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This is the single-news section of the news "Offroad & Motorsports". To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

Dakar 2007: Petersen/White Lightning 26th quick today.

After the first six stages of the 15 stage, American Michael Petersen sits 21st overall. The Chevrolet buggy moved-up five spots in the overall rankings after finishing 33rd in today’s special stage, the longest of the rally. The jump in the standings came despite a three minute penalty sustained for a rules infraction in today’s 817 km race from Tan Tan to Zouérat, Mauritania. Petersen and co-driver Matthew Stevenson traversed the 394 km special stage in three hours, 48 minutes and 44 seconds. That was just 49 minutes and 47 seconds behind the stage winner and Robby Gordon.

It has been a tough trial for the full contingent of Petersen/White Lightning teammates. While Petersen and Stevenson have fought the rough conditions and difficult navigation of the stages, program manager/entrant Dale White has traveled a more direct but no less strenuous route in his Toyota Land Cruiser overseeing the effort. White’s main task for the Dakar is to look-ahead and prepare for the 2008 and ’09 programs that will fall under full Petersen/White Lightning preparation and organization.

The un-sung heroes of the program continue to be longtime team technicians Nico Castellaccio and Dennis Chizma. Along with their French driver from buggy-supplier Team SMG, the two Dakar rookies have faced long days traveling in support of the race buggy in their No. 891, three person, six-wheel T5 class truck. Like White, the No. 891 cannot leave the night’s bivouac until all the official competitors; motorcycles, cars and trucks, have left. They must then chase the rally down a parallel path to today’s bivouac, all the while being on call in case Petersen and Stevenson need assistance somewhere on the journey.

As there is no rest for the weary, once at the final stop for the day, Castellaccio and Chizma must prepare for the No. 351, then, once the buggy arrives in camp, begin the nightly repairs and preparation for the next day’s stage. Even the routine itself stops being routine as desert sand storms can brew-up at any second forcing a quick action to protect equipment while continuing the work. The sand not only wreaks havoc on the preparation and replacement of parts as the duo hectically but precisely tends to that night’s job list, but on the amount of time they can commit to the each task. On Wednesday night, the long list of repairs to overcome the day’s daunting fifth stage was hampered by the driving sand forcing the use of goggles and masks. Even then, the two award-winning technicians were forced to seek shelter every ten to fifteens minutes to relieve the unending needle-like attacks of the sand and their skin, eyes and lungs. Once the night’s actions were complete, the difficult working conditions left only one hour of rest prior to the morning wake-up call to head to Stage Six. This routine has played-out night-after-night putting a clear focus on the professional approach of Castellaccio and Chizma and the overall commitment to success by the whole Petersen/White Lightning organization.

Stage Six was the longest stage of the rally at just short of 820 km. The terrain was the same sand, pebbles and undulating dunes that Petersen and Stevenson will face in tomorrow’s seventh stage as well. Navigation was key, as was keeping the buggy in one piece, as they covered nearly 1,000km in total across the country of Mauritania. The 394 km special stage was broken up by two liaisons; the first a long 414 km trip to the start of the timed portion, the second a short, 9 km sprint to the bivouac in Zouérat.

Still short of the mid-point of the event, Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing has spent 19 hours, 53 minutes and 57 seconds in the timed specials of the first six stages. That leaves them three hours, 33 minutes and 53 seconds behind the overall leader after six straight days of competition. The day brought six more entries to their knees. To date, a total of 37 cars have been officially withdrawn from the 177 that began the competition on January 6.

2007/01/11 | 22:53 CET | Editor: MR/Petersen

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