MITSUBISHI'S ROMA LOSES FOURTH PLACE ON PERILOUS SPECIAL STAGE INTO LA RIOJA Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart's Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz Senra (both Spain) lost the final podium place in the 2009 Dakar Rally, after stopping with electrical...
MITSUBISHI'S ROMA LOSES FOURTH PLACE ON PERILOUS SPECIAL STAGE INTO LA RIOJA
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart's Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz Senra (both Spain) lost the final podium place in the 2009 Dakar Rally, after stopping with electrical problems 165km into the 220km special stage between Fiambala and La Rioja on Thursday.
Mitsubishi's sole-surviving turbo-diesel 'Racing Lancer' crew had held fourth overall at the start of the stage and come under increasing pressure from Robbie Gordon (USA) for the final podium place once overall leader Carlos Sainz (Spain) had retired after an accident. Roma, himself, had survived a scare at the same corner where Sainz crashed, but stopped 86km further on with his own technical problems.
A total of 132 bikes and quads, 89 cars and 56 trucks were permitted to start the 12th stage into La Rioja, where a fierce thunderstorm and incessant early morning rain had relieved some of the oppressive heat of the previous afternoon.
The original stage was reduced by around 33km at the overnight briefing in Fiambala, when event officials discovered that the original route was scheduled to cross an archaeological site. It still featured some treacherous dune crossings and tricky navigation, but was eventually stopped at the 175km point on the grounds that too many crews were experiencing delays in the sand dunes between 140km and 170km. Roma duly arrived at the La Rioja bivouac and was awaiting news of any time penalties that may have been imposed on teams who did not complete the stage.
Tomorrow (Friday) is the penultimate day of competitive action in this year's Dakar Rally and should have featured a 545km special stage in a total route of 753km between La Rioja and C?rdoba, Argentina's second city.
Event officials likened sections of this stage to the type of terrain more at home on the FIA World Rally Championship. However, recent heavy rain in the La Rioja and C?rdoba areas forced the ASO to cut the section that began south of Patquia and headed east towards El Chaco.
The stage will now start at PC4 (364km) and teams will tackle a shortened 220km special stage that heads north through classic WRC Rally of Argentina territory to Villa de Seco and finishes just short of Villa Carlos Paz, the base for the WRC event, to the west of C?rdoba. The city is situated in the foothills of the Sierra Chicas, 390 metres above sea level, on the Suqu?a River and is one of the oldest former Spanish colonial capitals.
ZAPLETAL (Czech Republic) MOVES UP TO SEVENTH OVERALL INTO LA RIOJA
Miroslav Zapletal (Czech Republic) benefited from delays and time penalties for numerous competitors into Copiap?, by moving up the overall leader board to 11th overall at the start of the 12th stage into La Rioja.
He held 26th on the stage at the first passage control and had gained sufficient time over the demanding final kilometers to record the eighth fastest time. The result pushed Zapletal's Mitsubishi L200 into the top 10, at the expense of Laszlo Palik (Hungary) and he now holds an excellent seventh overall, ahead of two official X-raid BMW X3 CCs.
Mitsubishi Thailand-backed Mana Pornsiricherd (Thailand) and co-driver Thierry Lacambre (France) have begun a dramatic climb up the leader board in their Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, since being handed time penalties in Valparaiso. Mana held 74th overall at the start of the special stage into La Rioja and was running 30th through PC2. He eventually reached the finish with the unofficial 23rd fastest time, but his overall ranking will not be known until time penalties have been imposed on other crews.
Toni van Deijne (Netherlands) lost his chance of taking a top 10 finish in the 2009 Dakar Rally, when he was delayed on the Copiap? loop stage and slipped from 11th to 14th position in his Mitsubishi L200. Van Deijne began the 12th stage from 22nd position on the road, but was delayed still further before the first checkpoint for two hours and passed in 94th place.
Several Mitsubishi privateers were running strongly out of Fiambala, once time penalties had been awarded for delays into Copiap?. Jean De Azevedo (Brazil) held 27th overall, Ilya Kuznetsov (Russia) rolled, but was awarded the 28th time, and Christian Barbier (France) was classified in 34th place in his Mitsubishi Pajero at the start of the day and finished the stage in an unofficial 13th position. De Azevedo eventually reached the finish in 24th position.
Jerome Hardy (France) held 36th and Francisco Inocencio (Portugal) was 44th, but many of the back markers and Mitsubishi privateers were instructed by event officials to make their way to the La Rioja bivouac after 175km of the day's special stage and time penalties will be awarded later this evening.