Dakar: Petersen/White Lightning stage 13 report

* Accident Slows Petersen/White Lightning in Stage 13 of Euromilhues Dakar 2007 * Michael Petersen Unharmed, Slips to 23rd Overall, Set to Continue After Overnight Repairs TAMBACOUNDA, Africa January 19, 2007 -- As the Euromilhues Dakar ...

* Accident Slows Petersen/White Lightning in Stage 13 of Euromilhues Dakar 2007

* Michael Petersen Unharmed, Slips to 23rd Overall, Set to Continue After Overnight Repairs

TAMBACOUNDA, Africa January 19, 2007 -- As the Euromilhues Dakar 2007 nears its conclusion, the bad luck for Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing continues to mount. In today's 13th stage, taking them from Kayes to Tambacounda, the No. 351 MMPIE/PAWS/?.com/BF Goodrich Chevrolet T1.3 class buggy made hard contact with one of the many trees that lined the special 260 km/161.6 mile special timed section. While the buggy suffered serious left front damage, Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA) and co-driver Matthew Stevenson (Ipswich, England) were unhurt. Despite the substantial damage, the No. 351 was able complete the stage with a time of three hours, 25 minutes and 46 seconds. That placed them 54th in the stage; 55 minutes and 24 seconds behind the stage-winning No. 303 of Carlos Sainz. In spite of the problems encountered the last two stages, Petersen continues to hold onto a remarkable 23rd overall classification in the team's first attempt at the 6,906 km/4,291 mile Dakar rally.

Petersen was again making up time against the overall leaders when, in the tight confines of the special timed section of the 484 km/300.74 mile stage, he made hard contact with a group of trees lining the course. The two-wheel drive buggy, built by Team SMG, suffered serious damage to the left front corner of the car. The overnight repair list includes: new left front bodywork, front suspension and steering members, a new left front shock absorber and mount, as well as other miscellaneous repairs and the traditional nightly preparations. Technicians Nico Castellaccio (Tracy, Calif.) and Dennis Chizma (Las Vegas), as well as program manager/entrant Dale White (Bozeman, MT) will work throughout the night to make the necessary fixes so that Petersen and Stevenson can begin tomorrow's penultimate stage on time. Thanks in part to the safety systems built into the buggy and the safety equipment being worn by Petersen and Stevenson, including the HANS device Petersen is wearing, the driving duo will be able to continue in the battle to reach the finish line.

Stage 14 follows the last night of camping for the two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winning team. They will enter the city of Dakar at the conclusion of the 576 km/358 mile trip from Tambacounda to Dakar. The first leg of the three section journey is a 124 km/77 mile paved section that turns to gravel in the last 14 km/8.7 miles. The gravel will begin to prepare the participants for the final serious stage of the Euromilhues Dakar 2007 as they begin a 225 km/139.8 mile special timed section over gravel, sand and laterite. 114 km/70.8 miles into the special stage Petersen and Stevenson will come to the only control/check point on the route at the course's most northern edge as they travel west towards the Atlantic Ocean. Once through the timed portion, they will have a 227 km/141 mile dash into Dakar on pavement.

With the city of Dakar in the distance calling like a Siren Song, Petersen will have to keep his wits about him even on the straight, paved portion of the stage. However, once in Dakar a warm shower and clean sheets await the team for the first time since the second night of the rally on January 7.

Also awaiting the team will be Stage 15. The Lac Rose stage is the final round of the Euromilhues Dakar 2007 encircling the sea-side Rose Lake in the city of Dakar, Senegal. Unlike all the previous rounds which ranged from professional rally-type courses (such as Stages One and Two as well as Stages 13 and 14) or the long desert stretches through the sand and the dunes that formed the heart of the rally through Mauritania, Stage 15 is a "city" stage. It totals only 93 km/57.8 miles with the short 16 km/9.95 mile special timed stage breaking-up the 36 km/22.4 mile first liaison and the final connection of the rally, a 41 km/25.5 mile sprint to the finish line. Due to the short nature of the stage, few opportunities exist to make up substantial time on even your closest competitor. However, every opportunity must be made because, just as some failed in the first stage of the event, the chance exists that some team's will fall by the way here in Dakar itself.

Michael Petersen, Driver/Owner: "Getting lost yesterday forced us to start behind a lot of slower cars. That really hurt us because the first part of the stage today was really twisty and there was no room to pass the slower cars. I finally caught the first place truck and 'buzzed' him for 20 k [each Dakar entry has an A.S.O. mandated warning system that allows one vehicle to warn another that they are trying to pass]. He just wouldn't move over and I got hung out and popped a tree. 40 [kph/25 mph] to 0 in less than a foot; I am pretty sore.

I am little bummed out because we would have finished top-15 I think. We had a good time going and had passed a lot of cars. The last portion was really quick and we would have made a lot more time up. It's just disappointing. We are faster than most of these guys we are starting behind. It is just that we have had some bad luck the last few days and they haven't. Yesterday we got caught-up in the dust and got lost. Today, trying to make up time, we hit a tree. That is all because we are behind these slower cars. It's frustrating but it is what it is.

We probably won't try and pass as many cars tomorrow. We'll just cruise and bring it home. Our goal continues to be to reach the end. This year is all about coming back next year and being successful, not necessarily getting a top-20 finish this year. although, that would be nice.

This is a tough event, the toughest thing we have ever done as a team. It will be nice to come back with our own program. I think we can be successful here. It won't be easy and I am not saying we'll win it overall but we can be successful here just like in off-road and in sports car racing. It's exciting to think about but, right now, I just want to get this car to Dakar. That is all we are focused on right now."

Regardless of the outcome on the finishing order, Dakar continues to be the goal of Petersen/White Lightning. Should the team make the final two stages that await them, it will be a victory in-and-of itself for the American team. The lessons learned will not be lost as they return in 2008 with a completely in- house program and a desire to add a Dakar trophy next to the Le Mans, American Le Mans Series, Daytona and Baja first-place trophies that proudly line the walls of the team's Nevada shop.

-credit: Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Matthew Stevenson , Michael Petersen