Dakar: Mitsubishi stage 16 report

Mitsubishi Poised Mitsubishi Motors is poised for an historic moment in the Telefónica Dakar Rally with its Pajero / Montero Evolution drivers placed first and second with just 106 kilometers between them and the finish of this legendary ...

Mitsubishi Poised

Mitsubishi Motors is poised for an historic moment in the Telefónica Dakar Rally with its Pajero / Montero Evolution drivers placed first and second with just 106 kilometers between them and the finish of this legendary event tomorrow. Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret continue to lead the rally, with team-mates Hiroshi Masuoka and Gilles Picard second. Andrea Mayer and Andreas Schulz have played the game perfectly in their role as support crew; the German Pajero / Montero duo fifth overall after a quite outstanding performance by the trio of Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports drivers.

Today's leg was the penultimate of the 2004 Telefónica Dakar Rally and although it was a long one covering 648 kilometers, the 192 kilometer stage from Nouakchott to Dakar was a comparatively short one. A partly new stage, over fast and winding tracks, took the remaining 67 bikes, 61 cars and 39 trucks to the Mauritania/Senegal border, before a 396 kilometer liaison section guided them directly into Dakar on roads lined with cheering Senegalese.

Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret had no reason to push over today's stage, although maintaining concentration and avoiding problems obviously remained high on their list of priorities. The French pair was classified ninth in the stage, dropping just five minutes and 54 seconds to stage winner and former Mitsubishi driver Jutta Kleinschmidt (Volkswagen Touareg).

"I am pleased to be here, but it is not over yet", said Peterhansel, who noticeably eased the pace today. "It was not an easy stage and the liaison section was quite long and there was a lot of traffic. Tomorrow is another day. The dream is very close now. I am sure it will feel like a very long stage on Sunday".

Hiroshi Masuoka and Gilles Picard finished the stage in third position, a mere one minute and 24 seconds adrift of the fastest time, and reduced the overall deficit to Peterhansel in the process. Mitsubishi has once again extended its lead over its nearest rival and third-placed Jean-Louis Schlesser is now over three hours behind the lead Pajero / Montero Evolution.

Andrea Mayer and Andreas Schulz were placed 10th in today's stage, the Pajero / Montero crew maintaining their fifth position overall with more than an hour in hand to sixth-placed Bruno Saby in the VW Touareg.

"I took no risks today", said Mayer. "The objective was for our three cars to reach Dakar in our positions and we achieved that without problems. Now we have one more target on Sunday".

Adding to their comments, Dominique Serieys, Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports' Team Director said: "It was another very good day, but we are not quite there yet. Neither of our drivers was going to push for the win today. The stage had the potential to be very tricky and both Gilles and Jean-Paul did a good job on the navigation. I admit that we are in a fantastic position now, but I will not relax until we reach the podium on Sunday".

Despite the fact that the Telefónica Dakar Rally has reached its destination, the competition is not yet over and the final 106 kilometers lay in wait tomorrow. A 60 road liaison section takes the remaining contenders to the last 27 kilometer stage which starts at Dakar's lake and finishes on the beach. The final liaison section then takes the contenders to the podium at the Méridien Hotel, where history, mental and physical goals will doubtless have been achieved by a number of the teams and crews contesting one of the world's toughest events.

AL-ATTIYAH CONTINUES TO LEAD
Mitsubishi Ralliart customers in 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th & 15th
Ding on track to finish his second Dakar Rally

Nasser-Saleh Al-Attiyah has maintained his overall 10th position in his debut outing in the Dakar Rally. The Qatari Pajero / Montero driver was fourth fastest, just behind Masuoka, and second of the Mitsubishi drivers through the stage. In what could have been a bizarre twist, he was also set to benefit from problems experienced by Grégoire de Mevius today, the BMW driver he towed out of soft sand two days ago. However the Belgian's advantage was ultimately sufficient to maintain his top ten position in the leaderboard.

Mitsubishi Ralliart team-mates Klever Kolberg and Dominique Housieaux also both held on to their 11th and 13th positions respectively, while Poland's Lukasz Komornicki has climbed into 14th overall, snatching the place from Thailand's Pornsawan Siriwattanakun, who slips to 15th.

"I lost some time in the sand dunes", commented Kolberg of his problems on Thursday. "What made it worse was a problem I had with the car jack; it took me much longer than I thought to get going again".

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart China driver Luo Ding, who is competing in the event for the second time, started today's stage in 39th position. "Now the dunes are over I really feel that I am about to fulfil my dream of finishing the Dakar Rally", he said. "We had a transmission problem heading into the final control in Nouakchott (Friday) and we had to change the gearbox last night", Ding added. "Then we had problems again this morning and had to return to the service area with an oil leak. The car was repaired and we could start the stage".

-mitsubishi-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Jutta Kleinschmidt , Hiroshi Masuoka , Andreas Schulz , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Gilles Picard , Klever Kolberg , Andrea Mayer , Gregoire de Mevius , Bruno Saby , Luo Ding , Lukasz Komornicki , Dominique Housieaux