Dakar Rally : Mitsubishi Motors - Leg 2
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart will start the first African special stage of the 29th Dakar Rally in fourth, fifth, eighth and 12th places in the overall classification after a successful second and final 67km timed European section
north of Portimao en route to Malaga on Sunday morning.
Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz led the Mitsubishi team's challenge into the morning's special from sixth position on the road. The stage was more hilly and rugged than Saturday morning's sandy, tree-lined special and featured several rocky sections near the start. Roma set the joint second fastest time with team mate Luc Alphand to move up to fourth overall at the end of the European section of the Dakar.
"Today was a good stage for me," said Roma. "I pushed at the beginning, but the problem was the last 12km. I caught Mark Miller's car and followed about 100 meters behind. It was not possible to overtake and I stayed behind him for 12km. That is a lot on a short stage. There were a lot of spectators today, but they were standing in very safe places. The result sets it up nicely for me on the first African stage now. I will be in the first group and it gives the team the chance to make a good strategy for the following days.
Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret set the fourth fastest time and will shadow stage winner Carlos Sainz and team mates Alphand and Roma into the first African stage on Monday.
"Maintaining a good position on the stage today was more important than yesterday," said Peterhansel. "Pushing was not the ideal strategy, but I did not want to start the first African stage outside the top six or seven cars. Dust is always a factor on that first stage and it was important that I gave myself a good chance this morning.
"The style of the stage meant that it was better for me today. It was a WRC stage, quite technical, with hard ground. It was slippery and not easy to stay on line, but it was a pleasure to drive on the stage. I passed Vatanen (Ari) stopped in a small river. Maybe he was pushing too hard."
Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon began the day in 10th position in the third Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution after sustaining a flat tire on Saturday. They completed a troublefree stage for the Mitsubishi team by setting the fifth fastest time to move up to eighth in the overall standings.
"It was a very narrow road in the mountains," admitted Masuoka. "It was slippery and there was no guard rail, nothing. I drove safely to make sure we reached the finish."
Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard had found themselves 10m 51s behind the overnight leaders at the start of the second special, but the defending champions climbed up the leaderboard from 17th to 12th place, courtesy of a joint second fastest time, the Frenchman passing three slower cars in the process.
"After the problems on Saturday I suppose I had a second class seat in this race at the start of the stage this morning," reflected Alphand. "I needed to make up some time on the leaders if that was possible without being blocked by the cars in front. I did not want to go to Africa so far down the running order."
"Three cars pulled over for me today. They were very good. I was worried before the start about that. I was behind Miller for a time, but we went into a big hole and we passed. I feel much happier about the stage today. Now I can look forward to heading into Africa in a good position. I drove clean and am getting used to the new car now."
"I think the main positive point is that we will go on to the boat from Malaga without any problems," said MMSP's Managing and Sporting Director Dominique Serieys. "Losing several minutes yesterday is now history. For sure, the diesel engines had the advantage in the sandy conditions. But we woke up today and the team did a great job. We will not be opening the track in Africa, so we are in a good position."
"Very good today," said MMSP's President Isao Torii. "We did not attack too much, but we have a good position for Africa. We did not want our mechanics to have any extra work before we leave Portugal. Our position on the stage on Monday is also very good. I am very happy!"