Dakar: Mitsubishi stage 15 report

Dakar dream result within sight... The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution crews of Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret and Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard go into the final leg of the 2005 Telefónica Dakar Rally in dream first and ...

Dakar dream result within sight...

The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution crews of Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret and Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard go into the final leg of the 2005 Telefónica Dakar Rally in dream first and second positions.

The crews powered through today's stage without problems and both start Sunday's closing 31 competitive kilometers with nearly three hours in hand to the nearest non-Mitsubishi rival. Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios team-mates Joan 'Nani' Roma and Henri Magne still hold sixth in the team's third Pajero / Montero Evolution on Roma's debut outing on the event in a car.

Today not only marked the penultimate leg of the Dakar Rally, but also the last 'long' stage of the event. 108 kilometers of liaison took the remaining contenders from Tambacounda to the start of the last but one competitive section; a 225 kilometer run towards their long-awaited destination.

Leaving tropical forests behind and moving into savannah landscape, landmarks were difficult to find and expert driving and navigation skills was called for. The final 236 kilometer liaison then took the crews to Dakar and, for the first time since early New Year, a very welcome hotel bed and proper shower!

Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret finished today's stage in fifth position, just one minute and 52 seconds adrift of today's winner, Giniel de Villiers. Maintaining their 'no risk' strategy, the Mitsubishi Motors crew is now just 31 kilometers of competition away from a historic victory for themselves and the team.

"We did not push today and drove rather slowly", said Peterhansel in Dakar this evening. "We always had one ear listening to any noises from the engine and the gearbox. Then I heard a knocking noise from the roof. Thankfully, it was only the GPS antenna working loose. It was a stressful day, just worrying in case something went wrong. Now we are on the home straight".

Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard once again stuck with their team-mates throughout the leg and reached the finish in sixth position. Second overall represents a fine performance by the Frenchman in his first Dakar outing with the team.

"It was a beautiful stage", said Alphand. "It was technical, but it was also easy to find a good rhythm, like skiing in powdered snow". Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team Joan Roma / Henri Magne

Joan 'Nani' Roma and Henri Magne finished 14th in the stage after stopping to wait for their team mates. The pair remains sixth overall in the team's third Pajero / Montero Evolution. "I stopped just after the start this morning to wait for Stéphane and Luc, because our aim was to bring the cars together to Dakar without taking any risks", said the Spaniard. "We know that it is not over yet and I just hope that there are no problems on the final stage on Sunday".

Tomorrow is the climax of the 2005 Telefónica Dakar Rally and, while only a short 31 competitive kilometer stage awaits, nothing can or will be taken for granted by anyone left in the event. After a 37 kilometer liaison, the rally renews former traditions and at the start of the stage cars will be paired to race head-to-head over the final dune-filled route. Thousands of fans are also expected to throng the customary Lac Rose for the finish and prize-giving ceremony on the podium. Mitsubishi Motors, with its crew of Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret, is on the brink of making history by becoming the first team on record to win five successive Dakar Rallies and claim 10 overall victories. A long 31 kilometers awaits...

Holowczyc claims eighth fastest time in his Pajero / Montero Frenchman Housieaux recovers after yesterday's accident

The Mitsubishi Ralliart crew of Krzysztof Holowczyc and Belgian co-driver Jean-Marc Fortin completed today's 225 competitive section between Tambacounda and Dakar in eighth to move within one day of completing the event at their first attempt.

Brazilian Ralliart team-mates Klever Kolberg and Roldan Lourival were awarded a 24-minute penalty for a minor speeding infringement in Tambacounda yesterday but set the 12th fastest time into Dakar today. They hold 17th in the overall standings.

"Today was an easy day", said Kolberg. "There was no need to go fast. The time penalty meant that we could not catch the car in front, so there was no need to take a risk. We made a small mistake, had a flat tire after about 100 kilometers and stopped to change it. The three factory Mitsubishis passed us and we came to the finish driving with Roma. It was nice to drive with them today".

The French duo of Dominique Housieaux and Loïc Fagot lost several hours in yesterday's stage between Kayes and Tambacounda. They wrecked the wishbone and front suspension on their Pajero / Montero in an accident and were forced to wait until the assistance truck could recover them and the car could be repaired. Housieaux was back on track today, however, and finished the stage in 21st position, although he has now slipped to 55th in the overall classification.

"It was a silly mistake and a costly one", said Housieaux. "But thankfully we were able to continue. It would have been a disaster to have to pull out of the race so close to Dakar after all the dramas of the last two weeks".

-mitsubishi-

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