Dakar: Petersen/White Lightning stage one report

Petersen/White Lightning Completes First Stage of Euromilhoes Dakar with Strong Run 28th-Place Finish in Stage 1 for Petersen, Stage 2 Set for Sunday Morning PORTIMÃO, Portugal January 6, 2007 - Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing's...

Petersen/White Lightning Completes First Stage of Euromilhoes Dakar with Strong Run

28th-Place Finish in Stage 1 for Petersen, Stage 2 Set for Sunday Morning

PORTIMÃO, Portugal January 6, 2007 - Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing's approach to the Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 is with an eye towards learning the ins-and-outs of the world's most challenging motorsports event. Today, in the rally's first stage from Lisbon to Portimão, Portugal, the team not only learned a great deal but had a strong finish to show for it. The No. 351 MMPIE/PAWS/?.com/BF Goodrich T1.3 class buggy being driven by owner/driver Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA) and being co-driven by Matthew Stevenson (Ipswich, England) finished 28th overall in the car class out of 167 entries. Petersen covered the 117 km/72.7 miles of the 'timed special' stage in one hour, 36 minutes and 21 seconds. The time was only 15 mins and 43 secs. behind the leading car entry of Portugal native and Dakar specialist Carlos Sousa. In total, the first stage covered 464 km/288.3 miles- 115 km/71.4 mile first liaison, or 'connection' to the 'timed special' stage and then another liaison of 232 km/144 miles.

Petersen rolled into the day's bivouac at Portimão to meet program manager and entrant Dale White (Bozeman, MT., USA) who had driven his No. 671 Toyota Land Cruiser to the site on an alternate, more direct path for support vehicles. The No. 673 T5- class, six-wheel support vehicle of technicians Nico Castellaccio (Tracy, Calif.) and Dennis Chizma (Las Vegas) also cleared the first day's action as did the No. 572 of Darren Skilton (Long Beach, Calif., USA). Skilton, racing in the T4 category as the on-course support to the No. 351, had to overcome late night repairs to his entry in order to take the green flag in the first stage today. A fuel injection issue, first discovered on Thursday in scrutineering, forced a call for parts and the subsequent repairs on Friday evening before the truck was allowed entry into the event. Skilton drove the three-person Mercedes to a time of 3:28:25, 1:48:25 behind the truck leading No. 509 Ginaf truck, for 68th quickest out of 80.

The second stage begins at 7:20 AM (GMT), Sunday, January 7. Petersen, by virtue of his 28th-place finish in Stage 1 will start 28th in the car class while Skilton will start 68th in the truck class. The route from Portimão to Málaga, Spain will cover 545 km/338.6 miles (15 km/9.3 mile first liaison and a 463 km/287.7 mile second liaison split by a 67 km/41.6 mile special stage). It is a very different course than Petersen/White Lightning faced today. Unlike the sandy route that the drivers covered today- which more closely resembles what they will see in final stages once they enter northern Africa- this section of the rally is mountainous with large drop-offs just inches from the outside wheels of the vehicles. Once they have crested the mountains, they will drop back down the southern slope to the Mediterranean Sea. After an overnight stay in Spain, they will travel by boat to the country of Morocco in Africa.

Once in Morocco the four vehicles will begin the rally in earnest. They will face the fine sand dunes of western Africa where they will compete in the final 13 stages of the 15 stage event covering 6,906 km/4,291 miles. The first African stage takes them from the port city of Nador to Er Rachidia on January 8th where 252 of the total 648 km are in the special stage.

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.

Live Timing and Scoring and other Dakar-related information will be found at www.PetersenMotorsports.com. Versus Network will carry highlights of each day's activities starting on January 7. Petersen and White will also being doing periodic Podcast interviews with the American Le Mans Series which will be available via www.AmericanLeMans.com and on iTunes, Podcast key word: American Le Mans Series.

Quotes: Michael Petersen, Owner/Driver: "I think that is a very good start for the first stage. Our goal is to finish the rally and there is a lot of it left. But, we're satisfied with the first day's results. We had our concerns when we left Lisbon because the car had some electrical gremlins in inspection. The boys really worked hard to get that working but we weren't sure if the car would make it to the finish of the stage. It did well and we're going to keep working on it. We'll also work on a few others things over the next several stages to get the buggy just right as we get into the heart of the rally in Africa. It was a good start and I am feeling good."

Dale White, Entrant/Program Manager: "We're going stage-by-stage. That's our approach right now. We have the first one complete and we have 14 more to go. This was a good start but it just keeps getting more difficult. Mike was pretty happy with the buggy. There are a few things we'll keep working on but to finish in the top-30 on the first day is a pretty good start. Most importantly, we learned a lot in scrutineering and the first stage that will help us next year."

-credit: petersenmotorsports.com

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Series DAKAR