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Mitsubishi Team enters Zouerat in fifth, ninth and tenth
Dakar : Mitsubishi Motors - Leg 6
The Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team completed the first timed special stage in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania in fifth, sixth and 12th positions and team drivers Luc Alphand, Stéphane Peterhansel and Joan 'Nani' Roma now hold fifth,
ninth and 10th in the overall classification, today (Thursday).
Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret were the first crew into the stage today, courtesy of their fastest time into Tan Tan, but Peterhansel was aware that the lightweight Buggies would have the advantage on the high-speed piste, which was a feature of the stage in northern Mauritania.

Today's timed section was duly won by Frenchman Thierry Magnaldi in a Buggy, with Spaniard Carlos Sainz slipping 22 seconds behind South African team mate Giniel de Villiers in the overall classification after six special stages.

"This morning I said that a Buggy could be leading tonight and I was nearly right," said Peterhansel. "It was a very fast stage. We were fine with the navigation, but we did not expect to win the stage today. I will start in sixth place in the morning and I feel that this could give me a little advantage. We will see."

Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard began the day in the final podium place and arrived at Zouérat in fifth position after setting the fifth fastest time. "It was a case of surviving today," said Alphand. "It was not really a stage suited to the strengths of the Mitsubishis. It was interesting to compare our speed with the Volkswagens and now they have the twin turbo engines, there is really very little difference between us in terms of the top speed.”

Spaniard Joan 'Nani' Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne were 12th quickest today in the third Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution and now hold 10th place in the overall standings.

"It was not the best of stages for me," said Roma. "I need more experience in the camel grass and the dunes. I followed close behind Mark Miller and lost some time in the dust, but I am happy at the moment. I will keep plugging away and make sure that I make no mistakes. Tomorrow is a hard day and one mistake could cost you 10 minutes and your place in the top group of cars. It is that close at the moment."

Today's stage finished a mere 12 kms from the steel town of Zouérat. The settlement emerged from the desert in 1962 and became an industrial hub for the nearby iron ore mines at Tazadit.

Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Dominique Serieys said: "We crossed the first camel grass and the first dunes and I feel we have arrived in Africa now. We have to push to stay in the group. I feel that our team's experience and car reliability will be the key to winning this race. Tomorrow we will start in the middle of the leading group and that is great. That will place less of a burden on navigation."

Tomorrow (Friday) the bulk of the day's action is competitive, with a short 10 kms liaison from Zouérat guiding the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team to the start of the arduous 499 kms special stage into Atar, the former rest day location for the Dakar Rally. This menacing stage features camel grass, tricky navigation, stony plateaux and many kilometers of testing dunes and latent sand traps.
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