Dakar: Petersen/White Lightning stage two report

Petersen/White Lightning Has Bittersweet Day at Dakar Petersen/White Lightning Euromilhoes Dakar Debut Off to Impressive Start Michael Petersen Moves-Up in Dakar Rankings on Second Stage; Skilton Out MALAGA, Spain January 7, 2007 - Michael ...

Petersen/White Lightning Has Bittersweet Day at Dakar

Petersen/White Lightning Euromilhoes Dakar Debut Off to Impressive Start
Michael Petersen Moves-Up in Dakar Rankings on Second Stage; Skilton Out

MALAGA, Spain January 7, 2007 - Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA), owner/driver of the No. 351 MMPIE/PAWS/?.com/BF Goodrich Chevrolet T1.3 class buggy, had another impressive showing in today's Second Stage of the Euromilhoes Dakar 2007. The owner of the two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class-winning team moved up to 24th overall out of 177 car class entries in the world's most daunting of all motorsport events. However, the No. 572 of Darren Skilton (Long Beach, Calif., USA) wasn't able to complete the run to Malaga and has been officially withdrawn from further competition making it a bittersweet day for the American team.

While still early in the going, Petersen, who won dozens of off-road competitions before moving to sports car racing fulltime, has reacquainted himself well with the off-road world in short order. Petersen and co-driver Matthew Stevenson (Ipswich, England) finished 20th in today's 67 km/41.6 mile special stage that linked Portimco, Portugal to Malaga, Spain. In total, the buggy covered 545 km/338.6 miles (15 km/9.3 mile first liaison and a 463 km/287.7 mile second liaison as well as the special stage). The Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing buggy, which started the day 28th overall in the car class after finishing the first stage from Lisbon to Portimco, Portugal, covered the special stage distance in two hours, 43 minutes and 39 seconds. The No. 351 was just 21 minutes, 42 seconds behind overall leader Carlos Sousa, who himself finished ninth on the day.

Skilton, racing in the T4 category as the on-course support to the No. 351, started the day in 68th position in the truck class. However, the engine in his Mercedes truck failed while on the connection run to Malaga. The No. 572 was officially withdrawn when the flatbed came to pick it up, the engine failure terminal. Without Skilton's on-course support, the No. 351 is at a disadvantage. However, Skilton and White quickly created an alternative plan to alleviate some of the difficulty. They have spread the repair parts, which Skilton was carrying, for Petersen's buggy to several support vehicles of the Tibau Team, which owns the SUV White is driving. Tibau will provide on-course support for the remainder of the rally.

Petersen also had a pair of problems following the timed portion. The No. 351 blew a clutch slave cylinder which demanded immediate repairs by Petersen/White Lightning technicians Nico Castellaccio (Tracy, Calif.) and Dennis Chizma (Las Vegas) while on the liaison to Malaga. While repairing the slave cylinder they discovered that one of the two constant velocity (CV) boots (which covers the CV joint from debris) was torn. It did not need to be addressed immediately but will be attended to at the conclusion of Stage Three with other regular maintenance in the first scheduled service tomorrow.

Today's second stage was the most unique of the 15 stages that form the Euromilhoes Dakar 2007. The course took the teams over the mountains and down to the sea offering high altitudes, multiple switchbacks, narrow roads and deadly drop-offs. Now successfully on the coast, Petersen/White Lightning will travel to Morocco where they will begin the more traditional Dakar course through the deserts of north and western Africa for the remaining 6,906 km/4,291 miles. 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.

Making a more direct connection between Portimco and the port city of Malaga, program manager and entrant Dale White (Bozeman, MT., USA), driving the No. 671 Toyota Land Cruiser, awaited longtime friend and racing partner Petersen. The No. 673 T5-class, six-wheel support vehicle of Castellaccio and Chizma met Petersen along the route for repairs and then proceeded to Malaga. They will then load the No. 351 onto a ship for transport across the Mediterranean Sea. Fine-tuning of the Team SMG-built buggy, as well as the CV boot repair and close inspection of the electrical system is at the top of the job list as the buggy must be ready for the dusty, sands of Africa. White, an accomplished off-road driving champion himself, will focus on shock/damper tuning to fit Petersen's driving style and to gain the most grip in the sand while Castellaccio and Chizma do the repairs.

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.


Dale White, Entrant/Program Manager: ""Having Darren's truck go-out on us wasn't good. We have adapted and spread the parts to support Mike's car with the Tibau Team. We're thankful for their help. Darren will fly down to Africa and meet us on the rest day. We're learning a lot. I already have a list of things that we'll do a little differently next year. We'll cross over to Africa tonight, find a hotel and be ready to race tomorrow in the first African stage. We'll make the repairs to Mike's car tomorrow night. There is still an awful lot of racing left to do."

-credit: petersen/white lightning

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Series Dakar
Drivers Carlos Sousa , Matthew Stevenson , Michael Petersen , Darren Skilton