Into Africa -- Petersen/White Lightning Runs First Dakar Stage in Africa Michael Petersen 25th Overall After Stage 3 from Nador to Er Rachidia ER RACHIDIA, Africa January 8, 2007 -- Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing made their first ...
Into Africa -- Petersen/White Lightning Runs First Dakar Stage in Africa
Michael Petersen 25th Overall After Stage 3 from Nador to Er Rachidia
ER RACHIDIA, Africa January 8, 2007 -- Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing made their first start of the Euromilhoes Dakar 2007 on the African continent today. Running from the port city of Nador to Er Rachidia, owner driver Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA) got his first taste of the African desert in true competition. The No. 351 MMPIE/PAWS/?.com/BF Goodrich Chevrolet T1.3 class buggy slipped one spot overall to 25th today after turning-in the 36th overall quickest special stage time. It required them only three hours, 28 minutes and 50 seconds to cover the 252 km/156.5 mile special stage. Today's third stage of the 29th running of the Dakar was the longest timed section that Petersen and co-driver Matthew Stevenson (Ipswich, England) have encountered thus far. Their time was 42 minutes and 38 seconds behind the stage-winning No. 301 Volkswagen. The No. 351 currently sits one hour, three minutes and 10 seconds out of the overall lead, an impressive first three stages for the two-time class winning team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in its debut in the world's most challenging racing event. There are 177 entries in the "car" category competing for overall honors with Petersen/White Lightning.
Navigation was at a premium today as Stevenson called out the directions for Petersen. The special stage, and even the two liaisons that bookend-ed it, required fulltime commitment to the map. The ever changing track surface coupled with the quick change in direction of the course kept both Petersen and Stevenson on their toes throughout the stage. The first liaison, a 205 km/127.4 miles blast on pavement, brought the SMG-built buggy to the timed section which was to be contested on gravel and included two streams to cross. Like most of the stages will be, the first African stage was unlike anything that the two Petersen/White Lightning drivers had faced to this point in 2007. Petersen and Stevenson then proceeded on pavement again to Er Rachidia, 192 km/119.3 miles southwest of the conclusion of the timed stage.
Now in Er Rachidia, the No. 351 comes under the attention of the team lead by program manager and entrant Dale White (Bozeman, MT., USA), who is driving the No. 671 Toyota Land Cruiser during the trek. Following the failure of a slave clutch cylinder in Sunday's second liaison, the team also discovered a torn constant velocity (CV) joint boot on the two- wheel drive buggy. Along with the regular maintenance and repairs called for in this evening's first planned service, Petersen/White Lightning technicians Nico Castellaccio (Tracy, Calif.) and Dennis Chizma (Las Vegas), who have been following the rally in a three person, six-wheel T5 class truck, will complete the CV boot repair and a front shock mount repair.
Tomorrow's fourth stage from Er Rachidia to Ouarzazate continues the trio of vehicles-- down from four after Darren Skilton (Long Beach, Calif.) had an engine failure in his T4 support truck on Sunday-- march through Morocco. The 678 km/421.3 mile stage has a special timed section that more than doubles today's special. A relatively short 96 km/59.65 mile run brings the No. 351 to its fourth time trial of the rally, a 405 km/251.65 mile battle through the dunes of northern Africa. Once Petersen and Stevenson have picked their way on, over and through the endless sand dunes of the stage, they will make the sprint through the second liaison of 198 km/123 miles to Ouarzazate and the first true, African desert bivouac of the rally.
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 recently switched to Ferrari's F430 GT for the '07 race season.
Mike Petersen, Owner/Driver: "It was rough. There are cars coming in torn to pieces. At least ours is still in one piece. The dust is a nightmare out there. I just cruised today. We'll probably back off a little more tomorrow to make sure we keep trucking. Our goal is to make it to the finish. So breaking the car because we are pushing to move- up in the standings doesn't make any sense. I'm still learning the buggy too. It has no brakes. You get on the pedal and it goes straight to the floor. I'll just have to deal with this the rest of the time because it is in the design. We also have a broken front shock mount that they guys will try and fix tonight. We'll cruise again tomorrow and just keep everything going. We're not here to set any records we're here to finish and learn."