Michael Petersen Holds 26th Overall Through Five Stages of Euromilhões Dakar 2007
Petersen/White Lightning 32nd from Ouarzazate to Tan Tan
TAN TAN, Africa January 10, 2007 - After 16 hours, one minute and 53 seconds of special stages, Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA) holds the 26th position overall in the Euromilhões Dakar 2007. It took Petersen and co-driver Matthew Stevenson (Ipswich, England) just four hours, 18 minutes and ten seconds to cover the 325 km/201.95 miles of the special timed section of today's fifth stage from Ouarzazate to Tan Tan. That brought the No. 351 MMPIE/PAWS/?.com/BF Goodrich Chevrolet T1.3 class buggy through the stopwatches 32nd in the car class, 41 minutes and 31 seconds behind the stage and overall leading No. 303.
Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing entered this year's Dakar with a strategy to be conservative and finish in order to learn the ins-and-outs of the world's most challenging motorized event. That philosophy is paying off in the standings as well as in how the Dale White (Bozeman, MT., USA) entered and managed team will approach their sophomore event in 2008. Of the 177 competitors in the car class that departed for Dakar from the start city of Lisbon, Portugal on January 6, only 146 remain after five stages. Today's stage took an overwhelming toll on the competitors in the car class claiming 21 of the 31 cars withdrawn thus far. Eight found their way onto the flat bed tow truck during yesterday's fourth stage. Despite being a multi-time Baja 500 and Baja 1000 overall winner, Petersen and White continue to hold to the plan they charted out months ago in the team's Nevada shop. They will not charge the No. 351 to gain time and positions until the race's final stages; if then.
With ten stages remaining in the 7,708 km/4,790 mile rally, Petersen remains the second highest-ranked American in the field. Fellow off-road expert Mark Miller sits 10th overall while NASCAR and experienced Dakar driver Robby Gordon sits ten spots behind Petersen, 36th overall, nearly four hours behind the leader.
Today's fifth stage was the final full stage in the country of Morocco and took Petersen/White Lightning a total of 769 km/477.83 miles to the city of Tan Tan. The first liaison/connection on the stage south out of Ouarzazate covered 164 km/101.9 miles of paved roads. The last connection, also paved, into Tan Tan covered 280 km/174 miles. The special itself was a hodgepodge of the surfaces: mountains, sand, stone and dunes challenging Petersen's driving and Stevenson's navigation.
Program manager and entrant White continues to parallel Petersen in his No. 671 Toyota Land Cruiser. Longtime team technicians Nico Castellaccio (Tracy, Calif.) and Dennis Chizma (Las Vegas) are shadowing White, and often setting out on their own course, in their No. 891, three person, six-wheel T5 class truck. They offer the sole, full support of Petersen and Stevenson once the No. 572 of Darren Skilton (Long Beach, Calif., USA) fell out during the events second stage with an engine failure.
The sixth stage will bring new and unique challenges. It is the longest stage of the rally and, based on the number of entries that fell out in today's longest stage to-date, will help decide who actually makes it to Dakar on January 21. They will leave the country of Morocco and enter into Mauritania before they enter the timed stage as they face an 817 km/507.7 mile expedition into Zouérat, Mauritania. Once in Mauritania, the No. 351 will face sand, pebbles and the undulating dunes of western Africa. Stevenson's skill as a navigator will be key as few, if any, landmarks exist to point the way to Zouérat nearly 1,000km away. The special is a long 394 km/244.82 mile battle through the dunes. The soft sand dunes, while a specialty of Petersen's, will require intense concentration to thread through before reaching the second liaison of the day, a short 9 km/5.59 mile dash into the bivouac. And, while physically, mental and emotionally draining as the day might be, the 580 km/360.4 mile Stage Six awaits the team before reaching their first rest day on Saturday, January 13.
Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing has won nearly all the world's major motorsports endurance classics including the 24 Hours of Le Mans ('03 & '04), the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 overall ('95-'97), the 24 Hours At Daytona ('01), the 12 Hours of Sebring ('05) and the Petit Le Mans ('05 & '06). They have won over 50 off-road events and the American Le Mans Series GT2 Class Driver and IMSA Cup Championships ('05 and '06) and Team Championship ('05). 2007 marks the first of a three year Dakar program to complement their ongoing American Le Mans Series effort which recently switched to Ferrari's F430 GT for the '07 race season.