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Dakar 2007: Peterhansel is hoping for Dunes in Mauretania.

The longest day of this year’s Dakar Rally - a tiring 817km section between Tan Tan in southern Morocco and Zouérat in north-western Mauritania - offered mixed fortunes for Team Repsol Misubishi Ralliart. Team drivers Luc Alphand, Stéphane Peterhansel, Joan ‘Nani’ Roma and Hiroshi Masuoka now hold fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth places in the overall standings.

Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret were the leading Mitsubishi crew through the first passage control in sixth position and finished the stage a mere 32 seconds behind the overall rally leader Carlos Sainz in fourth place. The French duo will now start the subsequent special into Atar, 25m 03s behind the Spaniard and in fifth position overall. "My stage time was not so bad," said Peterhansel. "The stage was so fast. We did 157km in the first hour! We are not as fast as some of the other cars on the high-speed sections. I hope now the race has entered Mauritania we have some big dunes. Maybe this is my opportunity to take some time back. For the last two years tomorrow’s stage has been good for Mitsubishi, but we do not know where the route will go, so we must wait and see."

Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard were classified eighth through the first passage control and eventually finished the stage in seventh position. They now hold fourth in the overall standings. "We must have spent three quarters of the stage absolutely flat out," admitted Alphand. "I really tried hard in the camel grass and I still lost two minutes to Stéphane by the first passage control. Maybe my tire pressure was slightly under the ideal setting. The last part of the stage was a sandy track, with some camel grass and small dunes. I just have to keep up my pace and try again tomorrow. The others are really pushing."

Joan ‘Nani’ Roma and Lucas Cruz began the stage as the leading Mitsubishi crew in fourth place and were 10th through the first passage control, but they lost over 20 minutes through the latter sections; four minutes to assist at the scene of the accident involving Guerlain Chicherit’s BMW X3CC and further vital minutes attempting to change a flat tire. Roma now holds seventh overall. "At about 204km we stopped to help at the scene of the Chicherit accident for about four minutes," said co-driver Lucas Cruz. "Then we passed Mark Miller and Carlos Sousa, but we had to stop with a flat right tire. We tried to change the wheel, but it took a lot longer than we hoped and we lost more time than usual for a flat tire."

Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon lost 35 minutes before the first passage control after stopping 60km into the stage to affect emergency repairs to their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution, which had suffered clutch problems. "Everything was going very well," said Masuoka. "Then we had a problem with the clutch and we had to stop and change it in the stage."

"We limited the difference between us, the VWs and the Buggies in today’s stage and that was the priority," said MMSP’s Managing and Sporting Director Dominique Serieys. "’Nani’ lost some time stopping to help Guerlain and then he had a flat tire, Hiroshi was delayed, but Stéphane and Luc did a good job. The average speeds were so high today. For nearly 400km, it took less than three hours for the leading cars. Now we must look ahead to tomorrow and the stage into Atar. It is not the same stage as last year and passes the right side of Atar. You never know what the weather conditions will be, but it is a new day and I hope that we can get some time back to organize a nice fight for the remainder of the race into Dakar."

2007/01/11 | 18:18 CET | Editor: MR/MMSP/Neil Perkins

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