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Mitsubishi Team endures mixed fortunes
Dakar : Mitsubishi Motors - Leg 4
The Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart team endured mixed fortunes on the 386 kms special stage between Er Rachidia and Ouarzazate in Morocco today (Tuesday). Team drivers Luc Alphand, Joan 'Nani' Roma, Stéphane Peterhansel and Hiroshi Masuoka
completed the timed section in third, 11th, 14th and 15th positions and now hold fourth, ninth, 11th and 13th in the overall classification.

The French duo of Alphand and Gilles Picard were fifth through PC1, as they attempted to climb back up the leaderboard after a cautious run on Monday. They finished the stage in third position, behind Spaniard Carlos Sainz and Frenchman Thierry Magnaldi, with Sainz regaining the overall lead.

"Today was again a game of avoiding the dust," said Alphand. "We had a good run for about 100 kms, but then we caught some drivers, including Stéphane, who had taken the wrong track and finished the stage in the dust again. Tomorrow is a tight stage with a fast chott at the finish, but dust will be a factor."

Overnight leaders Roma and Henri Magne started the stage in sixth place on the road and finished the section in 11th position. They slipped to ninth place on the leaderboard.

"Not a good day for me," said Roma. "After the dunes I was running well, but then we made a navigational error and took a track to the right. Then the problems started. I had a puncture after that and the jacking system was not fastened away securely and we had to stop again to secure it. Then we finished the stage in the dust."

Japan's Masuoka and co-driver Pascal Maimon began this morning's special stage behind yesterday's winner Jean-Louis Schlesser and shadowed the Frenchman to the first passage control. But the twice former champion lost over 27 minutes soon after when he rolled his Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution. He eventually completed the stage in 15th place. The Japanese driver slipped to 13th overall, but his car was damaged in the accident.

"We saw this obstacle in the track far too late and we went over twice," said Masuoka. "We passed a crossroads with some spectators and then it was too late to slow for this obstacle and we crashed."

Defending champions Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret held seventh place through the first passage control, but had slipped 17 minutes behind the stage winner at the finish after a costly navigational mistake. The Frenchman finished the stage 17m 44s behind the winner and is now 11th overall.

"This junction was not very clear in the road book and we followed the dust of the motor bikes," admitted Peterhansel. "We turned right, followed the wrong track for seven kilometers and then decided to go back to this junction. All the following cars saw me and took the correct way. It was very frustrating. I had passed Schlesser and Hiroshi had a puncture, so I was running first on the road."

"We had some minor and typical Dakar Rally problems today," said MMSP's Team Director Dominique Serieys. "Stéphane lost some time with a minor navigational error. This was a case of suffering, like Carlos Sainz yesterday, when running first on the road. He tried to find a good track and everyone else benefited. I am quite happy at the moment though. There are 15 drivers out there driving at the same level, so we will see over the coming days what develops."

This evening the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team will camp at the garrison city of Ouazazate, the 'Gateway to the Desert'. The city overlooks the nearby Valley of the Draa and Valley of the Dades.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) teams will tackle a 350 kms special stage, sandwiched by a 187 kms liaison section south from Ouarzazate and a tiring 282 kms liaison to the Atlantic coastal settlement of Tan Tan. The technical stage begins at Foum-Zguid and finishes south of Tafraoute.
Press Release Mitsubishi Motors

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