Dakar: Petersen/White Lightning preview

Petersen/White Lightning Launches Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Effort Two-Time Le Mans Champs to Open Rally with Inspection and First Stages This Week LISBON, Portugal January 2, 2007 -- Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing will ring in the...

Petersen/White Lightning Launches Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 Effort

Two-Time Le Mans Champs to Open Rally with Inspection and First Stages This Week

LISBON, Portugal January 2, 2007 -- Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing will ring in the New Year with a new challenge: the Euromilhoes Dakar 2007. The world famous rally charts its course from Lisbon, Portugal to Dakar, Senegal beginning on January 6. It will conclude 15 days later, January 21, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. In the interim, driver/owner Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA) and his co-driver Matthew Stevenson (Ipswich, England) will pilot the primary race vehicle, No. 351, on nearly every race surface imaginable; asphalt, gravel, dirt and hundreds of miles of sand dunes. Prior to departing on the world's most extreme motorsports event, the Petersen/White Lightning entry will undergo scrutineering/technical inspection. They will then complete the first two stages on the European continent before arriving in Africa where they will run the remainder of the 15- stage race. The team, having celebrated the holidays with family in the United States arrived in Europe today. Technical inspection, known as scrutineering, for the No. 351 MMPIE/PAWS/?.com/BF Goodrich entry takes place in Lisbon on January 4 at 11 AM (local time). Upon clearing inspection, No. 351 will be impounded until the start of the first stage on Saturday.

Entrant and program manager Dale White (Bozeman, MT., USA) will drive the secondary support vehicle during the Euromilhoes Dakar, formerly known as the Paris-Dakar. Longtime team members Nico Castellaccio (Tracy, Calif., USA.) and Dennis Chizma (Las Vegas) will ride in the primary support vehicle, No. 673. Castellaccio and Chizma, who will be accompanied by one member of Team SMG in the three-man vehicle, will follow the same course as Petersen and will be competing for a victory in the T5 class for support vehicles. White will run on a parallel course with vehicles of the sanctioning body, the Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.), that support the nighttime bivouacs of the event.

The first stage will send the Petersen/White Lightning Racing entries from Lisbon to Portimão, Portugal. The stage includes a 115 km/71.4 mile liaison, or 'connection', followed by a 117 km/72.7 mile 'timed special' stage and then another liaison of 232 km/144 miles for a total of 464 km/288.3 miles before the first night's rest. For the first stage, entrants will start the race in order of the car number. All remaining stages will be based on the running order of the event. This stage will also offer the competitors their first sight of things to come; sand.

Day Two, January 7, will take them another 545 km/338.6 miles (15 km/9.3 mile first liaison and a 463 km/287.7 mile second liaison split by a 67 km/41.6 mile special stage) from Portimão to Malaga, Spain. This section is mountainous with large drop-offs to challenge not only Petersen behind the wheel of the race buggy, but White, Castellaccio and Chizma and the chase trucks. That will bring them to the Mediterranean Sea where they will travel by boat near the Strait of Gibraltar to the northern coast of Africa. Once in Morocco the three vehicles will begin the most challenging part of the rally as they launch into the remaining 6,906 km/4,291 mile trek across western Africa. The first African stage takes them from the port city of Nador to Er Rachidia on January 8th where 252 of the total 648 km are in the special stage (156.6 of the total 402.6 miles).

In preparation for the event, Petersen/White Lightning traveled to Morocco for a multi-day test in the desert from December 4-6. The test, which used the same Team SMG-built T1.3 class buggy that Petersen will compete with, helped bring together the elements of Petersen/White Lightning, Team SMG- the organization owned by French motorsports great Philippe Gache (Cannes, France) which will supply the buggy and some support- and of Baja Automotive Adventures- owned and operated by Darren Skilton (Long Beach, Calif., USA) - together for the first time. The test proved very successful giving the team its first hands-on operation of the mid-engine, rear wheel-drive, full-bodied buggy. Despite dozens of race victories in off-road competition in the United States and Mexico, the test offered Petersen his first opportunity to drive on the sands unique to Africa. It gave all the first-time visitors a better understanding of the difficulties of working in the harsh environment of the African desert.

Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing has won all the world's major motorsports endurance classics including the 24 Hours of Le Mans ('03 & '04), the Baja 500 and Baja 1,000 overall ('95-'97), the 24 Hours At Daytona ('01), the 12 Hours of Sebring ('05) and the Petit Le Mans ('05 & '06). They have won over 50 off-road events and the American Le Mans Series GT2 Class Driver and IMSA Cup Championships ('05 and '06) and Team Championship ('05). 2007 marks the first of a three year Dakar program to complement their ongoing American Le Mans Series effort which recently switched to Ferrari's F430 GT for the '07 race season.

Live Timing and Scoring and other Dakar-related information will be found at www.PetersenMotorsports.com. Versus Network will carry highlights of each day's activities starting on January 7. Petersen and White will also being doing periodic Podcast interviews with the American Le Mans Series which will be available via www.AmericanLeMans.com and on iTunes, Podcast key word: American Le Mans Series.

Quotes: Michael Petersen, Owner/Driver: "The challenge of Dakar draws near. It seems just yesterday Dale and I were over in Lisbon for the start of last year's race and now we are going at it ourselves! It is very exciting and I am really looking forward to learning everything that I can. With Matthew by my side we hope to make it to the finish at Dakar as this is our goal for this year. The test went well. I was able to become quite comfortable with the SMG buggy in the different situations that are going to be a lot like the race. I even did manage to get stuck and had to dig out the buggy which was good practice for me! I am well-rested and looking forward to this awesome adventure with the boys. Hopefully 2007 starts off with the entire team getting to the finish line safely in Dakar!"

Dale White, Entrant/Program Manager: "We're really looking forward to getting started later this week. We tested in Morocco in early December and it went extremely well; even better than we could have hoped. We were able to test the same buggy that Mike will be racing and we were all able to get some real world experience in the environment and in the geography that we will be racing in. The SMG-built buggy was very good. Dennis and Nico were able to become familiar with it during the test and during an extended stay at the SMG shop in France following the test. Even the problems we ran into during the test helped us learn. We were able to work on our communication and even how to dig the buggy out of a sand dune. That is what the first year of this program is about; learning. We aren't even thinking about winning Dakar this year. We are looking at it as a learning experience so that we can come back next year and challenge for the win."

-credit: Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Matthew Stevenson , Michael Petersen , Philippe Gache