MIXED FORTUNES FOR TEAM REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART ON LONGEST DAY OF THE 29TH DAKAR RALLY The longest day of this year's Dakar Rally -- a tiring 817km section between Tan Tan in southern Morocco and ZouÃ©rat in north-western Mauritania...
MIXED FORTUNES FOR TEAM REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART ON LONGEST DAY OF THE 29TH DAKAR RALLY
The longest day of this year's Dakar Rally -- a tiring 817km section between Tan Tan in southern Morocco and Zouérat in north-western Mauritania -- offered mixed fortunes for Team Repsol Misubishi Ralliart. Team drivers Luc Alphand, Stéphane Peterhansel, Joan 'Nani' Roma and Hiroshi Masuoka now hold fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth places in the overall standings.
Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret were the leading Mitsubishi crew through the first passage control in sixth position and finished the stage a mere 32 seconds behind the overall rally leader Carlos Sainz in fourth place. The French duo will now start the subsequent special into Atar, 25m 03s behind the Spaniard and in fifth position overall.
"My stage time was not so bad," said Peterhansel. "The stage was so fast. We did 157km in the first hour! We are not as fast as some of the other cars on the high-speed sections. I hope now the race has entered Mauritania we have some big dunes. Maybe this is my opportunity to take some time back. For the last two years tomorrow's stage has been good for Mitsubishi, but we do not know where the route will go, so we must wait and see."
Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard were classified eighth through the first passage control and eventually finished the stage in seventh position. They now hold fourth in the overall standings.
"We must have spent three quarters of the stage absolutely flat out," admitted Alphand. "I really tried hard in the camel grass and I still lost two minutes to Stéphane by the first passage control. Maybe my tire pressure was slightly under the ideal setting. The last part of the stage was a sandy track, with some camel grass and small dunes. I just have to keep up my pace and try again tomorrow. The others are really pushing."
Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz began the stage as the leading Mitsubishi crew in fourth place and were 10th through the first passage control, but they lost over 20 minutes through the latter sections; four minutes to assist at the scene of the accident involving Guerlain Chicherit's BMW X3CC and further vital minutes attempting to change a flat tire. Roma now holds seventh overall.
"At about 204km we stopped to help at the scene of the Chicherit accident for about four minutes," said co-driver Lucas Cruz. "Then we passed Mark Miller and Carlos Sousa, but we had to stop with a flat right tire. We tried to change the wheel, but it took a lot longer than we hoped and we lost more time than usual for a flat tire."
Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon lost 35 minutes before the first passage control after stopping 60km into the stage to affect emergency repairs to their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution, which had suffered clutch problems.
"Everything was going very well," said Masuoka. "Then we had a problem with the clutch and we had to stop and change it in the stage."
"We limited the difference between us, the VWs and the Buggies in today's stage and that was the priority," said MMSP's Managing and Sporting Director Dominique Serieys. "'Nani' lost some time stopping to help Guerlain and then he had a flat tire, Hiroshi was delayed, but Stéphane and Luc did a good job. The average speeds were so high today.
"For nearly 400km, it took less than three hours for the leading cars. Now we must look ahead to tomorrow and the stage into Atar. It is not the same stage as last year and passes the right side of Atar. You never know what the weather conditions will be, but it is a new day and I hope that we can get some time back to organize a nice fight for the remainder of the race into Dakar."
China's Lui Bin climbs up to 44th overall in Dakar Rally
Thailand's Pornsiriched back on the pace after delays into Tan Tan
China's Lui Bin and French co-driver Serge Henninot began the stage between Tan Tan and Zouerat in 50th in the overall standings and 58th on the stage. They were 68th at the first passage control, but the Chinese drove in a safe and professional manner over the closing kilometres to clinch the 56th fastest time. He now holds 44th overall and climbed six places in the rankings today.
"We are taking each day at a time," said Lui Bin. "Today was very fast and quite easy for the co-driver. It was a holiday for him before we start in the dunes tomorrow. No problems with the car today. I go back to school in the sand dunes in the morning!"
Thailand's Mana Pornsiriched and French co-driver Jean Brucy began the sixth stage from Tan Tan to Zouerat in 78th overall and 139th position on the road after losing time into the final Moroccan bivouac with a broken front axle. But the Thai driver was in superb form in his rebuilt car and was classified 53rd overall at the first passage control on the high-speed stage after starting at the rear of the field this morning. He went on to finish in 49th place.
"I passed about 40 cars today on the stage," said Pornsiriched. "Tomorrow we can expect many sand dunes. Just to arrive in Atar in a good position will be a good day for us."
"Today was merely an aperitif for the sand dunes in the morning," joked co-driver Brucy.
Japan's Yoshio Ikemachi began the stage out of Tan Tan in 44th position. He had climbed to 39th overall at the first passage control and completed the section in 36th place in his Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero. He now lies 28th, immediately ahead of Germany's former Dakar winner Jutta Kleinschmidt in the overall standings.
Brazilian Klever Kolberg finished the stage in 24th place and now holds 54th position in the overall rankings in his Tibau Team-run Mitsubishis.
Tomorrow (Friday), Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart will tackle the first of the very difficult Dakar special stages between Zouérat and the rest day location at Atar. The 542km special begins just four kilometres from the overnight halt and is the longest of the event so far. It finishes in Atar after a short 34km liaison section.
The day marks the first of the treacherous Mauritanian dune crossings, the incentive to reach the finish being the onset of the rest day on Saturday. The stage loops its way around Choûm before heading south-west of Atar and returning on sandy tracks between Akjoujt and Ain Attaya.