Dakar: Mitsubishi stage 12 report

Mitsubishi maintains one-two as Dakar resumes Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret continue to lead the 2004 Telefónica Dakar Rally after setting third fastest time in today's special stage. The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution crew...

Mitsubishi maintains one-two as Dakar resumes

Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret continue to lead the 2004 Telefónica Dakar Rally after setting third fastest time in today's special stage. The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution crew holds a one hour, four minute and 43 second advantage over team-mate Hiroshi Masuoka, while Andrea Mayer, in the team's official Pajero / Montero, maintains her sixth position overall.

After an enforced three-day rest from competition, due to the cancellation of legs 10 and 11 and yesterday's scheduled rest halt, the remaining 77 bikes, 71 cars and 42 trucks resumed their relentless journey this morning. Re-fettled machinery and much-need sleep for weary riders and drivers should have put most of the crews back on track for the long journey through some of the world's most inhospitable terrain en route to the finish in Dakar on January 18. Today's leg included a total of 666 kilometers from Bobo Dioulasso, in Burkina Faso, across the border to Bamako, in southern Mali. Going through new terrain, the very fast 213 competitive kilometer stage was a real driver's section but it nevertheless required caution as numerous hazards lay in wait. A 368 kilometer liaison section then takes the crews into the overnight halt in the colorful capital city of Bamako, founded in 1640, and on the banks of the Niger River.

The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret set third fastest time, five minutes and 40 seconds adrift of stage victor Luc Alphand in the BMW X5. The French crew took no risks and now holds a two hour, 18 minute and 16 second advantage over Mitsubishi's nearest rival, Jean-Louis Schlesser, who is third overall in the Schlesser Buggy.

"It was a short stage and our first competitive section against the clock in Black Africa", said Peterhansel. "There was a lot of dust and it was easy to crash the car. There was a small bridge with a tight wall and if you didn't see it, there was a chance you could have a problem. We drove slowly through the villages. With the new rules, you only drive at 30 kph for safety reasons and this is very good. The problem is knowing where the radar zone starts; we always slow down a little before the village to be on the safe side".

Team-mates Hiroshi Masuoka and Gilles Picard were hot on Peterhansel's heels in the stage, the Japanese/French pairing just 43 seconds behind in the team's second Pajero / Montero Evolution.

"It was an easy stage today if you took no risks", said the defending Dakar champion. "There were a lot of villages and we had to watch our speed. Some of the sections were very narrow and bumpy and you had to be careful".

Andrea Mayer and co-driver Andreas Schulz left Bob Dioulasso in a fine sixth position this morning in Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports' Pajero / Montero and the German crew set 10th fastest time in the stage to maintain their position.

"About 70 kilometers from the finish we stopped and let Nasser Al-Attiyah pass", said Mayer. "We have to think about the rest of the week and look after our position. It was a traditional African stage with a lot of dust and elements of danger in the forests with the broken tracks. It was a nice stage to get back into the rhythm and we are running behind Stéphane and Hiroshi tomorrow, which was the plan".

Adding to the crews' comments, Sven Quandt, MMSP's Head of Motorsport, said: "I am quite happy with the result today. Our drivers took no risks and we are in a good position for the longer stage on Wednesday".

Tomorrow's leg returns to Mauritania and the notoriously long stages in this year's event. A 230 kilometer liaison section takes the crews from Bamako to the start of a 478 competitive kilometer stage to Ayoûn el'Atroûs, in the far south of Mauritania. This new stage is fast and traverses beautiful sandy tracks, but navigation will be tough and wet weather during the event reconnaissance could well throw up a few surprises.


Al-Attiyah fastest Ralliart customer in the stage

During a leg when everyone eased themselves back into the rhythm, Brazilian Klever Kolberg maintains his lead of the six remaining Mitsubishi Ralliart customer crews. The Pajero / Montero driver was ninth in the stage to hold on to the same position overall.

"It was a rest day for us yesterday, but a busy time for the mechanics", said Kolberg. "They stripped each of the cars and replaced the gearboxes, suspension, dampers and brakes and gave all six vehicles a thorough check-over".

Dominique Housieaux also maintains his 10th position, despite dropping time today and claiming 17th position in the stage. Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah rounds off a trio of Pajero / Monteros, in 11th overall, after setting the eighth fastest time in the stage. He was third of all the Mitsubishi drivers in the stage, ahead of Mayer, in customer specification machinery.

"I have been suffering a little with a sore neck on the last couple of days, as a result of the accident in the dunes on the way into Atâr", commented Al-Attiyah. "I went to see Patrice Morel, the factory team doctor, and he advised me to wear a neck brace for a couple of days. But it's nothing serious, just a stiffening of the muscles after the accident".

Pornsawan Siriwattanakun also holds onto his 16th position, the Thai Pajero / Montero driver 27th in the stage, while Poland's Lukasz Komornicki is 20th overall in similar machinery.

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart China entrant Luo Ding and French co-driver Serge Henninot started 62nd overall this morning, but it was a major relief for the Chinese driver just to reach the rest halt yesterday.

"We have been playing catch-up for several days", said Ding. "We have been arriving very late into the bivouac, just as the leading cars have been leaving to start the stage. We were getting lonely in the desert. It is great to see the rest of the team again".


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Jean-Louis Schlesser , Hiroshi Masuoka , Andreas Schulz , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Gilles Picard , Klever Kolberg , Andrea Mayer , Luo Ding , Nasser Al-Attiyah , Lukasz Komornicki , Dominique Housieaux