Morocco : Mitsubishi Motors - Leg 3
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart drivers Stéphane Peterhansel, Joan ‘Nani' Roma and Hiroshi Masuoka finished the modified third leg of the Orpi Rally of Morocco between Ain Benimathar and Erfoud in the north-east of the country, in third,
fifth and sixth places overall, today (Friday).
Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret were fifth quickest in SS5, a mere seven seconds behind De Villiers, but rival Sainz closed to within 15 seconds of the Frenchman with the second fastest time. After a frantic battle through the shorter second stage, the Spaniard set the fastest time and emerged from the third day of nail-biting action with a mere one second lead over Mitsubishi's twice winner of the Dakar Rally.
“This morning I tried to push at the maximum, but it was not easy to find a good way and I think that it was easier for the other drivers to follow the lines,” said Peterhansel. “This morning was more technical than yesterday, but the result was the same. I pushed again on the small stage and really took some risks in the wadis and over the jumps, but we have still lost some time. Now it is very exciting for tomorrow.”
Spaniard Joan ‘Nani' Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne signalled their intentions by running fastest on the second stage on Thursday before being held up in Schlesser's dust. But Roma set the fastest time in today's 175 km special to move within 10 seconds of Schlesser and fourth place.
But the Spaniard lost his chance of overtaking the Frenchman in the shorter second stage, when he sustained a flat tire and dropped 3m 30s behind his rival at the overnight halt.
“I am very pleased to win the first stage, but then we got a flat tire on the second stage,” said Roma. “The road book was not good at all and the track was broken. We hit a hole and punctured the tire. Now we have a lot of work to do to catch Schlesser on Saturday.”
Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka and French co-driver Pascal Maimon began the day in sixth position in the third Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution and set the third quickest time in the opening stage. But they also sustained a flat tire on the shorter second selective and maintained sixth overall, 44s behind their team mates in the overall classification.
"I could not see this hole in the stage and we had a flat tire,” said Masuoka. “I was not pushing too hard, but there was no warning in the road book and we have lost our chance to move up the leaderboard.”
The day's special was similar to the one used as the first African special during this year's Dakar Rally, but featured several modifications because of recent rainfall. After a 60 km liaison, teams tackled a 175 km stage to Anoual. After a second liaison of 55 km, a 72 km special stage from Talsimt brought crews to the original intended finish at Tazouguert, north of Erfoud. A 117 km liaison returned teams to the bivouac.
Tomorrow (Saturday) features a challenging 280 km special stage between Erfoud and the town of Zagora in the scenic Valley of the Draa. The special was scheduled to start in Rissani and head along the Algerian frontier near the Nouhaouar plateau to the village of Tissemmoumine.
The original intended route heads south to a fort at Zguilma, along the Valley of the Draa to the scenic bivouac near the dunes at Nakhla. Road book amendments could change this stage as a result of the Friday evening organisers' briefing in Erfoud.
Press Release Mitsubishi Motors