Dakar : Mitsubishi Motors - Leg 8
The Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team remained firmly on course to defend its Dakar Rally title after the punishing eighth 508 kms special stage between Atar and Nouakchott in Mauritania, today (Saturday).
Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel
and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret began the longest stage of the event so far, a mere 3m 43s behind French team mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard in the overall standings and the pair were evenly matched to the first passage control at 165 kms, with Alphand holding a slender 20 second advantage.
Through a tricky sea of dunes and engulfing sand to the second passage control at the 371 kms point, both Mitsubishis struggled in dunes at around 240 kms, but regained the piste, only for Alphand to fall behind Peterhansel in subsequent sand dunes at the 285 kms point.
Peterhansel and Cottret duly arrived at the stage finish with a 3m 44s advantage over their colleagues and will take a 32 second overall lead into the fourth and final Mauritanian stage between Nouakchott and Kiffa on Monday.
Their nearest non-Mitsubishi rival is third-placed Giniel de Villers, who lies 26m 16s adrift after eight special stages. Frenchman Thierry Magnaldi won today's special - his second of the campaign - with American Mark Miller matching Peterhansel's equal second fastest time.
"I got stuck in the sand and we also had two flat tires," said Peterhansel. "The latter part of the stage was very fast and we reached 196 km/h with a tail wind on this section."
"It was a bad day for me," said Alphand. "I got stuck for about a quarter of an hour and we got lost for a time. It is disappointing to lose four minutes to Stéphane as well."
Spanish Joan 'Nani' Roma and Henri Magne were classified seventh at the first passage control, but were running third on the road after a tricky waypoint between PCs one and two and eventually finished the stage with the fourth fastest time.
"It was a very difficult stage with a lot of sand and we spent too much time trying to find a difficult waypoint," said Roma. "We spent five or six minutes trying to find this point. But our three cars are here in one piece and some of our rivals have had problems, so we should be very relieved at this point."
"It is only half way to Dakar, but I will not deny that we have had a very positive couple of days," said Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Dominique Serieys. "But this is the Dakar Rally and anything can happen at any time. We will just keep our focus and maintain our concentration next week and see what develops."
Tomorrow (Sunday) is the official rest day for competitors in this year's Dakar Rally. While mechanics use the day to refettle battle-worn cars, drivers and co- drivers use the time for well-earned rest and mix with large numbers of VIPs and members of the media who are flown in to visit the Dakar to absorb the atmosphere of the event.
Press Release Mitsubishi Motors