Dakar : Mitsubishi Motors - Leg 14
Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team driver Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard will take a 17m 53s overall advantage into the final 31 kms special stage of the 28th Dakar Rally on Sunday, after setting the eighth fastest time between Tambacounda
and Dakar in Sénégal, today (Saturday).
Last year's runner-up drove cautiously through today's varied special stage to avoid making a costly mistake and finished in eighth position, dropping 4m 20s to his nearest South African rival Giniel de Villiers after a small navigational mistake. But the Frenchman will only need to coast around the final stage on Sunday to confirm a record-breaking sixth successive Dakar triumph for the Mitsubishi team.
« We were listening for every noise on the car, » said Alphand. « We had one very stressful moment. We weren't lost, but (Bruno) Saby, de Villiers, (Carlos) Sainz and myself all went the wrong way. I found myself in the middle of the Volkswagens. I was looking for number 305 and then we saw De Villiers and I decided to latch on to his tail. Finally we found the way easier than them and we were okay. Now I think it is very nearly finished. I hope that we can have a beach party on Sunday !
Spaniard Joan 'Nani' Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne started the special behind the three Volkswagens of Carlos Sainz, Giniel de Villiers and Bruno Saby and were fastest overall to the first passage control. But they were delayed into the second passage control with a navigational mistake and finished the special in 18th position, 33 minutes behind the stage-winning Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit.
« We made one navigational mistake in a small village, » said Roma. « We made a 30 kms error and had to go back to the same village and start again. I did not panic. Henri was anxious for a minute, but I told him to relax because we had plenty of time in hand and there was no need to be nervous. »
Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret began the morning's special seventh on the road behind Thierry Magnaldi's Buggy and finished the stage with the 14th fastest time. They will start the final leg in fourth, albeit a mere 3m 01s ahead of American Mark Miller in the overall standings.
« We had some problems with the wiring to the tripmeters, » said Peterhansel. « There was a fire and it wiped out the tripmeters. We had to finish the last 100 kms of the stage without the trips. That makes the navigation very difficult. »
« Our objective was not to take the stage win, but to make sure that we took no risks and continued on our path towards Lac Rose on Sunday, » said Repsol Mitsubishi Rallliart Team Director Dominique Serieys. « I am pleased we made it safely to Dakar. Now we have one stage to go. Tomorrow Luc will line-up alongside De Villiers at the stage start. Cars will start in pairs on the last stage in position order, so it was important to play a tactical race today. »
(Tomorrow) Sunday is the final day of this year's Dakar Rally and offers a traditional sandy special stages en route to the finish at Lac Rose. The 31 kms stage begins 38 kms from the city center and offers a similar and varied route to last year, including the now famous run along the beach for the victorious teams.
Press Release Mitsubishi Motors