Tunisia : Mitsubishi Motors - Leg 4
Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team driver Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret began the fourth leg of the Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia with an outright lead of 4m 31s and completed the treacherous 268 km El Borma loop stage
with the fastest time. They duly extended their overall advantage to 6m 52s over second-placed South African driver Giniel de Villiers, today (Good Friday).
Mitsubishi team mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard were third into the stage this morning and set the second fastest time to maintain their position. Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka and French co-driver Pascal Maimon started fifth on the road and in sixth overall and reached the stage finish with the fifth fastest time. They moved up to fifth in the overall rankings after Spaniard Carlos Sainz rolled his Volkswagen Race-Touareg around 150 km into the special stage.
“I started behind Giniel this morning and he had a good speed,” said Peterhansel. “It was not very easy for me to pass him, but I managed to get passed and he followed me to the end of the stage. The last section of the stage was difficult, because there were around five lines of motorcycles and no-one seemed to be leading the way. The stage was soft and maybe a little easier than I thought. The dunes still posed a risk for us, so we had to be really careful.”
Today's 268 km special stage began 12 km from El Borma and finished three kilometres from the bivouac. It consisted of a longer 237km lap and a shorter second lap of sandy tracks and dune complexes.
Masuoka was pleased with his progress on the El Borma loop stage.
“It was very difficult in some of the dunes,” said the twice Dakar Rally winner. “Some of the dunes were steep and quite dangerous. We had to be careful not to get stuck and not to have an accident.”
“It was another good day for Mitsubishi, but we must not get carried away,” said MMSP's Team Director Dominique Serieys. “Stéphane has led this event from the first stage in Africa with our MPR12 specification car, so that is positive. Now we must maintain our concentration over the next three tough stages. Then we can look forward to the future and the continued development of our new car for the Dakar 2007.”
Tomorrow (Easter Saturday) teams head out of the El Borma camp site on a 46 km liaison section to the start of what promises to be a varied 298 km special stage to a new bivouac at Ksar Ghilane, north east of El Borma. The stage begins on a sandy track alongside an oil pipeline and continues in a northerly direction via the settlements of Borj Jenein and Borj Bourguiba.
The special then turns west across the main pipeline access track, before switching north towards the overnight halt. A two-kilometer liaison takes teams into the campsite. This year's event draws to a conclusion on the island of Djerba, Tunisia, on Easter Monday, April 17th.
Press Release Mitsubishi Motors