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Optic Tunisa: Summary Stage 2 of the Optic 2000 Rally.

Raced all around, starting and finishing at Nekrif, the second stage of this Optic Tunisia rally was won by Jean-Louis Schlesser and his self-constructed Ford-Buggy. The four time winner of this rally finished in front of the Mitsubishi Pajero of Luc Alphand and Stephane Peterhansel and steps to a second place in the overall placings in this tightly fought class. On bikes Isidre Esteve on his new KTM managed a double. David Casteu coming inonly 52 seconds later.

Navigation and technical driving skills were the ingredients: At the finish of this Nekrif stage, 300 kilometres and with certain parts brushing along the Libyan border, the competitors of this days racing were unanimous in saying that the circuit that Cyril Neveu had chosen was spot on.

Banging his war drum all the way, Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser was completely in focus. Having started after the Factory Drivers, the "Wizard from Nice" mastered completely this fast and varied terrain to finish in front of the Mitsubishi Pajero of Alphand and Peterhansel and the VW Race Touareg of Spaniard Carlos Sainz and South African Giniel deVilliers and to jump up to second in the overall placings behind Peterhansel.

Coming in sixth in front of the Polish Krzysztof Holowczyc’s Nissan, French Philippe Gache and his SMG Buggy confirmed that today was a good day for the two wheel drives - lighter, more powerfull and most of all well adepted for this terrain.

Bad day for Hiroshi Masuoka (Mitsubishi Pajero), who droped nearly 20 minutes, due to three punctures and a broken wheel on the front-right, which led to problems with the brake caliper and disc. The Japanese, who has already won the Dakar twice, is the first to lose ground out of the big boys, who are grouped at 5 inside 6 minutes.

In the T2 the struggle continues, but with another stage win, Jean-Pierre Strugo (France, Mercedes ML) has made his lead over the Nissan Pathfinder of Christian Lavieille (victim of a ruptured brake pipe and delayed 10 or so minutes at the assistance zone) that much more comfortable.

If on a strategic plan, the car race is looking more like a bike race, (with the teams using the starting positions and navigation to gain seconds and minutes), the reverse is happening in the bike race. The starting positions not affecting directly the overall placings.

The Spaniard Isidre Esteve, having started first this morning and already gaining confidence, accelerated the pace on his new KTM 660 to obtain his second consecutive stage win in front of his team mate David Casteu and Pal Anders Ullevalseter. Not an easy stage either for Cyril Portal, who suffering from his not too rested bad back, took more than 30 km to find the right fuel mixture and in consequence losing nearly a half hour to the leaders.

Franck Olmi, suffured a bad fall at the 80km mark damaging his shoulder and the back end of his KTM 660, but managed bravely to regain the bivouac by the road,(having luckily passed 2 out of the 4 CP), he hopes to be able to compete tomorrow in the third stage Nekrif to El Borma. Fourth place on his KTM 450 was the Franco-Uraguayan Laurent Lazard, who proudly managed nearly three minutes in front of the Polish Jacek Czachor (KTM 450) and more than seven minutes in front of the Italien Oscar Polli, gaining himself the second place in the overall placings of the 450cc.

2006/04/12 I 22:50 CET I Editor:

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