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Transiberico: Nani Roma extends Mitsu´s advantage in Portugal

Spaniard Joan ‘Nani’ Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne extended their overnight advantage from nine to 25 seconds after two punishing special stages, which made up the third leg of the 2nd Vodafone Transiberico Rally in western Spain, today (Sunday).

French team mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard maintained third position in a second Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution, but lost four minutes with starter problems in the first stage of the day and sustained a time-consuming flat tire near the start of the repeat run on Sunday afternoon. They will start the final day 8m 25s behind their team mates.

Roma and Magne led from the front this morning and extended their leg two advantage over South African Giniel de Villiers to 1m 20s after setting the fastest time in SS3. They finished the second stage 55 seconds behind their rival, but will take a 25-second lead into the final three stages in Portugal on Monday.

"The problem I found this morning was finding a fast line through the stage," said Roma. "I lost a lot of time early on. There were no tracks. I was making the tracks for the others to follow. On several occasions I saw that I was not on the fastest line. It was frustrating. But I was much happier for the second lap. I could see where I made mistakes this morning and was able to take a quicker line."

Alphand and Picard began the day 57s behind their team mates and in third position on the road. They were running at such a pace that they would have taken the overall lead at the end of the opening stage, until they stalled and lost valuable time restarting the Mitsubishi’s V6 engine.

"We went straight on at a left-hand corner, but only for five meters," groaned Alphand. "I maybe braked too much and the engine cut out and would not restart. We waited and I tried many times to start the engine. Gilles eventually got out of the car and we had to push it to get going again."

"It was such an annoying thing," added co-driver Picard. "The engine stopped. Luc selected reverse gear and it was impossible to start the car. I had no option but to push."

Today’s pair of 155.74 km special stages ran on punishing terrain just across the border in Spain to the south-east of Portalegre and to the north of the Portuguese town of Elvas and the larger Spanish town of Badajoz. Servicing was centralised on the outskirts of the village of Alburquerque.

Roma soon came under pressure from De Villiers this morning and the South African was ahead after 16 km, with Alphand a mere five seconds behind. Roma slipped over a minute adrift of De Villiers at the 40 km point, after finding it difficult to run as the first car on the stage, while Alphand slipped into contention for the outright lead by running ahead of his two rivals. He was a full 19s quicker that De Villiers after 40 km.

After 100 km, Germany’s Matthias Kahle was running on a similar pace to Alphand, although the Frenchman looked to be heading for the outright lead of the event until he approached that innocuous left-hand corner and stalled the engine. Kahle also hit problems and Roma duly coasted to his second successive stage win and extended his overall lead over De Villiers to 1m 20s, as Alphand slipped 5m 18s behind his team mate.

With renewed confidence and a better knowledge of the special for the repeat run, Roma decided to try and press home his advantage. He and De Villiers were inseparable after 40 km, but Alphand punctured and fell a further three minutes behind his rivals. De Villiers edged 15s ahead of Roma at the 81 km point and 20s in front after 101 km, but the Spaniard remained in close contention to finish the stage 55 seconds behind his rival.

‘I am disappointed with what happened with Luc’s car today on the first stage," said MMSP’s Team Director Dominique Serieys. "Maybe there was a mistake by one of the mechanics, but we cannot afford things like this if we want to keep up our winning streak. I was pleased with Nani’s performance. He started slowly and really pushed hard when it mattered. He did a great job today and is making excellent progress."

"This is developing into a very interesting race," said MMSP’s Team President Isao Torii. "Our rivals are getting better and it is getting closer each day. On some sections of the stages we are quicker. On others the VWs are faster. It is fascinating. We have to learn from this and put the information to good use in our preparations for the next Dakar."

Tomorrow (Monday), the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart will tackle the longest and potentially most difficult final leg of this year’s Vodafone Transiberico Rally. Three 112.32 km special stages are planned after a 146.04 km liaison returns teams across the border into Portugal. Servicing will be centralised in Castelo Branco, before a 254.29 km liaison returns the surviving crews to Estoril, south-west of Lisbon.

Positions on SS4 (155.74 km):

01 I Roma (E)/Magne (AND) I Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution I 02:01:09
02 I De Villiers (ZA)/Von Zitzewitz (D) I Volkswagen Touareg I 02:02:20
03 I Alphand (F)/Picard (F) I Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution I 02:05:30
04 I Sykora (SK)/Sykora (SK) I Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero I 02:10:43
05 I Grancha (P)/Tavares (P) I Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero I 02:11:11

Positions on SS5 (155.74 km):

01 I De Villiers (ZA)/Von Zitzewitz (D) I Volkswagen Touareg I 01:54:41
02 I Roma (E)/Magne (AND) I Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution I 01:55:36
03 I Alphand (F)/Picard (F) I Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution I 01:58:43
04 I Kahle (D)/Schulz (D) I Volkswagen Touareg I 01:59:54

Positions at end of leg 3 (unofficial):

01 I Roma (E)/Magne (AND) I Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution I 10:15:38
02 I De Villiers (ZA)/Von Zitzewitz (D) I Volkswagen Touareg I 10:16:03
03 I Alphand (F)/Picard (F) I Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution I 10:24:03
04 I Kahle (D)/Schulz (D) I Volkswagen Touareg I 10:55:24
05 I Grancha (P)/Tavares (P) I Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero I 11:04:52
06 I Campos (P)/Baptista (P) I Renault Mégane I 11:14:17

2006/05/15 I 01:55 CET I Editor:

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