Peterhansel second fastest Ii France Three Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolutions in the top six The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution crew of StÃ©phane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret claimed second position in the first competitive...
Peterhansel second fastest Ii France
Three Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolutions in the top six
The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution crew of Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret claimed second position in the first competitive section of the 2004 Telefónica Dakar Rally today. Team-mates "Miki" Biasion and Hiroshi Masuoka were fifth and sixth on the stage respectively in similar machinery, while Andrea Mayer was 15th in her Pajero / Montero.
The second leg of the 2004 Telefónica Dakar Rally was focused around Narbonne and included just one short stage of 25 kilometers, easing the crews into competition before the legendary sections in North Africa.
The only competitive section in France drew a crowd of thousands, despite the cold and windy conditions, and took the drivers to the hills of the Pays d'Oc over tricky and technical muddy terrain that could all too easily have caught out the unwary in the early part of the event.
A 532 kilometer liaison section now takes the crews to the coastal town of Castellón, in the heart of the Costa Blanca area of Spain, for the overnight halt. Drier conditions have also been a welcome relief for everyone after the appallingly hazardous conditions left behind in Clermont-Ferrand yesterday.
Peterhansel set the second fastest time in his Pajero / Montero Evolution, just three seconds adrift of stage victor and early Dakar Rally leader Josep-Maria Servia in the Schlesser Buggy.
"It was a very narrow and difficult stage", said Peterhansel. "Some of the corners were difficult and we had to stop and select reverse gear on several occasions on tight junctions. It was important to take the day seriously without taking any risks. The mud tire was an option, but there would have been the risk of collecting a flat on the sharper stones".
Italian twice former World Rally Champion "Miki" Biasion and co-driver Tiziano Siviero finished fifth on the stage in the second Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution, with defending Dakar champion and team-mate Hiroshi Masuoka in sixth position in the third Evolution.
"It was very demanding today", said Biasion. "I drove okay and tried to be as cautious as possible, but on one tight corner we hit the back of Shino's (Kenjiro Shinozuka) car and when I tried to pass I hit a tree at low speed".
"Very slippery today and very narrow", added Masuoka. "Today was a day for taking no risks. After this stage we can relax a little before Africa, because the stage in Spain tomorrow takes place on the beach and should not be too difficult".
Germany's Andrea Mayer and Andreas Schulz were 15th quickest in their Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero, after tackling the stage on mud tires.
"Choosing mud tires was a good one for this stage", said Mayer. "I was careful on the rocky sections to ensure that I did not have a puncture, because the ruts were tricky after all the bikes and the first of the cars had passed. We had to stop and reverse three times on tight corners and that costs you time. I am just happy to finish this stage among the leaders".
Commenting on the first day of real action, Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Team Director Dominique Serieys said: "I am very happy with the way everything went today; we had no technical problems. "Miki" was lucky after his collision with Kenjiro, but Hiroshi and Stéphane drove very well. Now we will see what happens on the beach in Spain".
After their final night in a hotel on European soil, the crews face the last of the short stages tomorrow (Saturday), before heading to the African continent.
The nine kilometer section near the town of Castellón finishes on the beach but the bulk of the distance during the third leg is made up by an 852 kilometer liaison section to the Mediterranean port of Algeciras.
Here, the whole Dakar convoy will board the ferry for a short crossing of the Alboran Sea before arriving in Tangier, Morocco, for the first African bivouac of the 2004 Dakar Rally.
QATARI NEWCOMER IN SEVENTH
Nasser-Saleh Al-Attiyah, who is competing in his first-ever Dakar Rally, set the seventh fastest time on the 25 kilometer Narbonne stage, beating a host of more experienced crews including the legendary Ari Vatanen, former World Rally Champion Colin McRae and multiple Dakar Rally winner Jean-Louis Schlesser.
The Qatari had led the Mitsubishi Ralliart customer teams in appalling conditions through the Prologue stage at Clermont-Ferrand in his Pajero / Montero and now leads the challenge of the seven Ralliart customer teams.
Brazilian Klever Kolberg was 14th in today's stage in the same machinery, while Frenchman Dominique Housieaux claimed 17th position.
Privateer Nicolas Misslin, who finished 10th on yesterday's Prologue, dropped down the order to 23rd, but is still ahead of Spain's José-Luis Monterde in 25th and Poland's Lukasz Komornicki, who is 27th overnight. As far as Thailand's Pornsawan Siriwattanakun is concerned, he set the 29th time.