TEAM REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART EASE THROUGH FIRST SENEGALESE STAGE AND MAINTAIN FIRST AND SECOND OVERALL IN 2007 DAKAR RALLY The Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart crew of StÃ©phane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret began the 13th special stage...
TEAM REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART EASE THROUGH FIRST SENEGALESE STAGE AND MAINTAIN FIRST AND SECOND OVERALL IN 2007 DAKAR RALLY
The Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart crew of Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret began the 13th special stage of the 2007 Dakar Rally between Kayes in Mali and Tambacounda in Sénégal, 6m 29s ahead of team mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard, on Friday.
But the twice former winners of the event extended their overall lead to 11m 15s after setting the second fastest time, behind stage winner Carlos Sainz, on the twisty and narrow special through eastern Sénégal. The two crews are now under instruction from team management to bring the two Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolutions to Dakar without any undue risks over the final two special stages at the weekend.
The organisers had warned that navigation would be tricky on the day's stage and there would be several carefully monitored speed restriction zones through villages and heavily populated areas. The fact that bike race leader Marc Coma got lost and then crashed was a case in point. It was not a stage to be taken lightly.
"There was some very difficult navigation in the early part of the stage and then a wide track," said Peterhansel. "The end of the stage was very fast. It is much easier to race at higher speeds in the car. Jean-Paul did a great job on the navigation and that was so important. We beat the bikes by around 30 minutes today. This race is never finished until you see the podium. The leader of the motorbikes today was a harsh example of that. It was good to finish the stage.
"Tomorrow is not too long, but I remember the stage was difficult last year and several crews lost a lot of time. We have a good position behind Carlos Sainz on the road. He is fast so we should be okay."
Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard began the special stage in third position and set the sixth fastest time to conserve second place.
"It is always quite an easy stage when you have the right track," said Alphand. "It was easier for the cars with a co-driver than it was for the bikes. We decided this morning to stay behind Carlos Sainz and Carlos Sousa and behave. Both mirrors and both wings are intact on our car, so that proves we drove very sensibly."
Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz were fifth into the stage in the third Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution and eventually set the eighth fastest time to retain 13th overall.
"Near the end of the stage I hit a small tree, under braking, and we damaged the front right wing of the car, but it was just panel damage," said Roma. "After that I had one right-hand puncture and that's where we lost the time. Today was a case of being careful."
Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon were forced to start the stage in 19th place this morning and lost several minutes trailing in Stéphane Henrard's dust. They set the 15th fastest time.
"For 150km we followed in the dust of the Buggy," said Masuoka. "We tried to get passed but it was not possible. The stage was very difficult. It was narrow and twisty. We passed a Nissan, which had crashed, and we were careful to the finish."
"It was a great shame for Marc Coma in the bike category, but this proves that this race is never finished until you reach the final stage in Dakar," said MMSP's Managing and Sporting Director Dominique Serieys. "We will stay quiet and very humble. All our drivers are safely through the stage. Our drivers are professional and know that in the interest of Mitsubishi Motors we should try all we can to reach Dakar in the same positions as we are in now."
China's Lui Bin and Thai Pornsiriched hold 47th and 66th places in Tambacounda
China's Lui Bin and French co-driver Serge Henninot were classified 49th at the start of the 13th special stage and set the 31st fastest time into Tambacounda. The pair gained two places in the overall classification to 47th.
"We learned from the stage yesterday that these last stages are tiring and it is easy to make a mistake," said Bin. "Now I have one large stage to go and I am beginning to think that we can make it to the finish."
Frenchman Dominique Housieaux and co-driver Jean-Michel Polato began the day in 19th place in the overall standings and set the 19th fastest time.
Thailand's Mana Pornsiriched and French co-driver Jean Brucy held 68th overall on the run out of Kayes and finished the stage in a fine 22nd overall. The Thai moved up to 66th place.
"The stage was very narrow," said Pornsiriched. "There were many small trees and it was easy to lose the way. Jean did a good job. He has experience of these stages from his days on a motorcycle."
Russian Leonid Novitskiy finished the special in 18th position and holds 20th overall, while Brazilian Klever Kolberg held 59th overall at the start of the day and finished the stage into Tambacounda in a superb 16th place, just over a minute behind Hiroshi Masuoka. He now holds 57th in the overall standings.
"I just wish that I could have had good stages like this one last week and during the first days on the Dakar," said Kolberg. "Then we would have been looking at a very good result. The object now is just to reach the finish."
Yaroslav Soloviev held 52nd this morning and was 47th into Tambacounda to remain in 52nd place.
"It was a very good day for the entire team," admitted team spokesman Angelo das Sujit. "We had no punctures, no damaged cars, we hit no trees and we don't have too much work to do on the cars for tomorrow. If only every day was like that on the Dakar!"
The last of the traditional African special stages -- a 225km section between Tambacounda and Dakar in Sénégal -- takes place tomorrow (Saturday). The route consists of a wide range of twisty and fast roads through villages and populated areas and starts 124km to the west of Tambacounda at the town of Koumpentoum. The route heads north towards Velingara and turns west to a finish near Mbake. A 227km liaison steers teams into Dakar.