through the desert by a service truck. "We have reached the rest day and still have a good position, despite the problems last week in the sand", said Fontenay. "Personally, I feel much happier now that I know Kenjiro (Shinozuka) is okay and on the mend. I worked with him for many years and it was on my mind all the time when we were not sure about his state of health".
Biasion and Siviero are currently fifth overall with their n° 207 Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero. "I have been driving quite well", said Biasion. "We had some problems last week, but now we are in a good position and the car is strong. I am quite confident that we can make it to the finish".
Portugal's Carlos Sousa began the section in seventh place overall in his Mitsubishi L200 Strakar, moving up to sixth place after today's eleventh stage, in which he finished in 10th place. "It was not a difficult stage today", he commented. "The last section was straight and flat. We experimented with the tyre pressures to get the maximum speed out of the car. Now we have a day's rest and then hopefully we can take the car to the finish".
Frenchman Jean-Fran?ois Guinot was 13th today in the Mitsubishi Challenger GLX he shares with his co-driver Manfred Kroiss. They are 15th in the overall classification. Germany's Andrea Mayer, driving the n° 236 Misubishi Pajero / Montero, had her best stage result of the rally so far, finishing in 17th place. She came in 56 seconds ahead of her Mitsubishi Ralliart team mate, the Brazilian Klever Kolberg, who is leading the Total Trophy for Amateur drivers. Mayer is currently 25th overall, while Kolberg is 13th.
However, there were problems for the Mitsubishi Pajero of Etienne Smulevici, who is taking part in his 21st Dakar Rally. The Frenchman and co-driver Pascal Gambillon blew the turbo on their car.
Many assistance vehicles, race trucks and competitors were expected into the bivouac in Siwa tomorrow morning (Monday), after a KTM assistance truck (No. 416) ran over a land mine near the Libya-Egypt border.
The rear wheel of the truck was destroyed, but none of the three crew members were injured. As a safety precaution all following vehicles have been prevented from crossing the border until the area has been made safe and everyone will spend the night at a temporary bivouac in Libya.
With Monday being the official rest day for crews in this year's Telef?nica Dakar Rally, the drivers and co-drivers will have an opportunity to rest before the final six stages across Egypt, finishing at Sharm El Sheikh, on the Sinai Peninsula, on January 19th. For the Mitsubishi Motors Team, however, work will continue to make sure the cars are in top condition for the rest of the rally. "As far as we are concerned, each of the cars will be checked to ensure everything is okay", said Team Director Dominique Serieys. "We will inspect the belts on the engines and change the gearboxes. Each car has spare transmissions and the gearboxes are taken out every three days, reconditioned and replaced. We will also look at the suspension and replace anything which is worn".
On Tuesday, the competition resumes with a loop stage around Siwa. A liaison stage of 57 km takes the teams to the start of the 341-km special stage, during which they will cross through some of Egypt's highest sand-dunes. Another 47 km of liaison will take everyone back to the Siwa bivouac for a third night.