Dakar: Mitsubishi stage five report

PETERHANSEL FASTEST AS MITSUBISHI CLOSES THE GAP Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret today won the fifth stage of the 28th Dakar Rally in their Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution. Team-mates Joan 'Nani' Roma and ...


Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret today won the fifth stage of the 28th Dakar Rally in their Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution. Team-mates Joan 'Nani' Roma and Henri Magne were third with Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard fifth to complete a great day for the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team. Claiming his first stage victory of the year, multiple Dakar victor Peterhansel climbed two places up the leaderboard into ninth overall, with Alphand and Roma in third and seventh positions respectively.

Today's fifth leg, from Ouarzazate to Tan Tan, was another tough one with fast stretches and again difficult navigation. The day began with a 187 kilometer liaison to the start of the 350 kilometer competitive section that took the crews towards the Atlantic coastal town of Tan Tan. In total, the leg took in 819 kilometers.

Peterhansel had begun today's stage behind all his major rivals. "I started 14th on the road this morning and managed to make good progress," said the former Dakar winner. "A couple of cars had flat tires and we moved up the field. Tomorrow I will start first on the stage as we enter Mauritania. The rally will change considerably from here with a lot more sand. I lost 17 minutes in Morocco yesterday, but now I have a good chance to make up that time over the next few days."

Alphand begun the stage in fourth place in the overall standings and moved up to third after setting the fifth fastest time in the team's second Pajero / Montero Evolution.

Roma and Magne were third quickest today, after leading at the first passage control, and will now head into Mauritania in seventh position.

"It was not easy and I had to start at the back of the first group of drivers," said Roma. "Mark Miller was in front of me but I was lucky that he was driving quickly. It was not possible to push too much in the dust. Now I think the event will change. It will become very difficult over the next three days and I think the overall leaderboard can change a lot."

Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Dominique Serieys said: "I was not too unhappy yesterday, but today has been much better. We have not been able to use the true potential of our cars yet, because of the narrow tracks and the risks associated with passing motorbikes in dust. Stéphane will open the road on Thursday. We know this area quite well and it is a fast stage which may also suit the Buggies. There are four stages in Mauritania and tomorrow's may well be the quickest of them all. We will see."

Tomorrow's sixth leg, from Tan Tan to Zouérat in Mauritania, is another long one. The first car leaves Tan Tan shortly after 03.00 hrs for a mammoth 336 kilometer liaison, including the border crossing. The 444 kilometer competitive section which follows is very fast to begin with before turning into a section of dunes and off-piste. The liaison into the mining town of Zouérat, where uniquely on the Dakar traffic drives on the left, is a short 12 kilometers.

Mitsubishi's Thai and Chinese teams head to Mauritania

Chinese driver Guan Yuan Men and French co-driver Serge Henninot completed yesterday's 386 kilometer special stage between Er Rachidia and Ouarzazate in 89th position at the wheel of their Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero.

They were classified 78th at the first passage control, but lost time with an ECU problem and were also stuck in soft sand. "It was not the best of days for me," said Men. "But we made it to the bivouac and are still in the rally and that is the most important thing."

Today, the crew were 99th fastest in the 350 kilometer stage from Ouarzazate to Tan Tan and now hold 89th place overall. "It was much better for me today," said Men. "I found a better rhythm and now I can look forward to preparing for the dunes and Mauritania. I have memories of this area from last year. I spent three days of my life there in one place!"

Thailand's Mana Pornsiriched and French co-driver Jean Brucy began yesterday in an encouraging 66th place overall and were soon at a competitive pace in their Mitsubishi Racing Triton Evolution. Mana was 73rd at PC1 and eventually finished the stage 43rd quickest to hold an encouraging 48th place in the overall standings.

Today, the ever-improving Thai completed the stage in a fine 38th position. The Dakar debutant is now an excellent 40th in the overall standings.

"Both the cars are running well at this stage and Mana and Guan Men are driving in a responsible and professional manner," said Team Manager Sujit Angello Das. "There is such a long way to go that both of them realise there is no point in taking any risks. The objective is to reach Dakar."


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Series Dakar
Drivers Mark Miller , Luc Alphand , Henri Magne , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Jean Brucy , Serge Henninot , Mana Pornsiriched