The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team held first and second positions in the overall standings on the road liaison run into Tidjikja today, after the event organizers decided to cancel the dayâ€™s competitive action on safety ...
The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team held first and second positions in the overall standings on the road liaison run into Tidjikja today, after the event organizers decided to cancel the day’s competitive action on safety grounds.
Today’s stage had already been shortened after an incredibly challenging run through leg seven but the going was so tough that further action was needed. A run through the notoriously difficult Nega Pass, and a mixture of camel grass, fast rocky terrain and twisty tracks was on the menu but by 0800hrs this morning, a mere 53 cars had arrived at the windswept bivouac in Tichit. The remainder were stranded in sand dunes and remote desert terrain, where they had spent the night under the stars. Many, including Mitsubishi’s Andrea Mayer, had run out of fuel near the finish and been forced to wait for assistance.
Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team
Luc Alphand / Gilles Picard
Defending Dakar champion Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret led the rally outright, after setting the fastest time on the punishing 660 kilometer special stage into Tichit yesterday, but Stéphane agreed with the decision to cancel the day’s stage.
"For us the position will still be the same, so it is not a major problem", said Peterhansel. "But there are many teams still stuck in the dunes and in the sand and, if the organizers want to have a rally, many cars ran out of fuel. Jean-Paul and I knew we could have a potential fuel problem, so we reduced the pressure in the tires and I eased off the accelerator pedal to make sure we made it. Some parts of the stage were very slow and cars used more fuel".
Frenchman Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard hold second position in the rally and were also in agreement with the decision. "It is a decision which has been forced on the organizers and we must go along with that", said Alphand.
Japan’s Hiroshi Masuoka and German co-driver Andreas Schulz were disappointed with the decision, after setting the fifth fastest time into Tichit on their climb back up the leaderboard.
"It would have been a great chance for us to make up even more time and move up the leaderboard", said Masuoka. "The stage would have suited the Mitsubishi. Now we must wait until the stage into Atâr to get back on track. A podium finish is still possible".
Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team
A seventh fastest stage time for Spaniard Joan ’Nani’ Roma and co-driver Henri Magne permitted a leap into sixth place overall from their day’s starting position of 14th, after yesterday’s stage into Tichit.
"I was pleased to make it into Tichit as one of the leading cars", said Roma. "The road book was very hard to follow. I felt sure that it had been written from satellite photographs and not from a car, because the stage was so difficult. It would have been difficult on a bike".
Germany’s Andrea Mayer and French co-driver Jean-Michel Polato arrived at the Tichit bivouac at the end yesterday’s seventh leg at 0100hrs, after running out of fuel six kilometers from the stage finish. The crew held onto their 17th position in the overall standings however.
"There was nothing we could do", said Mayer. "We just had to wait for a truck to arrive. But there were no trucks and we had to sit there as long as we did until someone came passed and gave us fuel".
Tomorrow’s route heads west towards the half-way point at Atâr, the largest town in the Chinguetti tribal region of Mauritania, which has been a regular rest day venue for the Dakar Rally in recent seasons. After a three-kilometer liaison section, teams tackle a fast-running 361 kilometer special stage with a difficult finish in the sand dunes of the immense Chinguetti Erg, before another short liaison brings them to the rest halt in Atâr. The tiny air strip and surrounding area will play host to the traditional and well-deserved rally rest day, where several hundred media and VIPs will attend from Europe.
Mitsubishi Ralliart teams stranded in the dunes
Fuel problems for crews
The Mitsubishi Pejero / Montero of Dominique Housieaux and Loïc Fagot led the Mitsubishi Ralliart customers into the leg seven in 15th position, but were stranded without fuel at the second passage control into Tichit this morning.
Brazilians Klever Kolberg and Rouldan Lourival had also hit fuel problems and the Russian team of Alexey Berkut and Anton Nikolaev failed to make the arrival into Tichit.
Multiple Polish rally champion Krzysztof Holowczyc and his Belgian co-driver Jean-Marc Fortin were stranded 40 kms from Tichit without fuel on Friday morning, but there was disappointment for Chinese driver Guan Yuang Men and Swiss driver Arnold Meier, who were forced to retire from the race before Tichit. Meier had no problems with his car, but decided to withdraw from the race at the first passage control into Tichit.