Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution Crews Extend Their Lead Peterhansel and Alphand 2nd and 3rd fastest into Bamako Former bike riders Peterhansel and Roma mourn Fabrizio Meoni The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team continues to lead...
Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution Crews Extend Their Lead
Peterhansel and Alphand 2nd and 3rd fastest into Bamako
Former bike riders Peterhansel and Roma mourn Fabrizio Meoni
The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team continues to lead the 27th Telefónica Dakar Rally after the 12th of 16 legs in this marathon rally. Stéphane Peterhansel, in the lead Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution, has extended his advantage at the head of the leaderboard and team-mate Luc Alphand remains hot on his heels second overall. Joan 'Nani' Roma lost some time in the third Pajero / Montero Evolution today and slips to sixth overall.
Today's leg took 122 car and truck crews from Kiffa in Mauritania to Bamako, the capital city of the Republic of Mali. In respect of the death of Fabrizio Meoni yesterday, all the bike riders were transported by airplane to Bamako. After an initial 25 kilometer liaison, a mammoth 586 competitive kilometer section lay ahead and it kicked off with tough navigation as the route headed towards the Malian border. Then, after passing through numerous villages, where speeds are restricted for safety reasons, the competitors headed towards Bamako on narrow tracks to the bivouac, where Parc Fermé conditions mean no overnight servicing.
Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret took no risks today and the French pair claimed second-fastest time through the section, just three minutes and one second adrift of stage winner Giniel de Villiers. Peterhansel is now 23 minutes and 16 seconds ahead of team-mate Alphand and one hour 18 minutes and 47 seconds ahead of third-placed Jutta Kleinschmidt.
"Today was simply a matter of arriving in Bamako in one piece without damaging the car because there is no assistance tonight", said Peterhansel, still affected by the death of twice former Dakar motorcycle champion Fabrizio Meoni. "It was a very long stage, really tiring between the trees. It was not very easy. There was too much dust and the navigation was tricky. We lost the correct track a few times and it was hard to maintain concentration for all the stage. I passed Jutta after about 40 kilometers, but then Luc and I lost the road and she passed us again. This happened two or three times".
Team-mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard adopted the same strategy and claimed third fastest through the stage, more than seven minutes ahead of Kleinschmidt who started first on the road.
"The objective for Stéphane and I today was to get past Jutta Kleinschmidt as soon as possible and slow her down", said Luc. "It was a very tiring stage and tricky negotiating a path among the trees and then we had a long liaison in the dark afterwards. It was a dusty day. Twice we were ahead. We kept overtaking each other in the stage and as soon as you made a mistake you ended up in the dust again".
"I suppose I have started to think about Dakar in the distance", added Alphand. "I will start third on the road tomorrow and it will be difficult for Giniel (de Villiers) to navigate and lead the way. There is no big service tonight and we have to take care and make sure that we reach Kayes. Then there will be two more large specials to go and Dakar will be getting closer..."
Spaniard Joan 'Nani' Roma, who has previously contested the event on a bike and is competing for the first time in a car, started the day in fifth but lost out to French rival Bruno Saby. Roma claimed ninth in the stage but slipped to sixth overall, just 19 minutes adrift of the 1993 Dakar Rally winner.
"There was no plan today to try and stop Bruno going past", said Roma. "Every time I think about Fabrizio's accident I feel that I am in the middle of a bad dream", added the Spaniard, who rode against the Italian on his way to Dakar victory last year on a motorbike. "I was with him at the briefing in the bivouac in Atâr on the evening before his death. It was a good decision by the organizer to cancel the competition for the riders today, but it was difficult for me and Stéphane. He has also been very upset by the tragedy".
Adding to the driver's comments, Team Director Dominique Serieys said: "After the events on Tuesday we were concerned not only about the mental condition of the other riders, but also about our drivers. I spoke to the organizer, along with the managers of the other car teams, and we put our point of view across. They decided to continue the race for the cars and the trucks today, but airlift the bike riders to Bamako and transport the bikes by 'plane".
Tomorrow, the route takes the crews northwest from Bamako to Kayes for the only leg run solely in Mali. A 205 kilometer liaison takes the crews to the start of the 370 competitive kilometer section with starts on rapid pistes before moving into bush landscape in the middle of nowhere. The end of the stage takes the crews to the small Malian town of Sadiola, renowned for its opencast gold mine. Ninety-three kilometers of liaison then sees the crews arrive at Kayes for the overnight bivouac.
Brazilian Kolberg heads Mitsubishi Ralliart teams through the section Russian Berkut and Dutchman Van Deijne forced out of Dakar Rally
Brazilians Klever Kolberg and Roldan Lourival led the Mitsubishi Ralliart teams through the stage and into the Republic of Mali in 24th position in their Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero. The French duo of Dominique Housieaux and Loïc Fagot were 46th.
Poland's Krzysztof Holowczyc and Belgian co-driver Jean-Marc Fortin were 62nd overall at the start of today's leg into Mali, the Pajero / Montero pair losing time yesterday with power steering problems.
Russians Alexey Berkut and Anton Nikolaev were forced to retire from the event on the stage into Kiffa when the cylinder head gasket failed on their Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up. They eventually arrived at the windswept sand strip at 09.00 hrs this morning and the Mitsubishi Ralliart mechanics made use of the fact that they were not scheduled to travel to Bamako to repair the engine so that the Russian's car could be driven by road to Dakar.
Dutchman Toni van Deijne and co-driver Francisco van Deijne were stranded with transmission problems early into the Atâr to Kiffa stage (Tuesday) and had still not arrived in the Kiffa bivouac this evening.
"It has been a very tough event this year, but we still have three rally cars in the competition and will give our all to make sure these cars reach the finish in Dakar on Sunday", said a Ralliart team spokesman.