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Dakar 2007: Petersen/White Lightning Suffers at the Hands of Stage 12.

Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing had a difficult day today in the Dakar 2007. The Chevrolet buggy suffered for the first time from the confusion of the terrain during the timed special section of Stage 12, from Ayoun-El-Atrous to Kayes. A navigational issue forced an extended delay as Michael Petersen and co-driver Matthew Stevenson took a total of three hours, 59 minutes and two seconds to cover the 257 km resulting in a stage finish of 57th, the worst of the 15-stage rally by far. Over an hour of that time was spent negotiating their way back on track, a trial made more difficult and slow by the rough terrain. The No. 351 was one hour and six seconds behind the stage-winning No. 303 of Carlos Sainz. Despite the poor stage finish, Petersen holds on to the 22nd position overall, 12 hours, 20 minutes and 54 seconds arrears of the Dakar leading No. 302 of Stéphane Peterhansel.

Stage 12 moved the competitors out of the sands and dunes of the Sahara Desert into the savannahs of western Africa. The stage covered a total of 484 km distance and, in many portions, resembled a professional rally stage more than what the two-time American Le Mans Series GT2 class champions have seen in recent days. The sand and the dunes of the Sahara gave way to grass, small trees and shrubs. The stage even brought the first sight of forest since the teams left Europe 11 days ago. Petersen and Stevenson got off to a strong start, shadowing the starters near them. The stage was again three sections with the timed leg splitting two connection routes of 110 km/68.35 and 117 km respectively. 109 cars finished the stage while four more withdrew from competition.

To this point in the rally, Petersen has spent 53 hours, three minutes and eight seconds in the 11 special sections of the 12 stages (yesterday’s Stage 11 had no special timed section). The No. 351 has accumulated six minutes of penalties over the course of the 6,788 km of liaisons and special sections driven thus far. Petersen/White Lightning currently sits fifth in the two-wheel drive car class over two hours ahead of Philippe Gache who owns Team SMG, the buggy supplier to Petersen and White this year. They will cover 1,127 km (501 km of which are special timed sections) more before concluding their first Euromilhões Dakar 2007 in Dakar, Senegal on January 21.

The 14th day of the trek from Lisbon, Portugal to Dakar, Senegal guides the competitors from here in Kayes to Tambacounda, the first stage to enter Senegal. A 180 km paved connection brings Petersen and Stevenson to the 260 km special timed section of Stage 13. Gravel the first 92 km gives-way to the slick, rock surface known as laterite. The laterite will keep Petersen on his toes for 154 km. Once clear of the laterite, another 14 km of gravel awaits the pair before they come to the conclusion of the special stage. The third leg, 18 km, will conclude the 13th stage of the race.

2007/01/19 | 14:22 CET | Editor: MR/Petersen

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