Morocco : Mitsubishi Motors - Leg 2
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart drivers Stéphane Peterhansel, Joan “Nani” Roma and Hiroshi Masuoka completed the revised northerly second leg of the 2006 Orpi Rally of Morocco between Erfoud and Ain Benimathar in second, fifth and sixth
in the overall standings, today (Thursday).
The trio had begun the day in fourth, fifth and sixth places. Peterhansel moved ahead of Masuoka after the short opening section on Thursday morning and passed Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser and Spaniard Carlos Sainz into second overall after a section of tricky navigation after the first passage control in the second stage. He now holds a 1m 52s advantage over the third-placed former WRC champion.
"It was very tricky on the second stage," said Peterhansel. "We were completely off road. We saw Carlos and Schlesser and we were all trying to find the correct track. We decided to cross a small mountain and head into a valley. This was a good choice. It was not very clear, but we managed to gain some time on the others.
"At the beginning of the stage there were some big wadis full of water. Some of them were deep and it could have been dangerous. It was very fast at the beginning, but much better towards the finish."
The day was again split into two special stages, with the passing of the original 357 km special no longer possible because of recent rainfall.
Twenty-two pages of route amendments were made to the existing road book, using sections of track used in this year's Dakar and tracks passing the village of Beni Tadjit, the high plateau of Eastern Morocco and along the Charf wadi.
A violent sand storm and a thunderstorm had affected the Erfoud region late on Wednesday afternoon and into the night, but this abated in time for the start of the second leg, although free-standing water was evidence that the organisers had again been at the mercy of the elements.
Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret set the fourth fastest time in the opening 71.9 km special, a mere 10 seconds behind Jean-Louis Schlesser's third-placed Buggy. Masuoka and French co-driver Pascal Maimon were fifth and slipped behind their team mates into fifth place.
Peterhansel, the twice former Dakar winner, now trails overall leader Giniel de Villiers by 7m 02s with four legs of the event remaining. He passed his team mate within 100 km of the start of this morning's second stage and has the outright lead in his sights for Friday's third leg back to Erfoud.
"The stage was not too difficult, but Stéphane passed me on a very fast track after about 100 km," said Masuoka. "I decided to take it carefully after that."
Spaniard Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne punctured and set the seventh fastest time in the opening stage, as Portugal's Carlos Sousa closed to within 21s of the Spaniard's sixth position. But Roma runner-up in the recent Transiberico Rallly recovered to set the third fastest time in SS4 and moved into fifth overall, ahead of team mate Masuoka.
"Like everyone we had a problem with the navigation, but near the end I followed Schlesser's dust and it was so difficult," said Roma. "It was a hard stage. I had a flat tire around 20 km from the start of the first special this morning, but I am pleased with the outcome after that. I was flat out from the start of the longer stage. Now I just need to keep up the same pace tomorrow."
A 302 km special stage between Ain Benimathar and Erfoud was originally planned for Friday¹s third leg of this year's Orpi Rally of Morocco, but road book changes are inevitable after last week¹s flooding and stage damage.
The route heads through agricultural land to the town of Matarka on a high plateau. From there the original route passes the Souala jebel, the Rhazzouane Oued valley and the Gran Valley of the Snab Oued, but road book amendments set to be received on Thursday evening may change this route still further. The event is scheduled to finish in Ouarzazate on Monday (June 5th) afternoon.
Press Release Mitsubishi Motors