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UAE Desert Challenge 2007 Special-Newssection (FIA Cross Country Worldcup)

This is the single-news section of the special of the UAE Desert Challenge 2007, last 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.

UAE Desert Challenge: An excellent start for Repsol Mitsubishi Team.

After of Sunday’s short 2km super-special near Dubai and the official start ceremony in front of the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi this morning, the 2007 UAE Desert Challenge finally got down to serious business today with the first of the week’s six stages. Today’s 272,50km test gave competitors a relatively straightforward early taste of the local terrain which featured a mix of fast, sandy tracks, off-road driving and dunes of varying degrees of difficulty. Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart’s Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (France) and Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cotteret (France) both put in good yet safe runs to secure the second and third fastest times respectively, while the Joan ’Nani’ Roma/Lucas Cruz (Spain) dropped a little time following a slow puncture to take seventh place.

The split-times of today’s special stage reveal that Alphand was in fact third behind his team-mate for the majority of the test before the two Frenchman traded places shortly before the finish. "Towards the end, we could see Chicherit ahead of us and that always tends to give you an added boost," said the winner of the 2006 UAE Desert Challenge. "Apart from that, we had a good run, although it was very hot. Outside, it can’t have been far short of 40C, which easily means 50C inside the car, so it was quite tough, physically. There were a few big dunes to keep us on our toes, too. I am delighted with the handling of our Pajero/Montero although it’s taking a little time to get accustomed to the five-speed transmission."

There was a large crowd of local spectators at the end of the stage to greet Stéphane Peterhansel who was the second driver to reach the finish control after Nasser Al Attiyah (Qatar) who posted the day’s quickest time. "Today’s stage was quite fast with quite a lot of dunes," reported the 2007 Dakar winner who was accredited with the day’s third best time, 31 seconds behind Alphand. "The dunes tended to be reasonably small - a few metres high maybe - but you could never be quite sure know how steep they were after ridge. Most of them were OK, but it was important to take each one as it came and take nothing for granted. I have to say that I’m glad the first stage is behind us because the memory of losing 45 minutes after an accident on Day 1 here in 2006 is still very fresh in my mind..."

The only Mitsubishi driver to lose time today was Nani Roma who had the misfortune of picking up a slow puncture, yet he still succeeded in claiming the day’s seventh quickest time. "We realised quite early on that we had a slow puncture," related the Spaniard, "and we eventually had to stop to change the wheel just before the second Passage Control. After that, we had a good drive to the finish. This is only my second attempt at this event, so I clearly lack experience compared with many of the other drivers. This is great practice for the Dakar, however, and my Pajero/Montero performed perfectly today."

Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Dominique Serieys (France) was pleased with the result of the 2006 UAE Desert Challenge’s first stage. "It’s obviously a shame that Nani picked up a slow puncture, but I didn’t think we would be quite so well-placed this early on," he admitted. "Stéphane and Nani haven’t driven competitively since July and it was quite a fast stage (a little more than 100kph) so, all in all, our times were very competitive despite the new regulations (five-speed gearbox, smaller-diameter air-restrictor). The new regulations mean the drivers have to push harder to make up for the resulting performance handicap and, in this heat, that clearly takes more out of them. At the same time, though, we mustn’t lose sight of our principal objective here which is to prepare for the Dakar, so we don’t want to be taking any undue risks..."

The action continues tomorrow (Tuesday) with the second longest stage of the rally (328.30km) after a run-out of 54.30km from the overnight bivouac which competitors will visit for the first this evening.

2007/10/29 | 13:57 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Mitsubishi

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