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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: Mitsubishi strengthens its Lead in South America

Following Tuesday’s gruelling start to the 2007 Por Las Pampas Rally, Mitsubishi’s Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard (both France) contested the longest competitive section of the event today. The 704km run north along the Pacific coast from Valdivia to Concepcion featured 466km of against-the-clock action, including a 27km neutralisation at approximately mid-distance which gave competitors a chance to take a short but welcome breather.

The day was marked by significantly better weather and the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution MPR13 pair once again set the pace to claim the fastest time of the day and consolidate their position at the top of the leaderboard. Although less dramatic than those encountered on Leg 1, the conditions were still very demanding, with plenty of mud through the narrow, twisty wooded portions, plus a long, nerve-racking section along the shoreline which kept both crew members on their toes.

"It’s been another difficult and varied day but the Pajero/Montero came through the longest stage of the rally very well," commented the team’s Deputy Sports Director Jean-Marc Bonnay (France). "Luc clearly enjoyed every moment of it and he also found the car extremely pleasant and easy to drive, which is very important when you have little idea of what’s coming next..."

Indeed, Luc Alphand was buzzing with excitement as he pulled into the second overnight halt just as darkness was setting in. "It’s been another long ride, but what a day it’s been again," enthused the Frenchman who is looking to repeat his win on this event in 2006. "The route and the scenery were fantastic and the driving was challenging but tremendous fun, although you had to stay concentrated from start to finish. Like yesterday, we averaged around 60kph and the stage was just as varied. We passed through forests of huge eucalyptus trees and today’s run also featured a long section along the seashore that took us through soft sand dunes and along the beach itself with four-metre high waves crashing in from the Pacific Ocean. It must have been close to high tide because there wasn’t much room for the car in places! There was one particularly deep estuary we had to cross, too ? it must have been 40 metres wide. That was quite hairy. But the car ran faultlessly throughout and we have been able to extend our lead. That gives us a welcome cushion going into Stage 3 which will be almost as long as today’s and apparently just as complicated as what we have seen so far."

Luc also related how he and Gilles had to negotiate a steep five-metre drop down to the beach at one point to pass via a mandatory GPS point. Indeed, picking the correct route along the shore, over the dunes and through the countless intersections was one of the biggest challenges the Mitsubishi crew faced today. "One 30km section along the coast just before the neutralisation turned out to be especially complex from the navigation point of view," reported Gilles Picard. "We had practically no wheel tracks to guide us but the roadbook was first class. Another job I had to do was help Luc look for local traffic and stray animals on the road."

After a night in Concepcion, competitors face another day of mixed conditions on leg 3 (Thursday) as they head 489km north to Pichilemu, a celebrated surfing spot. But just as Luc and Gilles were unable to get in any skiing in San Carlos de Bariloche before the start, they are unlikely to have time to sample the local sport after contesting the day’s long 395km stage. And the menu promises to be as varied as ever, with a mixture of fast wooded roads, long sections along sandy and rocky beaches, more river-crossings and a foretaste of the giant dunes that await them later in the week.

2007/08/30 | 16:39 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Repsol/MMSP

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