Rally Raid Dakar 2006: Mitsubishi Motors - Rest Day
The Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team made its final preparations for the final week of the 28th Dakar Rally at the official rest day in Nouakchott, Mauritania, today (Sunday).
Team drivers Stéphane Peterhansel, Luc Alphand
and Joan 'Nani' Roma will set out into the ninth special stage on Monday in first, second and fourth places in the overall standings, with a mere 32 seconds separating the leading two drivers in the overall classification.
"Monday will be a very difficult stage and the last one in Mauritania where anything can happen," said Peterhansel. "I will start behind Thierry Magnaldi, but it really is not a problem where I start. The last two days I was at the front of the field and it was okay. The most important thing is to keep up our pace and place more pressure on our rivals. I think that Giniel de Villiers is still our main rival. Luc is driving for the same team as me, so if he wins it is great for Mitsubishi. So Luc and I need to build up a big advantage."
Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard consider a good performance on the next stage as absolutely critical to the team's chances of retaining the Dakar title for an historic sixth time.
"I think the priority next week is not to concentrate so much on the difference between Stéphane and me, but to keep our focus on the track over the coming days," said Alphand. "Monday's stage will be very difficult. We will try to drive as fast as possible and keep in touch with Stéphane. There will be more sand dunes near the start on Monday, so we will have to stop to deflate and inflate the tires. By doing this you lose one minute each time, but it is so much better to do this. We will assess the situation again on Monday night, because I am sure that the strategy will change each day next week. It will just be a case of looking at the position at the end of every stage and making a fresh decision."
Spanish Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne have settled into a vital support role for their team mates. "I am still in touch with Stéphane and Luc and well-placed to have a big say in the overall result," said Roma. "The pressure is not on me to win at this point, but I will be able to push next week and put the pressure on Giniel de Villiers and the Buggies. This will benefit our top two drivers."
"If the rally had ended in Nouakchott I would be able to say that our team had done a very good job," said Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Dominique Serieys. "But we must remember that we are only just over half way to Dakar. I am confident that everyone will see this through to a successful finish on Sunday, but we must not get carried away. There are many difficult stages to come and this is the Dakar, where anything can happen. I feel that we have a fantastic team spirit and everyone is working for each other. These are our greatest strengths."
Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team President Isao Torii was delighted with the team's progress through the first weel of the race : "We knew at the beginning that this would be a very tough race. Volkswagen made a great start and I admit that I was very anxious for a couple of days. But over the last two days our team has done a very good job. Every person did their own job and it is working well. It will still be very difficult next week, but I just hope that all our team continue their great work and I have every confidence that this will carry us through to victory next Sunday."
Tomorrow (Monday) the rally restarts with a daunting 599 kms special stage between Nouakchott and Kiffa in the south-east of Mauritania. The special begins 30 kms from the rest halt and meanders across vast stretches of sandy wasteland, large dunes and several tricky plateux. This is the longest stage of the 2006 Dakar Rally and finishes 245 kms from the overnight halt at Kiffa. Teams are expected to arrive very late into the evening's bivouac.
Press Release Mitsubishi Motors