Dakar: Mitsubishi stage 6 report

Mitsubishi's Masuoka and Peterhansel lead Dakar rally and pull clear of nearest rivals. TAN-TAN (Marocco) - Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports (MMSP) team driver Hiroshi Masuoka moved into the outright lead of the 2004 Telefonica ...

Mitsubishi's Masuoka and Peterhansel lead Dakar rally and pull clear of nearest rivals.

TAN-TAN (Marocco) - Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports (MMSP) team driver Hiroshi Masuoka moved into the outright lead of the 2004 Telefonica Dakar Rally, after winning the tricky 351 kms stage between Ouarzazate and the windy coastal settlement of Tan-Tan today (Tuesday). The victory marked the Japanese driver's 22nd fastest time on the Dakar Rally and his first this year.

Masuoka trailed his team mate Stephane Peterhansel at the start of this morning's special by 1m 12s, but Peterhansel's Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution sustained a flat tyre 113 kms into the stage and the Frenchman lost seven minutes today.

Masuoka and co-driver Gilles Picard now have a 17m 50s advantage over South Africa's third-placed Giniel de Villiers, their nearest non-Mitsubishi rival. They completed today's stage 2m 57s ahead of runner-up de Villiers.

"I knew that yesterday and today were going to be crucial stages," said Masuoka, Dakar Rally winner in 2002 and 2003. "I was pleased with my performance into Ouarzazate and it was great today to win my first special stage this year. I have a small lead, but that means nothing at this early point in the race."

Miki Biasion's Dakar Rally challenge suffered a major setback 240 kms into the stage, when the twice former World Rally Champion rolled his Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution. Neither crew member was injured, but the car was too badly damaged for Miki and co-driver Tiziano Siviero to complete the stage and they were forced to wait for the assistance truck.

German lady Andrea Mayer and her German co-driver Andreas Schulz enjoyed a troublefree day in their support car and completed today's stage in 11th position and regained her place inside the top 10 in the overall standings.

"We had a good run through today's stage and we are happy to be back inside the top 10," said Mayer. "It was so disappointing to see Miki have a major problem. But Hiroshi and Stephane continue to drive very well and my job as a support driver may well take on an even more crucial role in the coming days, as we head into the Sahara."

Today's 351 kms special stage offered a wide variety of rocky and sandy tracks through the Valley of the Draa into the south of Morocco. The wind strengthened as the teams headed into the Tan-Tan bivouac for the overnight halt.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the longest section on the entire route and the second longest special stage of the entire rally. Teams will leave Tan-Tan in the early hours of the morning and head into a 345 kms liaison, via Smara, across the border into Mauritania.

The 701 kms stage heads through Bir Mogreihn and runs headlong into the first of the dune complexes, culminating in the passage of the infamous Erg Oumaghawaba. A short liaison takes the weary teams into the overnight halt in Atar.

Overall positions after Leg 6 (provisional):

1. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 7h 42m 23s

2. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 7h 49m 03s*

3. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Francois Jordaan (ZA) Nissan Pick-Up 8h 00m 13s

4. Luc Alphand (F)/Henri Magne (F) BMW X5 Raid 8h 01m 11s

5. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 Raid 8h 04m 56s

6. Colin McRae (GB)/Tina Thorner (S) Nissan Pick-Up 8h 05m 34s

7. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 8h 09m 29s

8. Jose-Marie Servia (E)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Ford 8h 15m 35s

9. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Marc Bartholome (B) Mitsubishi Pajero 8h 21m 08s

10. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero 8h 30m 25s

*includes five-minute penalty imposed by the ASO in Ouarzazate

Positions on Ouarzazate - Tan-Tan stage (provisional):

1. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 3h 09m 40s

2. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Francois Jourdaan (ZA) Nissan Pick-Up 3h 12m 37s

3. Colin McRae (GB)/Tina Thorner (S) Nissan Pick-Up 3h 15m 21s

4. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 3h 17m 32s

5. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 Raid 3h 17m 52s

6. Luc Alphand (F)/Henri Magne (F) BMW X5 Raid 3h 18m 43s

11. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero 3h 33m 59s

1.1.1.1 RALLIART TEAMS

1.1.1.2 QATAR'S Al-ATTIYAH HOLDS NINTH PLACE OVERALL

- Five Ralliart cars inside top 20

- Komornicki delayed

- Pornsawan on track

Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah continued to lead the seven Mitsubishi Ralliart customer drivers, as the Dakar Rally headed into the coastal town of Tan-Tan on Tuesday evening. The Qatari held eighth through today's stage and retained ninth place in the overall standings.

"I am happy with the way I have been driving so far," said the Qatari. "I am not driving quickly and am taking no risks."

Team mate Jose-Luis Monterde lies 17th and is relishing the challenge ahead. "We managed to cure a small problem with the turbo and a slight overheating fault," said the Spanish driver. "The next two days through Mauritania are going to be very tough, both physically and mentally."

"Siriwat and I are looking forward to the run through the desert," admitted Thai driver Siriwat Pornsawan's French co-driver Phillipe Bocande. "The rally has already caused problems for a lot of drivers, but the really difficult sections are still to come. The next 48 hours will be crucial. We are working well together and Siriwat is taking no chances."

Poland's Lukasz Komornicki and co-driver Rafael Marton lost over 25 minutes and slipped from 18th to 20th position, although five of the seven Mitsubishi Ralliart customer teams are now inside the top 20. Frenchman Dominique Housieux is classified 15th and Klever Kolberg holds 16th position.

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart China driver Luo Ding and French co-driver Serge Henninot lost over two hours on the run into Ouarzazate on Monday evening in their Mitsubishi Pajero and started today's special stage in 111th position.

-mitsubishi-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Colin McRae , Luc Alphand , Jean-Louis Schlesser , Henri Magne , Hiroshi Masuoka , Andreas Schulz , Stéphane Peterhansel , Gilles Picard , Miki Biasion , Tiziano Siviero , Giniel de Villiers , Tina Thorner , Jean-Marie Lurquin , Andrea Mayer , François Borsotto , Jose Luis Monterde , Gregoire de Mevius , Alain Guehennec , Luo Ding , Marc Bartholome , Lukasz Komornicki