Morocco : Mitsubishi Motors - Leg 4
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart driver Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret regained second overall on the fourth leg of the Orpi Rally of Morocco between Erfoud and Zagora in eastern Morocco, as team mates Joan ‘Nani'
Roma and Hiroshi Masuoka remained in fifth and sixth places, today (Saturday).
Peterhansel had recovered somewhat from a severe dose of stomach trouble, which had laid him low after the third leg in Erfoud on Friday afternoon. He and Schlesser had been equal fastest at the third passage control, but Peterhansel caught the dust of De Villiers's leading Volkswagen near the finish of the stage and duly set the second fastest time, 11s behind stage winner Jean-Louis Schlesser. He now trails De Villiers by 5m 31s in the overall standings.
“This morning I left a little better,” said Peterhansel. “We started third and the plan was to follow the dust and push as hard as we could. Occasionally we would cut a small corner and try and gain the odd second here and there.
"Thirty kilometers from the end of the stage, Carlos Sainz had a flat tire. He stopped and we passed him. It was never possible to catch De Villiers, but we have second place back now and we will continue to apply the pressure over the last two days. I think the last two stages will be technical in the mountains. There will be more rocks, so we will push hard and try and force Giniel into a mistake.
Spaniard Joan ‘Nani' Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne had been sixth quickest through the third passage control and reached the stage finish as the last car in the leading pack after the Spaniard collected a flat tire seven kilometres from the stage finish and was forced to stop and change the wheel.
“Seven kilometers from the finish we had a flat tire,” said Roma. “There was no place to stop and we continued for a while, but then we had to stop and change the wheel. I still have fifth place, but I wanted to try and make an assault on Schlesser today and this was not possible.”
Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka and French co-driver Pascal Maimon had hoped to begin the day challenging their team mates Roma and Magne for fifth position. But the event Stewards awarded Masuoka a five-minute time penalty on Friday evening for speeding in a restricted zone and this pushed the twice former Dakar winner well behind the second Mitsubishi. He finished the day's stage in fourth place and maintained sixth overall.
"It was a very fast stage,” said Masuoka. “After about 100 km we caught Nani and then he stopped near the finish to change a puncture, so we finished ahead of him, but we are still a long way behind.”
“The rally is now reaching a very exciting stage,” said MMSP's Team Director Dominique Serieys. “The cars in the top six are all together and everyone is pushing. Maybe Volkswagen had a small advantage at the beginning of the rally with the altitude and we did not want to push too hard. Yesterday we made the decision to push much harder, but the Volkswagens and Schlesser are also pushing hard. We are not leading, so we don't have the pressure. Now we will apply as much pressure as possible over the final two days.”
The day's special should have started 27 km from Erfoud and run for 280 km across sandy, gravel and stony terrain to a finish 41 km from Zagora in the Valley of the Draa. But the road book was amended for the fourth consecutive day after freak storms damaged many of the original tracks. The easterly section south of Rissani, near the Nouhaouar plateau, was replaced and the assistance point was cancelled.
The revised stage used terrain to the south-west of Rissani from Tabhet-el-Rhir to link up with the latter part of the original stage north-east of Tamassint. The selective section was therefore shortened by 37 km, but the original finish point across Jebel Tadrait, near the dunes at Tamegroute, was retained and the final 41 km liaison to Zagora remained the same.
Tomorrow (Sunday) is the penultimate day of the event between Zagora and the tourist town of Ouarzazate. A 13 km transfer will take Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart crews to the start of a 252 km selective section, with an 80 km liaison steering teams into the overnight halt. The route heads west out of Zagora and loops into Ouarzazate from a south-westerly and then a north-westerly direction. The final stage will loop in and out of Ouarzazate on Monday morning.
Press Release Mitsubishi Motors