Dakar: Petersen/White Lightning stage four report

Michael Petersen 26th Overall After First Four Stages of Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Petersen/White Lightning 33rd Quickest into Ouarzazate OUARZAZATE, Africa January 9, 2007 -- Driver/owner Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA) had another strong...

Michael Petersen 26th Overall After First Four Stages of Euromilhoes Dakar 2007
Petersen/White Lightning 33rd Quickest into Ouarzazate

OUARZAZATE, Africa January 9, 2007 -- Driver/owner Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA) had another strong day in his premiere in the Euromilhoes Dakar 2007. The owner of two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class-winning Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing finished 33rd in class today slipping one spot to 26th overall. The 678 km/421.3 mile fourth stage from Er Rachidia to Ouarzazate included the longest special timed stage of the rally thus far for the No. 351 MMPIE/PAWS/?.com/BF Goodrich Chevrolet T1.3 class buggy. Petersen and co-driver Matthew Stevenson (Ipswich, England) completed the 405 km/251.65 mile special timed stage in five hours, 31 minutes and 14 seconds. They were one hour, 31 minutes and 20 seconds behind legendary Dakar figure Jean-Louis Schlesser. Today's performance kept the sports car racing and off-road racing championship team within two hours, 26 minutes and 32 seconds of the overall event leader. There are 177 car class entries in this year's 15 stage, 7,708 km/4,790 mile rally and Petersen is currently the second highest-ranked American in the field.

The fourth stage began with a relatively short 96 km/59.65 mile liaison across the Moroccan desert. However, that quickly changed into the longest special timed stage of to-date, nearly double yesterday's special. The special stage featured the first taste of the hypnotizing sand dunes of northern Africa. It also introduced the driving duo to the powdery sand of Morocco. The sand, as fine as dust, slowed the car to a crawl, Further slowing the car were the large boulders and rocks that the No. 351 will be leaving behind in the next few stages. But, today's route also provided Petersen, accustom to the long straightaways of the great race courses of North America, a chance to stretch his legs with a five minute, full throttle tear down the open gravel roads. Once they cleared the timed portion, Petersen and Stevenson made their way 198 km/123 miles north to Ouarzazate.

Waiting for the No. 351 in the bivouac at Ouarzazate was program manager and entrant Dale White (Bozeman, MT., USA), who made his way via a more direct path in his No. 671 Toyota Land Cruiser. Following a night of repairs to the buggy to prepare it for today's stage, Petersen/White Lightning technicians Nico Castellaccio (Tracy, Calif.) and Dennis Chizma (Las Vegas)- who have been following the rally in the No. 891, three person, six-wheel T5 class truck- also met Petersen in Ouarzazate.

Tomorrow's fifth stage begins at 6:20 AM (GMT) for the cars. Petersen and Stevenson will have to face the dust of the African desert again as 25 other competitors in the car class take the green flag before them. In their last full stage in the country of Morocco, where the Dakar has been since landing on the African coast on Monday, Petersen/White Lightning will travel 769 km/477.83 miles to the Atlantic coast and the city of Tan Tan. Again, the connection stages will both be on pavement with the first liaison/connection covering 164 km/101.9 miles. This liaison will be familiar as it is the same road which Petersen/White Lightning used to travel north to Ouarzazate today. The last connection into Tan Tan takes them 280 km/174 miles. The special again draws some of the worst geographic features that Africa has to offer: mountains, sand, stone and dunes. There are three checkpoints along the route, the last of which will provide enough fuel for the No. 351 to pull into the nightly bivouac. The team will need its rest as it looks to face the 817 km/507.6 mile journey into Zouerat, Mauritania on Wednesday. The first rest day for the team comes on Saturday, January 13.

Quotes:

Mike Petersen, Owner/Driver: "It was pretty much business as usual today. No drama, nothing broken. The guys did a good prep job on the car last night. Today wasn't an indication of what we could do. We just cruised through the special today. We gave up a couple of spots to people we knew would charge. We got passed by five cars right at the start of the dunes and then they all got stuck and we re-took those positions. We saw it all today. It was rocky, super rough in parts. Then, we had a section where I was wide-open for probably five minutes or more. We reached 192 [kph/119 mph] on that gravel road. We had our first taste of what we call soap beds in the US. It was so dusty that I was going five miles per hour because the dust was so bad I couldn't see. Tomorrow will be pretty much as today. Matthew is doing a fantastic job. He has so much experience. It would be a scary deal without him. He has been just awesome."

-credit: petersenmotorsports.com

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Series Dakar
Drivers Michael Petersen