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Por las Pampas 2007 Special-Newssection (FIA Cross Country Worldcup)

This is the single-news section of the special of the Por las Pampas Patagonia Atacama Rally 2007, 3rd round of the FIA Worldcup for Cross Country Rallys. To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

Por las Pampas: Leg 6 a tough day for Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard.

In stark contrast to the shortest stage of the 2007 Por Las Pampas Rally, Saturday, today’s action featured one of the longest and also one of the slowest competitive sections of the nine-day event. Continuing on their momentum, Luc Alphand, Gilles Picard (both France) and their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution MPR13 claimed their sixth fastest time of the rally, completing the 417km test in 6h 38m 59s, more than an hour quicker than anybody else. Once again, the majority of their rivals were delayed by a variety of problems and the French crew is this evening more than three hours clear of its closest chaser at the top of the provisional standings.

The first part of today’s test leading to the short, mid-stage neutralisation turned out to be extremely tough physically and took its toll on drivers and co-drivers alike as the route switched continuously from the rocky shoreline to narrow tracks inland from the coast. The combination of the punishing terrain and the morning’s exacting navigation meant that Luc and Gilles were glad of the brief halt programmed by the organisers at km210. "This morning was practically all first and second gear trials-like driving over rocky beaches and occasionally over slightly higher ground where the biggest difficulty was picking out the correct path through the maze of fishermen’s trails," related the French driver who has led the South American event for Mitsubishi since Tuesday’s start. "The average speed was so slow that it took us three and a half hours to reach the neutralisation. Over the rocks, we were so badly shaken up inside the car that Gilles literally had trouble reading the roadbook. And it wasn’t the best of places to miss a line because there was an instruction practically every 200 metres! True, it was difficult to stray too far to the west because there’s always the ocean to guide you but it was very tiring for Gilles, both physically and mentally."

"The second half of the stage was slightly easier and much more varied," continued Luc. "Gilles was in top form again and, despite briefly straying up a dead-end valley, we didn’t put a foot wrong despite being the first car on the road. We actually passed all the bikes but four before the finish, but it was a very demanding leg; the equivalent ? at least ? of a long day on the Dakar. Thankfully, the Montero/Pajero is extremely robust and stood up to the punishment magnificently."

Luc and Gilles have competed together with Mitsubishi for more than three years now and that experience certainly paid dividends today. "There was so much information to read out and absorb," reported co-driver Gilles Picard. "The roadbook was practically 2cm thick for this stage alone and the instructions followed on from each other non-stop. The second half of the day was slightly more straightforward, especially the final 100km, but it was still nice to see the finish!"

Today’s run ended in the fishing village of Bahia Inglesia where, for the first time since the start, teams will spend two consecutive nights since the seventh leg of the rally, Monday, will take the form of a 228km loop inland of the coast to the northeast of Copiapo. Accurate navigation will once again be primordial, while half the competitive distance will take crews over what the organisers describe as the world’s biggest dunes. "I don’t know whether they’re the world’s biggest or not, but they certainly are very impressive," points out Gilles Picard. "The risk here is coming across dead trees. They tend to collect at the foot of the dunes which are covered with a certain amount of vegetation. It can sometimes be difficult to steer clear of them once you’ve started your descent. It’s certainly more complex than when the dunes are 100% sand."

2007/09/03 | 10:39 CET | Editor: MR/HS/MMSP

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