PETERHANSEL SHORTENS THE DISTANCES AND RAISES EXCITEMENT FOR THE FINAL DAY The Repsol driver will take the start of the last leg 1m 51s behind the leader De Villiers Leg 5: Zagora - Ouarzazate (revised) Total 432 km Liaison 167 km, Special 185...
PETERHANSEL SHORTENS THE DISTANCES AND RAISES EXCITEMENT FOR THE FINAL DAY
The Repsol driver will take the start of the last leg 1m 51s behind the leader De Villiers
Leg 5: Zagora - Ouarzazate (revised) Total 432 km
Liaison 167 km, Special 185 km, Liaison 80 km
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart driver Stephane Peterhansel reduced Giniel de Villiers's overnight lead from 5m 31s to 1m 51s after the shortened penultimate leg of the Orpi Rally of Morocco between Zagora and Ouarzazate today (Sunday). The Frenchman and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret set their first fastest time of the event to maintain second overall and set up a grandstand climax to the fourth round of this year's FIA Coss-Country Rally World Cup. Team mates Joan 'Nani' Roma and Hiroshi Masuoka remain in fifth and sixth overall.
Peterhansel began the day 5m 31s behind overnight leader Giniel de Villiers and pledged to attack at all costs on today's fifth special. He had passed Jean-Louis Schlesser by the first passage control and began to pull away from the Buggy driver. But at the second passage control, Peterhansel was a mere two seconds ahead of overall leader De Villiers - running third on the road - and was not able to make in-roads into the South African's advantage until De Villiers sustained the first of two punctures before the third passage control. The leading Mitsubishi arrived at the stage finish 3m 40s ahead of De Villiers and Peterhansel now trails the 2003 winner by 1m 51s with one stage remaining around Ouarzazate on Monday morning.
Roma and co-driver Henri Magne had been seventh fastest at the first passage control and reached PC2 over a minute quicker than Schlesser, but two minutes behind the leading quartet. They were classified third at PC3 and eventually set the second fastest time to maintain fifth place.
Masuoka and French co-driver Pascal Maimon had been the fastest car in the stage at PC1 - two seconds ahead of Sainz - and the second quickest at PC2, when Sainz edged two seconds ahead. The Japanese eventually recorded the third fastest time at the stage finish and maintained sixth overall, after stopping to change one flat tire after the third passage control and arriving at the stage finish with a slow rear puncture.
Today's selective section ran between Zagora in the Valley of the Draa and the tourist town of Ouarzazate and, predictably, there were further amendments. A revised transfer, extended from 13 km to 167 km, took Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart crews to the start of a shortened 185 km selective section, with a similar 80 km liaison steering competitors into Ouarzazate. The intended route passed through several mountain villages in the High Atlas mountain range. Speed restrictions of 30 km/h were in place in built-up areas. The stage passed near the uranium mine at Bleida and skirted the village of Tazenakht and on to the plain of Issil before teams reached the finish near the Taghdoute dam.
In the motorbike class, Marc Coma finished the fifth and penultimate leg of the Morocco rally in second position. The KTM Repsol rider had the task of opening the track after yesterday's victory. Without any navigation problems but with a very demanding riding, Coma opened the track all by himself until, 40 km before the finish, where he noticed the intensive wear of his rear tyre. The KTM Repsol adopted from then on a conservative tactic in order to keep the distances that separate him from Cyril Despres, second in the overall standings and winner of today's stage. Team mate Jordi Viladoms continues with his progression in Morocco setting the fifth fastest time today. The draw for tomorrow's start will be of vital importance for the last leg, Ouarzazate-Ouarzazate. The race organisers have decided that luck would decide the starting order of the top five in order to avoid unsportsmanlike tactics.
The loop stage starting and finishing in Ouarzazate will reveal the winner of the 2006 Orpi Rally of Morocco. Coma's comfortable advantage over the second classified rider should be enough to let the KTM Repsol rider clinch his third victor of the Raids World Cup 2006.
Driver's and rider's comments
Stephane Peterhansel: "In the mountains I saw Giniel behind me, but then it was not possible to check his position again. I tried to keep a good rhythm all the time, but it was not easy at the end. My tires were completely destroyed. I had no grip at the front or the back. It was a little dangerous. I passed Jean-Louis near PC1. Near the end we passed six small hills, but it was not easy to drive too fast on the last section. But now we have a real fight on our hands for the final day."
Nani Roma: "I made a mistake in a wadi before the first passage control and had to turn around," said Roma. "This cost me around one minute, but I pushed hard after that to try and set the fastest time."
Marc Coma: "It's been a technical and complicated stage. It may not have been very difficult as regards navigation, but it was for the riding. I'm happy with how things have worked out. I opened the track almost throughout the route but some forty kilometres before the finish, at the refuelling, I noticed that the rear tyre was almost finished and I decided to use a more conservative tactic, so I set the second fastest time. The top five starting positions are going to be drawn tomorrow to avoid voluntary stops--Luck will play an important role."
Jordi Viladoms: "Today's stage has been very good. I'm fifth again. These days I'm in the position I wanted to be when the rally started. Today Lopez started from behind me, he caught me and we rode together until the finish. Let's see what position we get for tomorrow; if I start behind him and I don' have many riders ahead, I'll try to go for the fourth overall place, catch-up with him and reduce the difference of almost four minutes."
Tomorrow (Monday) is the final selective section of this year's Orpi Rally of Morocco. Last year Stephane Peterhansel had dominated the event, only to retire with broken suspension on the final stage. On this occasion his quest is to overhaul Giniel de Villiers on the last competitive 222 km, which starts on a narrow piste through the mountains of the Atlas foothills and heads into technical sections with a risk of punctures. After passing the village of Tazenakht, the route reaches the Oasis of Flint, the Tizi Ouigrane pass at 1500 meters above sea level and onwards through the valley of Assif Aït Douchchen to a finish at the Tisgui Illane Oued dam, near Ouarzazate. <pre> Standings Cars
SS8 (185.00 km) 1. Peterhansel / Cottret Mitsubishi 2h 32m 21s 2. Roma / Magne Mitsubishi 2h 33m 00s 3. Masuoka / Maimon Mitsubishi 2h 34m 39s 4. De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz Volkswagen 2h 36m 01s 5. Sousa / Schulz Volkswagen 2h 38m 08s
Overall 1. De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz Volkswagen 11h 51m 27s 2. Peterhansel / Cottret Mitsubishi 11h 53m 18s 3. Sainz / Perin Volkswagen 12h 04m 38s 4. Schlesser / Borsotto Schlesser 12h 05m 53s 5. Roma / Magne Mitsubishi 12h 09m 00s 6. Masuoka / Maimon Mitsubishi 12h 12m 51s
SS8 (185.00 km) 1. C.Despres KTM 2h45'41" 2. C.Despres KTM 2h45'41" 3. D.Casteu KTM 2h47'24" 4. F.Lopez Honda 2h52'40" 5. J.Viladoms KTM 2h54'26"
Overall 1. M.Coma KTM 13h09'20" 2. C.Despres KTM 13h21'25" 3. D.Casteu KTM 13h31'05" 4. F.Lopez Honda 14h19'22" 5. J.Viladoms KTM 14h23'19"