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Luc Alphand extends rally lead
Rally Raid Dakar 2006: Mitsubishi Motors - Leg 13
Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team driver Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard extended their overall lead in the 28th Dakar Rally to 22m 13s, after winning their second successive special stage between Labé in Guinea and
Tambacounda in eastern Sénégal, today (Friday).
The French crew had begun this morning's stage first on the road and with a lead of 20m 31s over South African Giniel de Villiers. They took advantage of a clear track to post the fastest time at both the first and second passage controls and Alphand maintained his pace to the stage finish.

"It was a big advantage to be first on the road," said Alphand. "We had an excellent pace, but were under pressure from Giniel and wanted to make no mistakes with the navigation. It was a tough stage with many turns, like a trial sometimes in first gear among the rocks. I knew that the BMW was not far behind as well, so it was quite exciting. We can control the race tomorrow. We can let Giniel past and then follow the dust. To be here was the goal. We hit a rock, but all is okay."

Spaniard Joan 'Nani' Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne began the day sixth on the road and in fourth place. Roma was seventh through PC1 and finished the section with the fifth fastest time to maintain the final podium place on the penultimate major African stage.

"I can sense Dakar is very close," said a smiling Roma. "Today I had two punctures and broke a wheel. Every kilometer was so dangerous. It is not possible to catch Giniel now, but we have a big lead over Stéphane and will be able to drive our own race on Saturday. I am not concerned with the VWs. The race and my destiny are in my own hands."

Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret had arrived in the Labé bivouac at 20.10 hrs on Thursday evening, after losing time with damaged rear suspension following an accident. The defending champions began this morning's stage in 60th place on the road, after losing 3h 10m on Thursday and slipping to fourth overall.

But they began a charge through the backmarkers over today's stage and had overtaken more than 30 slower cars by the first PC to post the eighth fastest time. Peterhansel was up to seventh at PC2 and completed the stage in seventh place to maintain fourth overall.

"Luc was first on the road and I suppose he drove a perfect stage today," said Repsol Mitsubishi Rallliart Team Director Dominique Serieys. "He showed that he can cope with the pressure of being in front. I am sure that our cars and those of our competitors are not as strong as they were at the start in Portugal. It was been a very tough rally.

"But I am confident that Luc and Gilles can hold off the cars behind. It has been a great competition so far - a really exciting race. Stéphane did a good job today. He is a champion, but he made a mistake yesterday. We must remember that he is a human being and not a machine."

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the last of the long stages on this year's Dakar Rally and the route will take the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team to Dakar and within sight of the finish on Sunday. After a 107 kms liaison, the 254 kms special stage heads north and then in a westerly direction to a finish 273 kms from the coastal capital of Sénégal.

This stage has caused several problems in the past for surviving crews, as teams pass numerous crowded villages on a myriad of tracks where navigation and extreme care are crucial.
Press Release Mitsubishi Motors

     Volkswagen maintain second with Giniel de Villiers
     Dakar Enduro World Championship
     Coma fastest at CP 1
     The fastest time for Alphand
     The pressure's on Alphand
     Sperrer reach Labe in a rally best 13th position
     Volkswagen moves up to second with Giniel de Villiers
     Alphand and Despres win special
     From the Volkswagen bivouac
     Alphand wins stage and takes overall

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