Mitsubishi in top five places as Dakar crosses Egypt. The Mitsubishi Motors Team continued to hold the first five places in the overall classification, as the 13th stage of the 2003 TelefÃ³nica Dakar Rally took the competitors south east across...
Mitsubishi in top five places as Dakar crosses Egypt.
The Mitsubishi Motors Team continued to hold the first five places in the overall classification, as the 13th stage of the 2003 Telef?nica Dakar Rally took the competitors south east across the Egyptian deserts from Siwa to Dakhla.
St?phane Peterhansel, who pulled his Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution / Montero Evolution even further into the lead of the rally with his stage win yesterday, further extended his advantage over his Mitsubishi Motors team-mate, Hiroshi Masuoka, in the 13th stage. He now has a commanding margin of 25 minutes and 50 seconds over Masuoka, despite finishing today's stage in fifth place. St?phane is now 3h 13m 51s ahead of his nearest non-Mitsubishi rival, sixth-placed South African Giniel de Villiers.
Today's stage took the Dakar caravan from one oasis at Siwa, to another in Dakhla. Crossing diagonally across the "Great Sand Sea", a veritable ocean of dunes, some of which reach vertiginous heights of over 100 metres, the scenery changed to white limestone after the Farafra oasis. The sinuous track took the drivers between huge limestone outcrops, sculpted by the strong winds. The stage finished with a magnificent route between canyons, before arriving at Dakhla. After three consecutive stage wins for the Mitsubishi Motors Team, Nissan's Ari Vatenen set the fastest time on today's 569 km special stage. It was the four-times Dakar winner's second stage win and he consolidated eighth position overall. Frenchman Luc Alphand was second, in the sole surviving BMW X5.
'It was a nice, fast stage with big mountains and huge dunes', Peterhansel explained. 'But it was not the best of results for us. Yesterday we took a lot of risks, but this morning we decided to take things more slowly. I wanted to control the situation with Hiroshi. The most important thing for me was to stay with him. I don't need to keep pushing to try and win each stage. I saw Hiroshi behind me at one point, running with one of the Nissans, and then he dropped behind again'.
Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka finished in sixth place today, after sustaining a flat tyre. 'I don't know what happened," he said afterwards. "It happened in the sand. The stage was quite tricky, with some beautiful scenery and some towering sand dunes'.
The French pairing of Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Gilles Picard were eighth today, after collecting a flat tyre. However, they still remain comfortably in the final podium position. 'Yesterday, both Jean-Pierre and myself hurt our necks on one big sand dune', said Picard. 'So we started slowly. In the first 200 km there were some dangerous dunes, but overall it was a nice stage. There was a little too much dust and we had a flat tyre. We were passed by a few cars, but I have done this stage four or five times before and Jean-Pierre and I won here in 2000. The last 150 km were beautiful. All in all, it was not a bad day'.
Italian team mates "Miki" Biasion and Tiziano Siviero, driving a Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero, were seventh through today's stage and hold fourth overall. 'Everyone got here safely, but we had a flat tyre', said Biasion. 'I was passed by De Villiers and we couldn't pass him again afterwards. The rally is still long, but we are in a good position. We should be proud of our achievements so far. I thought that the rally would be easier. It is a difficult event this year, very fast'.
Portugal's Carlos Sousa, partnered by twice-winning co-driver Henri Magne, started the day in fifth position in the Mitsubishi L200 Strakar, gaining over three minutes on Biasion through today's section. 'Today was a good day without any problems', Sousa said. 'That is a nice thing to have on this rally. I didn't expect to be as fast as the other guys, but I saw "Miki" with a puncture and maybe this slowed him down. I'm glad to be in the top five. Unless something happens to the cars in front, I cannot realistically see myself improving on this position'.
Spaniard Jos?-Luis Monterde driving a Ralliart Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero, continues to be the leading privateer in race. He is currently lying in 10th place overall.
Tomorrow, the route heads east across the Egyptian deserts to the city of Luxor, world-famous for its ancient archaeological treasures and sites like the Valley of the Kings and Tombs of the Queens. After 53 km of liaison, the Mitsubishi Motors Team will begin a 274 km special stage, followed by a further 375 km of liaison before the teams reach the bivouac. The stage uses camel tracks, which were used in the days of the Pharaohs as a link to Sudan, as well as a variety of winding desert trails, including one which passes the renowned Temple of Karnack.