Dakar : Mitsubishi Motors - Leg 4
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart's three turbo-diesel 'Racing Lancers' claimed third, fifth and eighth positions on the shortened 389km fourth special stage between Ingeniero Jacobacci and Neuquén in western Patagonia on Tuesday.
Alphand and Gilles Picard (both France) started from 15th position on the stage, but clawed their way through the field in the first of three turbo-diesel 'Racing Lancers' to clinch an excellent third fastest time.
Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret (both France) began the day in fourth overall and fifth on the road in their BFGoodrich-backed car. The defending champions finished the stage in eighth place, 1m 16s behind fifth-placed team mates Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz Senra (both Spain).
Today's special stage was modified at the request of a local landowner and the first 79km were converted into a liaison section, although the special retained its varied and demanding character on the run north to Neuquén through a region renowned for its palaeontology. Fifty-six of the original 531 cars, bikes, quads and trucks had already retired from the event at the restart this morning.
Mitsubishis held fourth, eighth and 10th positions through an amended PC1, with Alphand leading the way for Mitsubishi, a mere 26 seconds behind Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Qatar), although Carlos Sainz (Spain) began to pull away from his rivals as the stage progressed.
Alphand, Roma and Peterhansel eventually completed the timed section in third, fifth and eighth places.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) the route continues its steady climb north from the harsh hinterlands of Patagonia into less hostile and more sandy terrain en route to San Rafaël close to the Argentinean foothills of the mighty Andes mountain range.
The day begins with a 173km liaison section through Barda del Medilo to the start of a 506km special stage, which has an opening passage control near Tres Chorros and a second checkpoint after a run through the mountaineous Sierra del Nevado. A short 84km liaison takes team to the overnight halt, which is a city on the Diamante River in the southern region of the Mendoza Province, 650 metres above sea level.
Dominique Serieys, Team Director
"I am happy for Luc because, for the first three days, he was not able to be on the pace he was today. Both our other cars had two punctures, but we intend to stay quiet. The front two (Sainz and Al-Attiyah) are pushing like hell, so let's see what happens over the next two or three days."
Thierry Viardot, Technical Director
"We are still learning every day and need more and more days to continue the learning process. We hope that the rally gets harder and harder over the coming days. We know from the past that we are not the quickest team when the stages are very fast, so we will see what happens in the coming days..."
"I was worried this morning, because I lost so much time yesterday and I knew that I had to try and make up some of that time today. The wind was okay and was blowing at an angle where the dust was not a problem. I can say a big thank you to all the other drivers. They all moved out of the way with no problems.
"I was thinking last night about my position. On the Dakar Rally in the past, being 30 minutes' behind so early on is nothing, but I was wondering whether this could be different. Maybe it will be this close in the top 10 all the way. We have some dunes tomorrow and I am quite happy for that. We will see..."
"Today was not easy. I was running well and had a good pace, but I got two flat tires and that cost me the time."
Joan 'Nani' Roma
"It was not easy in the dust with the bikes. But this is not like Africa. There has been no piste so far, just flat tracks. It is a bit like WRC so far, but it was okay until I got one puncture on the back right side about 20km from the end of the stage and I lost about three minutes. At least I have stayed in contact and the next three days will be difficult. It is important to stay quiet and not make a big mistake."