Dakar : Mitsubishi Motors - Leg 12
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart's Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz Senra (both Spain) lost the final podium place in the 2009 Dakar Rally, after stopping with electrical problems 165km into the 220km special stage between Fiambala and La
Rioja on Thursday.
Mitsubishi's sole-surviving turbo-diesel 'Racing Lancer' crew had held fourth overall at the start of the stage and come under increasing pressure from Robbie Gordon (USA) for the final podium place once overall leader Carlos Sainz (Spain) had retired after an accident. Roma, himself, had survived a scare at the same corner where Sainz crashed, but stopped 86km further on with his own technical problems.
A total of 132 bikes and quads, 89 cars and 56 trucks were permitted to start the 12th stage into La Rioja, where a fierce thunderstorm and incessant early morning rain had relieved some of the oppressive heat of the previous afternoon.
The original stage was reduced by around 33km at the overnight briefing in Fiambala, when event officials discovered that the original route was scheduled to cross an archaeological site. It still featured some treacherous dune crossings and tricky navigation, but was eventually stopped at the 175km point on the grounds that too many crews were experiencing delays in the sand dunes between 140km and 170km. Roma duly arrived at the La Rioja bivouac and was awaiting news of any time penalties that may have been imposed on teams who did not complete the stage.
Tomorrow (Friday) is the penultimate day of competitive action in this year's Dakar Rally and should have featured a 545km special stage in a total route of 753km between La Rioja and C�rdoba, Argentina's second city.
Event officials likened sections of this stage to the type of terrain more at home on the FIA World Rally Championship. However, recent heavy rain in the La Rioja and Cordoba areas forced the ASO to cut the section that began south of Patquia and headed east towards El Chaco.
The stage will now start at PC4 (364km) and teams will tackle a shortened 220km special stage that heads north through classic WRC Rally of Argentina territory to Villa de Seco and finishes just short of Villa Carlos Paz, the base for the WRC event, to the west of Cordoba. The city is situated in the foothills of the Sierra Chicas, 390 metres above sea level, on the Suquea River and is one of the oldest former Spanish colonial capitals.