UAE Desert Challenge : Mitsubishi Motors
Mitsubishi Motors Repsol Team drivers Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret began the second leg of the UAE Desert Challenge with a massive advantage over their nearest rivals and extended it to 1h 31m 28s after the
second and third selective sections, which constituted the second leg of the event around Moreeb in the Abu Dhabi emirate on Friday.
Today's opening stage climbed out of the bivouac to join the renowned 'Desert Roses' track and offered a balance of high and low dunes and sand flats, before doubling back across the bivouac access road to finish alongside the Liwa highway. Peterhansel beat his nearest rival, UAE driver Yayha Al-Helai, by over 25 minutes and extended his overall lead to 58m 40s.
The longer second section began across fast, open desert terrain and included several tricky drops. The final kilometers after the third passage control began on sand tracks, but these gave to way to a run through the stunning 'Mountains of the Moon' - an eerie dunescape - before descending into the Moreeb bivouac at the finish.
"The second stage today was the most difficult we have faced so far,, but the car is perfect," said Peterhansel. "I don't know whether I will be able to finish the race with the car in the same condition, but we will try. The second stage was 200 kms all off-piste and it was sometimes difficult to find the right track."
Team mates Joan 'Nani' Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne began the opening selective section behind the BMW of José-Luis Monterde and Tiziano Siviero, but the crew were forced to return to the bivouac when Roma was again struck down by a suspected bout of food poisoning, which had occurred for the first time during the opening day.
The pair passed Monterde's BMW within a mere 40 kms of the start this morning, but Roma had been unwell during the night and on the way to the stage start. The pair reached the decision to return to the bivouac at the 59 kms point where the stage crossed a bivouac access road. Roma will restart with time penalties on Saturday morning, as long as his conditions improves.
"There was no way we could continue," said co-driver Magne. "Nani was feeling unwell and was sick on a couple of occasions. We had to pull out today. The medics carried out a couple of tests. His sugar, water and salt levels were okay, so it must have been food poisoning."
Tomorrow (Saturday) is the longest and arguably the most difficult stage through the Rub Al Khali or Empty Quarter. The stage starts at Al Batin, 54 kms from the Moreeb bivouac, and a treacherous 354.50 kms route returns teams to the overnight halt. Mitsubishi's final competitive pre-Dakar test event is scheduled to finish on Monday afternoon at the DIMC in Dubai.
Press Release Mitsubishi Motors