Dakar: Mitsubishi stage 13 report

Peterhansel Leads The Way in The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution Mitsubishi's former Dakar winner claims fourth stage victory to extend his advantage Roma clocks his best Dakar performance on four wheels Stéphane Peterhansel and ...

Peterhansel Leads The Way in The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution

Mitsubishi's former Dakar winner claims fourth stage victory to extend his advantage
Roma clocks his best Dakar performance on four wheels

Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret powered their Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution through today's leg of the Telefónica Dakar Rally to claim their fourth stage victory of the 2005 event. Team-mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard were however hot on their heels in second place, just four minutes and 17 seconds adrift.

The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team therefore retains its advantage at the head of the leaderboard; the crews first and second overall with just three legs remaining until the finish in Dakar on Sunday. Joan 'Nani' Roma and Henri Magne were also on the pace, the pair finishing fifth in the stage in the team's third Pajero / Montero Evolution.

Today's route traveled northwest from Bamako to Kayes for the only leg run solely in Mali. A 205 kilometer liaison took the 222 bike, car and truck crews to the start of the 370 competitive kilometer section which began on rapid pistes before moving into bush landscape in remote terrain. The end of the stage passed through the small Malian town of Sadiola, renowned for its opencast gold mine, and then ninety-three kilometers of liaison took the crews to the overnight bivouac in Kayes.

Stéphane Peterhansel started the leg with a healthy 23 minute 16 second lead over his team-mate and the Frenchman extended that today by winning the section in the Pajero / Montero Evolution.

The team's strategy remains the same, however, and the crews are taking no unnecessary risks as they bid to become the first team in history to win five successive Dakar rallies and clinch a record-breaking 10 overall victories. Currently, Mitsubishi's closest rival, Jutta Kleinschmidt, is one hour, 30 minutes and 55 seconds adrift in third position.

"It was a good day for me", said Peterhansel. "The stage was not very long. The beginning was very fast on the laterite track and after about 80 kilometers we arrived on a narrow track and then the end of the stage was fast. I started second, but after 120 kilometers caught De Villiers and tried to pass him. I took the stage lead and finished with a good speed.

"Tomorrow will be a long stage," added Mitsubishi's leader. "It will be dusty, there will be a lot of trees and a river crossing. We will try and keep the rhythm with just two long stages to go".

Team-mate Luc Alphand also set a hot pace and the Frenchman was fastest through the first check-point 152 kilometers into the section. However, he then lost time and finished second to Peterhansel.

"It was so dusty today", said Luc. "Giniel de Villiers let Stéphane overtake, but not me. We stayed behind de Villiers. The pace was good, but again we have lost some time to Stéphane. That is not a big problem. It was a good day for the team and we are getting closer to the finish. We will both start ahead and control the pace".

Joan 'Nani' Roma has increased the pace day by day and the Spaniard claimed his best result on four wheels today. He and co-driver Henri Magne were fifth fastest through the stage and, although they maintain their sixth position overall, they slashed the deficit to Bruno Saby to 15 minutes 14 seconds.

"About 150 kilometers from the finish we came up behind Ari Vatanen and it was not possible to overtake", said Roma. "It was not a problem. It is important for me to follow Stéphane and Luc and make sure that I support them. It is important that I finish and that Mitsubishi wins the rally. Each day I feel more confident behind the wheel and more relaxed. I am learning all the time and feel that I am beginning to understand the race. It is my first experience with the car but I am delighted with my position at the moment. I did not expect this in Barcelona".

Friday's leg starts from today's stage finish in Sadiola, Mali, and heads south-west along the Senegalese border for the penultimate long stage of this year's Dakar. A 93 kilometer liaison takes the crews from Kayes to the start of the 529 competitive kilometer section to Tambacounda. En route, narrow tracks lead into savannah landscape and the crossing of the Falémé River, a historical spot as it heralds the arrival of the rally into Senegal. A short eight kilometers later, the crews arrive at the overnight bivouac.

Klever Kolberg continues to set the Ralliart pace

Brazilian Klever Kolberg and co-driver Roldan Lourival once again led the Ralliart crews through the stage, the pair 11th in their Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero. Kolberg started this morning's leg 20th overall after a grueling day on Wednesday, but his pace today sees him move two places up the leaderboard into 18th.

"It was a long and very tiring stage into Bamako yesterday", said Kolberg. "There were many small villages and a lot of dust. But, for me, 10th in the stage, and 11th today, is perfect and it keeps me on track for a good finish".

The French Pajero / Montero crew of Dominique Housieaux and Loïc Fagot were also on a charge and were a mere one minute and 42 seconds adrift of their Brazilian team-mates in 12th position.

"It was a superb stage today and very enjoyable", said Housieaux at the bivouac. "It was twisty, fast, slippery, everything you would want in a rally stage. It was crucial that you maintained your concentration, because it was easy to lose the way and make a mistake. I left this morning 17th on the road and arrived 12th fastest so I am happy".

Poland's Krzysztof Holowczyc and Belgian co-driver Jean-Marc Fortin were 60th overall at the start of the leg this morning and were 14th fastest through the section, equaling their best result in this year's rally.

"I was pleased with my stage time yesterday, but it could have been better", said the Pole, who was also 14th through Wednesday's stage. "I have had a frustrating problem with the brakes on a couple of occasions, especially when we cross bumpy roads or go over jumps. It appears that the brake pipe is being punched by the suspension.

At this evening's bivouac, the Pole added: "The brakes were perfect today. I would like to make a big attack, but in my situation I must make sure that I reach the finish. When you are too slow, you are not concentrating and you make mistakes. I want to gain as much experience as I can. Marathon racing is so different. It is a case of thinking about the car, but also trying to go fast. If you cannot see the road ahead you don't overtake and take the risks".

"Maybe I should have started this sport on a smaller rally. I started on the biggest one. Sometimes I lose the road, maybe Jean-Marc makes a mistake or there is a big hole in the road. You have to be aware of everything all the time. When I go home to the snowy conditions, I am looking forward to taking my Group N recce car out to find my speed again!"


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Henri Magne , Jutta Kleinschmidt , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Gilles Picard , Giniel de Villiers , Ari Vatanen , Klever Kolberg , Roldan Lourival , Bruno Saby , Dominique Housieaux , Loïc Fagot , Krzysztof Holowczyc , Jean-Marc Fortin