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Dakar 2007: Petersen/White Lightning 23rd overall in first Dakar

The curtain has fallen on the Dakar 2007 and Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing was there to celebrate. And they did so in strong fashion! An eighth-place finish by Michael Petersen and co-driver Matthew Stevenson in today’s final stage ensured Petersen/White Lightning the 23rd overall position in this year’s event, an impressive result for a team in its debut at the Dakar. Today’s top-ten was the highest for the SMG Chevrolet Buggy of the 15 stages that made up the 6,906 km rally-raid this year.

Petersen used only eight minutes, 49 seconds to cover the 16 km special timed section of the three-legged loop that encircled Lac Rose here in Dakar. In the process, he took honors as the second-highest ranking American driver of the stage. Petersen is the third highest-finishing American in the car class for the overall rally. The Nevada-based team trailed the stage-winning No. 301 Volkswagen by only one minute and seven seconds at the conclusion of the timed portion of the 93 km stage. After breaking the timing beam it was a pressure-relieving 41 km celebration to the finish line of the second liaison.

In the overall standings, Petersen/White Lightning finished the 14 timed sections (Stage 11 on January 15 had no timed section) in 60 hours, seven minutes and 59 seconds. The time was 14 hours, 14 minutes and 22 seconds behind Dakar 2007 Champion Stéphane Peterhansel who earned his ninth Dakar victory today. The Chevrolet, built by Team SMG, was fifth overall in the two-wheel drive category. Of the 177 cars that entered the rally in Lisbon, Portugal only 109 saw the checkered flag here in Dakar, Senegal.

Today’s successful conclusion is a time of celebration and joy for the Petersen/White Lightning team. From the onset, the mission for 2007 was to accumulate information first hand of how to successfully navigate the treacheries of the event. To do so, it was important to reach the Atlantic Ocean, not necessarily reach the top-30 of competitors. Four vehicles associated with the two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class-winning team set out from Lisbon towards Dakar in pursuit of information and experience. The buggy of Petersen and Stevenson and the No. 572 of Darren Skilton were the only two directly on the race’s course. The Toyota Land Cruiser of program manager/entrant Dale White and the No. 891 six wheel, three-person, T5 class support truck of team technicians Nico Castellaccio and Dennis Chizma ran parallel to the actual race route. Skilton’s Truck was the only one of the four not to reach Dakar, having fallen out on Stage Two with an engine failure. Each team member has compiled a long list of notes that will help streamline and focus the 2008 effort on an all-out assault for victory in the desert.

While the immediate future holds celebration of its success at the Dakar 2007, the team will quickly return its attention to the impending 2007 American Le Mans Series GT2 class championship. Petersen/White Lightning will return for the fifth full-season of American Le Mans Series racing where they have won the Driver and IMSA Cup titles the last two seasons. The March 17th 12 Hours of Sebring will bring the debut of the team’s Ferrari F430 GT and drivers Tim Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) and Tomas Enge (Monaco).

2007/01/22 | 18:18 CET | Editor: MR/Petersen

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