Dakar : Mitsubishi Motors - Leg 3
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart's team director Dominique Serieys insists that he is not watching the leader board through the opening three or four days of the 2009 Dakar Rally.
But team crews Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul
Cottret (both France) and Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz Senra (both Spain) remain firmly in contention for the overall lead after the third leg of the event across the Patagonian wastelands between Puerto Madryn and Ingeniero Jacobacci on Monday.
They set the fifth and sixth fastest times in a pair of turbo-diesel 'Racing Lancers' and now hold fourth and fifth in the overall classification. Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard (both France) were delayed for around 30 minutes before the first passage control with a minor fuel leak and slipped to 10th overall. The stage win fell to Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar), although Carlos Sainz (Spain) maintained the overall lead in the general classification.
The stage was shortened from 616km to 550km and meandered its way through the Patagonian lowlands, crossing scrub and grasslands along twisty and sometimes technical trails, before beginning a gradual climb towards the overnight halt at around 900 metres above sea level.
Monday evening's bivouac at Ingeniero Jacobacci was a far cry from the sunny conditions at Puerto Madryn on the Atlantic coast 24 hours' before.
The town was formerly known as Nahuel Niyeo, but was renamed in 1926 after the engineer who built the railway that now links the town with the outside world and was also the location for the overnight halt on the Dakar.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the fourth leg of the 2009 Dakar Rally between Ingeneiro Jacobacci and Neuquén, the 459km special starting just four kilometers from the bivouac and featuring numerous rocky and sandy sections and several wadis. The route passes through the Sierra Mesanlyes and meanders to the north-east of the Negro river to finish near the renowned Valley of the Dinosaurs in a protected geological area dating back to the Cretaceous Period.
The final 25km liaison takes teams to the overnight halt near the confluence of the Limay and Neuquén rivers. Neuquén has a strong agricultural background, is the capital city of the province of the same name and is the largest city in Patagonia.
Dominique Serieys, Team Director
"We will really see what develops over the coming days and then we will get a better indication of the overall situation in this rally."
"We had a fuel leak and had to stop and take everything out from the rear to see where the problem was. Everything else was fine today, but a fuel seal was not working and it cost me over 30 minutes trying to sort it all out. That was very frustrating."
"If the route is like the organisers said, then the first three stages were very fast and then it becomes more difficult. I hope that is true because we could be in a better position. Since the start I had no problems with the car but I struggled to follow Carlos Sainz this morning. He was too fast. I look forward to the more technical stages."
Joan 'Nani' Roma
"I don't feel too bad about our position heading into the next group of stages. I had a puncture near the end, but we are still in the chasing pack and I am quite happy with my position on the road for tomorrow."