REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART TEAM WELL POISED AS DAKAR ENTERS ITS CRITICAL PHASE The Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team enjoyed a trouble free run today over the sixth stage of the 28th Dakar Rally from Tan Tan to ZouÃ©rat. The 444 kilometer ...
REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART TEAM WELL POISED AS DAKAR ENTERS ITS CRITICAL PHASE
The Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team enjoyed a trouble free run today over the sixth stage of the 28th Dakar Rally from Tan Tan to Zouérat. The 444 kilometer competitive section, the first in Mauritania, saw the Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution drivers finish fifth, sixth and 12th. All three cars lie comfortably in the top ten with the greatest difficulties of the 2006 Dakar still to come.
Multiple Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret were the first crew into the stage today, courtesy of their victory on Wednesday, but Peterhansel was aware that the lightweight Buggies would have the advantage on the high-speed pistes, which made up the majority of the section.
"This morning I said that a Buggy could be leading tonight and I was nearly right," said Peterhansel. "It was a very fast stage. We were fine with the navigation, but we did not expect to win the stage today. We will start in sixth place in the morning and I feel that this could give us a little advantage. We will see."
Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard began started third today and arrived at Zouérat in fifth position after setting the fifth fastest time.
"It was a case of surviving today," said Alphand. "It was not really a stage suited to the strengths of the Mitsubishis. It was interesting to compare our speed with our rivals; it seems there is really very little difference between us all in terms of top speed."
"We crossed our first camel grass and the first dunes and I feel I have really arrived in Africa now. We have to push to stay in the top group. I feel that our team's experience and the Mitsubishi's reliability will be the key to winning this Dakar. Tomorrow I will start in the middle of the leading group and that is great. That will place less of a burden on navigation."
Spaniard Joan 'Nani' Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne were 12th quickest today in the third Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution and now hold 10th place in the overall standings, still less than 12 minutes off the lead.
"It was not the best of stages for me," said Roma. "I need more experience in the camel grass and the dunes. I followed close behind Mark Miller and lost some time in his dust, but I am happy at the moment. I will keep pushing and make sure that I make no mistakes. Tomorrow is a hard day and one error could cost you 10 minutes and your place in the top group of cars. It is that close at the moment."
Tomorrow (Friday) the bulk of the day's action is competitive, with a short 10 kilometer liaison from Zouérat to the start of the arduous 499 kms special stage to Atar. This stage, regarded by many as one of the most crucial of this year's event, features car-breaking camel grass, stony plains, and many kilometers of high dunes and soft sand holes. Add to this the fact that navigation will be extremely tricky, thanks in part to the new GPS rules, and an fascinating day is guaranteed.
Mitsubishi's Thai and Chinese teams climb the leader board
Chinese driver Guan Yuan Men and French co-driver Serge Henninot started today's stage in 89th place in the overall standings. Men ended the day in Zouérat with a very encouraging 60th position on the stage, jumping him 16 places to 73rd overall.
Thailand's Mana Pornsiriched and French co-driver Jean Brucy, completed the stage in 57th position at the wheel of their Mitsubishi Racing Triton Evolution. They maintain their 40th position in the general classification.
"Both Mana and Men are speeding up and becoming more confident in their cars," said Team Manager Sujit Angello Das. "Men has seen the Mauritanian dunes before and that is something he will never forget, but he has had training this year and is now more experienced. Both drivers are confident that they will overcome the challenge of the Mauritanian dunes."