ALPHAND EDGES CLOSER TO VICTORY AFTER ANOTHER STAGE VICTORY FOR MITSUBISHI The French pair of Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard today won the 567 kilometer 13th leg of the Dakar Rally from Labe to Tambacounda in their Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero ...
ALPHAND EDGES CLOSER TO VICTORY AFTER ANOTHER STAGE VICTORY FOR MITSUBISHI
The French pair of Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard today won the 567 kilometer 13th leg of the Dakar Rally from Labe to Tambacounda in their Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution to extend their overall lead to more than 22 minutes. Fellow Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team crews, Joan 'Nani' Roma and Henri Magne, and Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret, set fifth and seventh fastest times respectively and the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team now lie in first, third and fourth positions in the general classification.
"It was a big advantage to be first on the road," said Alphand, stage winner by 50 seconds. "We set an excellent pace, but were under pressure from Giniel and wanted to make no mistakes with the navigation. I knew that the BMW was not far behind as well, so it was quite exciting. It was a tough stage with many junctions, like a motorcycle trial sometimes in first gear among the rocks. We did hit one rock, but all is okay. To be here tonight was our goal. Now we can control the race tomorrow if we let Giniel past and then follow his dust."
Spaniard Joan 'Nani' Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne began the day sixth on the road and in third place overall. Roma finished the section with the fifth fastest time to maintain the final podium place on the penultimate major African stage.
"I can sense Dakar is very close," said a smiling Roma. "Today I had two punctures and broke a wheel; every kilometer was so dangerous. It is not possible to catch Giniel now, but we have a big lead over Stephane and will be able to drive our own race on Saturday. I am not concerned about the Volkswagens. The race and my destiny are in my own hands."
After their disastrous 12th leg, when they hit a tree, Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret started today in 60th position on the road and were troubled by dust throughout the stage. In difficult terrain they passed 44 cars and, remarkably, still recorded the seventh fastest time to remain fourth overall.
Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Dominique Serieys said: "Luc was first on the road and drove a perfect stage. He showed that he can cope with the pressure of being in front. I am sure that our cars, and those of our competitors, are not as strong as they were at the start in Portugal. It has been a very tough rally. But I am confident that Luc and Gilles can hold off the cars behind. It has been a great competition so far - a really exciting race. Stephane did a good job today. He is a champion, but he made a mistake yesterday. We must remember that he is a human being and not a machine."
Tomorrow's penultimate 634 kilometer leg from Tambacounda to Dakar begins with a simple liaison section on asphalt before a twisty 254 kilometer special stage, where the navigators will have their last real test on this 28th Dakar Rally. Another 273 kilometers of asphalt will then take the weary crews to the Senegalese capital Dakar, with only Sunday's short tour of the famous Lac Rose between them and the finish line.