Dakar: Mitsubishi stage 12 report

MITSUBISHI'S ALPHAND CLAIMS STAGE VICTORY AND OVERALL LEAD The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution crew of Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard lead the Dakar Rally after today's 12th leg of the event. The French crew claimed victory in the 368 ...

MITSUBISHI'S ALPHAND CLAIMS STAGE VICTORY AND OVERALL LEAD

The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution crew of Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard lead the Dakar Rally after today's 12th leg of the event. The French crew claimed victory in the 368 competitive kilometer stage and Alphand, who heads the Dakar leaderboard for the first time in his career, takes a 20 minute and 31 second advantage into Friday's leg. Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart team-mates Joan 'Nani' Roma and Henri Magne have also moved up the leaderboard into third while the team's former leaders and Dakar champions, Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret, have dropped down the classification to fourth overall after hitting a tree and being forced to wait for their assistance truck.

Today's dramatic leg, from Bamako to Labe in Guinea, covered a total of 872 kilometers, with a rocky 368 kilometer competitive section where the vegetation was thicker than ever. Even more daunting for the Mitsubishi crews, however, was the fact that today's Marathon section means no service cars are allowed at the Labe bivouac tonight and the only possibility to receive spare parts or assistance was from one of the two Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team trucks that are entered in the actual competition. For Peterhansel and Cottret, this saved their day.

Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard were on top form, winning the stage by nearly a minute for Alphand to lead the Dakar Rally for the first time ever. With three legs remaining, the Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution crew hold a 20 minute and 31 second advantage over second-placed Giniel de Villiers going into tomorrow's section from Labe to Tambacounda.

Joan 'Nani' Roma Team-mates Joan 'Nani' Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne began the day unchallenged in fourth place and were sixth through the opening passage control and eighth through the second. They completed the stage in sixth position and move up to third overall, at the expense of Peterhansel's problems.

Peterhansel, the defending Dakar champion and leader for the past four days, began the day with a 25 minute lead over Alphand and was classified fifth through the first passage control. But the Frenchman stopped 15 kilometers from the second control point after hitting a tree and damaging his Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution at the 278 kilometer point.

He lost a little over an hour making repairs to the left rear suspension and transmission, but was forced to stop again shortly after the second passage control and await the Mitsubishi assistance truck. As a consequence, the crew lost three hours but arrived in the bivouac fourth overall, such was their earlier advantage.

Stephane Peterhansel / Jean-Paul Cottret "I said in Nouakchott that anything can happen at any time on this race," said Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Dominique Serieys. "Stephane had a collision with a tree, but Luc did a great job for us. We had a lead of over one hour, but then we had navigation trouble and both our drivers hit a tree, so now Luc must be very careful. I am pleased that he is first on the road on Friday. It means he will stay out of the dust. Nani will need to try and protect Luc without taking any risks."

Tomorrow (Friday) the event crosses from Guinea into Senegal and crews will begin to feel they are on the home straight, although the route crosses several mountain passes at altitudes of more than 1000 meters. The stage begins a mere seven kilometers out of Labe and finishes 348 kilometers to the north en route to the overnight halt at Tambacounda. A 212 kilometer liaison completes the day and steers the teams into the remote eastern Senegalese town.

-mitsubishi-

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Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Henri Magne , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Gilles Picard , Giniel de Villiers