Mitsubishi Motors Team takes top four places on Siwa stage. StÃ©phane Peterhansel extended his lead in the overall classification of the TelefÃ³nica Dakar Rally today, when he claimed his sixth stage victory in the Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution /...
Mitsubishi Motors Team takes top four places on Siwa stage.
St?phane Peterhansel extended his lead in the overall classification of the Telef?nica Dakar Rally today, when he claimed his sixth stage victory in the Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution / Montero Evolution he shares with co-driver Jean-Paul Cottet.
The first competitive stage after the rest day proved to be an excellent day for the Mitsubishi Motors Team, as Mitsubishi cars took the top four places in today's tricky loop stage around Siwa. With Gr?goire de Mevius suffering mechanical problems with his BMW X5, Jean-Pierre Fontenay moved up to third, with Mitsubishi now holding the top five places in the overall standings.
The 12th stage was an off-road loop to the south of the Siwa bivouac, through the vertiginously high Egyptian dunes. Peterhansel completed the 341-km route in three hours, four minutes and 17 seconds, coming in seven minutes and 46 seconds ahead of his Mitsubishi Motors team mate Hiroshi Masuoka. Peterhansel took a conscious decision to drive flat out from the start of the Siwa loop, which proved to be the right choice. Along with co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret, he extended his overall advantage by 7m 46s to 24m 18s over Masuoka. The Mitsubishi team mates have only failed to win two of the 12 special stages on this year's event and Peterhansel has a massive lead of three hours, 21 minutes and 40 seconds ahead of Mitsubishi's nearest rival, fifth-placed Giniel de Villiers.
"This morning, when Jean-Paul and I started, we had a brand new car", said Peterhansel. "The mechanics had changed all the parts, so we decided to go at maximum speed and attack. We started to think that if we pushed very hard, there would be no way for Hiroshi to catch us. All day, we kept on going flat out, taking some risks. I jumped several times in the big dunes, going very high on one occasion. It was dangerous, but we did gain a lot of time. Our advantage is still relatively small, but it is getting bigger all the time. Last night, at the briefing, Patrick Zaniroli warned us about one big dune, but we were okay and had no problems".
Masuoka was surprised at his team mate's turn of speed today: "We were also fast, but I couldn't believe that St?phane had gained so much time", said Masuoka's co-driver Andreas Schulz. "Maybe it was partially to do with tyre pressure, and with the fact that St?phane took risks today. We jumped high once, and then we said okay, no more. We must slow down a little bit. It was really dangerous and we decided not to take any risks. We didn't want to destroy all the hard work that the mechanics had put into our car on just one stage".
Frenchman Jean-Pierre Fontenay and co-driver Gilles Picard, at the wheel of the n° 202 Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero, came in third fastest today, despite making a heavy landing over a large dune, which damaged the front of their car. They also moved up to third in the overall standings, following problems for De Mevius.
"We made a very hard landing over a dune", Fontenay explained. "We hit the front of the car, but we were okay. For the sake of the rally, it is a pity that Gr?goire has had problems, but that's the way luck goes sometimes".
The Italian pairing of "Miki" Biasion and Tiziano Siviero started the day in fifth overall in the second classic Mitsubishi Pajero and finished in fourth place in both the stage and the overall standings.
Portugal's Carlos Sousa resumed his challenge in sixth place this morning, in the Mitsubishi L200 Strakar, and finished the day in fifth place. "We got stuck for three or four minutes at the top of a dune", said Sousa. "We followed some bike tracks up the dune and the sand was already quite rutted. It was annoying, because this car goes well in the dunes. We put a different tyre compound on this morning, which made a difference to the car's top speed".
Tomorrow, the Dakar caravan leaves Siwa en route for Dakhla. After 47 km of liaison, the Mitsubishi Motors Team and their rivals will face a 569-km competitive section, crossing the Great Sand Sea, with several towering 'cathedral' dunes over 100 metres high. The second part of the stage will cross the White Desert, using limestone tracks between a number of canyons. "Many of the dunes will be very similar to today for the first 200 km; after that, it will be a little faster", said Schulz, Masuoka's co-driver in the n° 200 Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution / Montero Evolution.