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Dakar 2007: Stephane Peterhansel extended his advantage.

All four Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolutions reached the bivouac without any problems or without the drivers taking any risks, but Stéphane Peterhansel’s and Jean-Paul Cottret’s fourth fastest time means they head into the 11th stage on Thursday, 9m 56s ahead of team mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard in the overall standings. Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah clinched his first ever Dakar Rally stage win, with Mitsubishi’s Hiroshi Masuoka in second place.

Alphand and Picard began the special behind Jean-Louis Schlesser’s Buggy, as they attempted to reduce Peterhansel’s 7m 50s overall lead. But Peterhansel had extended his advantage by 1m 41s at the 186km point and, despite following the defending champion for much of the special caught. He passed Alphand near the end.

"We caught Luc after about 150km and we stayed behind him in the dust and the soft sand," said Peterhansel. "Then, in an off-road section, we passed him about 10km from the end. But I drove more than 200km in the dust. It was not very comfortable. Today’s stage was not too fast and on a sandy track. It was not too hard, but we will see completely different terrain in the next few days and this was not very kind to me last year, so we will see."

Alphand was unable to claw back any time: "We had orders to preserve our cars this morning and, when we passed Schlesser, it was not easy to be the first car on the road. It is not easy to find a good pace. We will try again over the next few stages without taking any risks. Stéphane will be ahead of us on the next stage, so it will be a little easier."

Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon began the stage in fifth overall and were the fastest of the four Mitsubishi crews at PCs one and two, 1m 22s ahead of Peterhansel at the 259km point. The Japanese reached the finish in second position to consolidate fifth overall.

"It was an enjoyable stage, driving in between the small trees," said Masuoka. "It was difficult to overtake the bikes, because the riders were not able to leave the main track. For that reason we needed to be extra careful. When I caught Stéphane and Luc, I followed them and stayed behind to the stage finish without taking any risks."

Joan ‘Nani’ Roma and Lucas Cruz began the 10th stage in 13th position in the overall standings, after Carlos Sainz had been reinstated in the results in 10th place. Roma was seventh fastest through PC1 and eventually finished the stage in eighth to retain 13th place.

"We lost about a minute and a half with a tiny navigational mistake, but everything else was okay," said Roma. "After that I drove very carefully to make sure I did not break the car. The plan now is to follow the first two cars and stay in contact with them. The new partnership with Lucas is working well."

"Today’s stage was very different to the last two Marathon days," said MMSP’s Managing and Sporting Director Dominique Serieys. "It was not necessary to create a big fight by pushing. We have a cushion now and around 850km of special stages still to run. After the liaison tomorrow we will see. There is still some way to go. Hiroshi and ‘Nani’ are now working to support our two lead drivers."

Tomorrow (Wednesday) will be an enforced rest day on the 29th Dakar Rally, the lack of competition brought about by the curtailment of competition between Néma and Timbuktu. Instead, teams will drive on a 280km liaison section from Néma to Ayoûn-el-Atroûs and competitive action will restart on Thursday morning.

2007/01/16 | 16:35 CET | Editor: MR/MMSP

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