Dakar: Mitsubishi stage 4 report

Peterhansel extends lead in first African stage Three Pajero / Montero Evolutions in the top five Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports driver Stéphane Peterhansel has extended his lead in the 2004 Telefónica Dakar Rally and the Pajero / Montero ...

Peterhansel extends lead in first African stage
Three Pajero / Montero Evolutions in the top five

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports driver Stéphane Peterhansel has extended his lead in the 2004 Telefónica Dakar Rally and the Pajero / Montero Evolution driver now holds a one minute, seven second advantage over team-mate and former World Rally Champion "Miki" Biasion. Japan's defending Dakar champion Hiroshi Masuoka lays fifth with the team's fourth official car, driven by Andrea Mayer, in 12th overall.

Today's leg was the first on African soil but it kicked off with a long 233 kilometer liaison to the start of the 75 kilometer Tangier-Er Rachidia stage, the third competitive section of the event. The fast, twisty and sandy stage represented a totally different landscape and took the crews partly through the Mamoora Forest, near the town of Rabat.

The Dakar convoy is now embarking on another lengthy road section of 444 kilometers, which takes it to the overnight bivouac on the fringes of the Ziz Valley, near the military garrison town of Er Rachidia. In the heart of the Atlas Mountains of central Morocco, the area is renowned for its lush palm groves, natural springs and stunning volcanic landscapes.

Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret powered their Pajero / Montero Evolution through the section in second position, just 10 seconds adrift of stage victor and Nissan Pick-Up driver Ari Vatanen, who claimed his 50th Dakar Rally stage win.

"Ari won today's special stage and I will start behind him on the longer stage tomorrow", said Peterhansel. "This is good for me, because he will open the road for the cars and I will have "Miki" running just behind me as well. It will be the first of the really competitive African stages - a good test".

Mitsubishi team-mates "Miki" Biasion and Tiziano Siviero were hot on their heels, just 33 seconds behind the lead French Mitsubishi, in third position. The Italian former World Rally Champion has therefore powered his Pajero / Montero Evolution from fifth overnight to second overall.

Defending Dakar Rally victor Hiroshi Masuoka and French co-driver Gilles Picard set fifth fastest time in the section, just 49 seconds behind Vatanen. The Japanese driver has climbed from sixth to fifth today, just over a minute and a half behind overnight leader Peterhansel.

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports fourth official car, driven by Andrea Mayer, was 12th on the stage. She and former Dakar Rally winning co-driver Andreas Schulz maintain 12th position in their Pajero / Montero.

"Today's short stage was not the most difficult challenge for a driver", said Mayer. "But it offered a mixture of sandy tracks and muddy conditions. I was running behind Jutta (Kleinschmidt) and caught her tracks, but then I dropped back again over the last section of the stage to be on the safe side".

"There was no need for our drivers to push today", added MMSP Team Director Dominique Serieys. "We have two drivers in the first two places and Hiroshi and Andrea are running well. It was a short stage. I am quite happy with everything so far".

Tomorrow (Monday), the crews leave Er Rachidia for a short liaison section that takes them to the start of the first of the long African stages. The 337 kilometer south-westerly run from Er Rachidia to Ouarzazate, 'the Gateway to the South', combines nearly all the challenges of the Dakar Rally in just one stage; fast, flowing and rocky tracks take the contenders to the Erg Chebbib, the first of the real dunes, before crews power over fast and sandy tracks to the end of the section. A 182 kilometer liaison then takes the crews to the overnight bivouac in Ouarzazate.

QATAR'S AL-ATTIYAH LEADS THE WAY THROUGH MOROCCO
Misslin maintains Mitsubishi privateer assault

Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah was the first of the seven Mitsubishi Ralliart customer drivers through the section, the Qatari and Belgian co-driver Marc Bartholome 13th fastest to hold 11th overall in their Pajero / Montero.

Mitsubishi Ralliart team mates Dominique Housieaux, Lukasz Komornicki, Klever Kolberg and José-Luis Monterde are classified 20th, 22nd, 24th and 27th respectively, all driving similar Pajero / Monteros. Thailand's Pornsawan Siriwattanakun claimed 35th in the section in his L200 Strada and holds 32nd overall. Team Mitsubishi Ralliart China's Luo Ding began the day in 55th position but has climbed to 52nd overnight.

Nicolas Misslin was 17th on the section in his privately-run Pajero / Montero and leads the manufacturer's privateer assault in a fine equal 14th position, alongside former Mitsubishi driver Kenjiro Shinozuka.

-mitsubishi-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Tiziano Siviero , Ari Vatanen , Kenjiro Shinozuka , Klever Kolberg , Andrea Mayer , Jose Luis Monterde , Luo Ding , Lukasz Komornicki , Dominique Housieaux , Nicolas Misslin