Dakar: Petersen/White Lightning stage nine report

Michael Petersen Betters Personal Dakar Best with 16th in Stage 9 Petersen/White Lightning Breaks Top-20 Overall After Marathon Stages NÉMA, Africa January 15, 2007 -- Euromilhões Dakar 2007 by anyone's definition is a marathon. A grueling ...

Michael Petersen Betters Personal Dakar Best with 16th in Stage 9
Petersen/White Lightning Breaks Top-20 Overall After Marathon Stages

NÉMA, Africa January 15, 2007 -- Euromilhões Dakar 2007 by anyone's definition is a marathon. A grueling battle of mental and physical willpower and horsepower matched against the will of Mother Nature. However, Stages Eight and Nine push beyond even the un-routine routine of the world's most difficult motorsports event. The two stages, which cover a total of 1123 km/697.8 miles from Atar to Néma, makeup the marathon stages for the car class in the 29th running of the rally. Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA) and co-driver Matthew Stevenson (Ipswich, England) not only faced the challenge but overcame it with their two best results of the rally (17th in Stage Eight, 16th in today's Stage Nine). The No. 351 MMPIE/PAWS/?.com/BF Goodrich Chevrolet T1.3 class buggy of Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing completed today's 494 km/307 mile special stage in six hours, 58 minutes and 12 seconds, good for 16th out of the 79 cars classified. Petersen, a Dakar rookie, trailed the overall stage winning No. 310 by one hour, 26 minutes and nine seconds.

Petersen's notable performance in Stages Eight and Nine brought the Nevada, USA-based team into the top-20 overall for the first time of the rally. Their previous best had been 21st after Stage Six. However, a lengthy repair and being stuck on course forced them as low as 34th after Stage Seven. Petersen/White Lightning is currently 13 minutes and five seconds behind the No. 331 Mitsubishi which runs in 19th-place entering Stage 10. Since they began on January 6, the No. 351 has spent 44 hours, 38 minutes and 58 seconds in the special stages. Petersen, who has won over a dozen off-road events prior to moving to professional sports car racing, sits 10 hours, 56 minutes and 35 seconds behind the overall car class leader, the No. 302 of Dakar and rally expert Stephane Peterhansel. Petersen is currently the third highest ranking American in the rally behind the experienced Dakar pilots of Mark Miller (in sixth) and Robby Gordon (in eighth).

During a marathon stage, no one other than the driver and co-driver is allowed to perform repairs or maintenance on the car. Therefore, only Petersen and Stevenson prepared the Team SMG-built buggy last night in Tichit prior to today's 497 km/308.8 mile total two stage day. The ninth of 15 stages was among the hardest faced by the pair, driving together for the first time. Not only was its special stage long, but, it was under the most barren of desert conditions. Few landmarks existed to help guide Stevenson's navigation as Petersen controlled the car through the sand and gravel. Once clear of the special stage, it was a quick 3 km/1.86-mile gravel road ride into the nightly bivouac in Néma.

Waiting for the weary driving duo in Néma were Entrant/Program Manager Dale White (Bozeman, MT., USA) and team technicians Nico Castellaccio (Tracy, Calif.) and Dennis Chizma (Las Vegas). Because they could not bivouac with the No. 351 last night, the crew proceeded directly to the end of Stage Nine in Néma and waited doing minor maintenance on their chase vehicles and getting some long overdue rest. However, they will make up for that work tonight as they make any repairs necessary from the two stages and prepare the buggy for tomorrow morning's Stage 10.

Petersen success in the last two stages bodes well for Stage 10. Due to concerns for participant safety, several stages, including Stage Ten, have been altered from the originally announced route. The stage, as it has been planned since just day's prior to the rally start on January 6, is a large loop sending the teams into sand dunes with little but the fine sands of the Sahara Desert and gravel before them. The same conditions have been good venues for Petersen/White Lightning in the rally thus far, so hopes are high that Stage 10 will allow Petersen to gain even more on the competition. A 10 km/6.2 mile connection will guide Petersen and Stevenson out to the 366 km/227.42 mile special timed section. They will then return to the bivouac with a 24 km/14.91 connection. In total, they will cover 400 km/248.55 miles in tomorrow's stage. Two control points will monitor their progress during the stage.

Stage 11, on January 17, will be a high speed, 280 km/174 mile connection, all on pavement, from Néma to Ayoun.

Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing has won nearly all the world's major motorsports endurance classics including the 24 Hours of Le Mans ('03 & '04), the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 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 will compete with drivers Tim Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) and Tomas Enge (Monaco) in a Ferrari F430 GT in 2007.

-credit: www.PetersenMotorsports.com

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Series Dakar
Drivers Tomas Enge , Robby Gordon , Mark Miller , Michael Petersen , Tim Bergmeister