Dakar: Mitsubishi stage ten report

Mitsubishi 1-2 On Leg Ten To Extend Lead on Dakar Peterhansel and Alphands take top two times for Mitsubishi Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka retired with engine problems The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team maintained its lead of the 2005...

Mitsubishi 1-2 On Leg Ten To Extend Lead on Dakar

Peterhansel and Alphands take top two times for Mitsubishi
Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka retired with engine problems

The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team maintained its lead of the 2005 Dakar Rally, after the 483 kilometer loop stage around the bivouac in Atâr, Mauritania, today. A first and second fastest stage time for team drivers Stéphane Peterhansel and Luc Alphand keeps the two French drivers in first and second position in the overall standings.

Today's route featured a loop stage around Atâr. After an eight kilometer liaison, teams headed into a tricky 483 kilometer stage, before returning to the bivouac. The stage is one of the most difficult on the Dakar Rally and takes in the Thaga Pass and the notorious El Beyed Erg. The organizers have pledged around 40 kilometers of non-stop dunes and the crossing of the Sebkhet Chemcham chott.

Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret completed the stage 1min 57sec ahead of their team mates Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard, in their Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution. The pair had been running neck and neck with their team mates to the second passage control and then stopped to reinflate their tires after passing a tricky expanse of sand dunes.

"It was a nice stage today", said defending champion Peterhansel. "It was a varied stage. We passed along many tracks and dunes and a new pass off-road, where we had to climb a little. There were around 60 kilometers of camel grass and then some more dunes. We had a flat tire at the top of the pass and then we deflated the tires to around 1.6 bar pressure".

"I hit one small dune quite hard and there is a little front damage, but nothing too serious. It was good to drive together today and the result of the stage has strengthened our position in the race".

Luc Alphand duly took the second fastest stage time to maintain Mitsubishi's comfortable one-two position in the overall standings. Germany's Jutta Kleinschmidt was the team's nearest rival in third place, albeit 70 minutes 45 seconds behind Peterhansel's leading Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution.

"Stéphane and I drove well together today", said the former World Downhill ski champion. "We pushed a little, nothing that would risk our position. We stopped to put some air in the tires after PC2 and ran together to make sure that we were together if anything happened. I think it was a good strategy and we have taken more time out of Jutta Kleinschmidt today".

Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka and German co-driver Andreas Schulz were badly delayed with engine problems 100 kilometers after the start of the Atar loop stage. They returned to the bivouac in Atâr but as they did not pass the two passage controls through the stage, the crew have been forced to retire.

Germany's Andrea Mayer and French co-driver Jean-Michel Polato had been running as high as 10th position at the first passage control point, but were forced to stop with electrical problems in their Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up.

Spaniard Joan 'Nani' Roma and co-driver Henri Magne stopped to lend assistance to Mayer and continued to the finish in eighth, placing them in sixth position overall, two positions up the leaderboard than they started the day.

Tomorrow the rally heads south towards Kiffa with a special stage en route to the Republic of Mali. The stage crosses over the Nega Pass, the Pic de Bou Naga and the valleys of the Tagant massif and the Ksar el Barka oasis.

This promises to be one of the most varied stages on the Dakar, with canyons, twisty sections, fast piste, dunes and camel grass on offer. Race Director Patrick Zaniroli has warned that this could be the most difficult stage of the entire rally, but the organizers announced at a press conference this evening, that the stage has now been shortened to finish at 400 kilometer point at PC2.

Chinese Men and co-driver Henninot spend three nights in the desert

Chinese Mitsubishi Ralliart driver Guan Yuang Men and French co-driver Serge Henninot arrived in the Atâr bivouac on Sunday afternoon in an organizers' helicopter. They had spent three nights and two days with their Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero, stranded near the second passage control between Zouérat and Tichit, on the special stage which should have been completed on Thursday.

"An aeroplane dropped us some food and water and acknowledged that we were with the car and safe", said a shattered Men". We just had enough rations to keep us going until the helicopter picked us up on Sunday. The gearbox had broken in the car and we were just stuck in the middle of nowhere, helpless to do anything until assistance arrived. We slept for three nights on the sand by the car. It was a scary and very unusual experience".

The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero crew of Brazilians Klever Kolberg and Rouldan Lourival, led the five surviving Mitsubishi Ralliart crews into the Atâr loop stage of the Dakar Rally in 44th place in the overall standings and set the 12th fastest time today.

"There were 30 kilometers of dunes, then camel grass and then soft sand", said the Brazilian. "We came across 100 kilometers of rocks and it was not easy to find our way. The ascent through the pass was easy, but it was hard to find the way through the next camel grass and the wind made everything so difficult. You could not see any tracks".

"Then there were 20 kilometers more dunes and they were just horrible. You got to the top of a dune and then saw the next one and just hoped that it would be okay. The end of the stage was 150 kilometers of full speed piste and then a twisty track to the finish. But we made it".

The French Mitsubishi Ralliart duo of Dominique Housieaux and Loïc Fagot began the day in 66th place and were 14th quickest on the section.

Russian Alexey Berkut and Anton Nikolaev held 53rd position, and Poland's Krzysztof Holowczyc and Belgian co-driver Jean-Marc Fortin were classified 73rd at the start of the stage.

Dutchman Toni van Deijne and co-driver Francisco van Deijne started from the rear of the field this morning, after delays into Atâr, and were back in a competitive pace from the outset.

-mitsubishi-

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Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Henri Magne , Jutta Kleinschmidt , Hiroshi Masuoka , Andreas Schulz , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Klever Kolberg , Andrea Mayer , Dominique Housieaux , Loïc Fagot , Jean-Michel Polato , Krzysztof Holowczyc , Jean-Marc Fortin , Alexey Berkut , Anton Nikolaev