ATAR, Mauritania - The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team maintained their lead of the 2005 Dakar Rally, after the 483 kms loop stage around the bivouac in Atar, Mauritania, today (Monday) 10th January.
Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret completed the stage 1m 57s ahead of their team mates Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard The pair had been running neck and neck with their team mates to the second passage control and then stopped to reinflate their tyres after passing a tricky expanse of sand dunes.
"It was a nice and varied stage today," said Peterhansel. "We passed along many tracks and dunes and a new pass off-road, where we had to climb a little. There was around 60 kms of camel grass and then some more dunes. We had a flat tyre at the top of the pass and then we deflated the tyres to around 1.6 bar pressure.
"I hit one small dune quite hard and there is a little front damage, but nothing too serious. It was good to drive together today and the result of the stage has strengthened our position in the race."
Alphand duly took the second fastest stage time to maintain Mitsubishi’s comfortable one-two position in the overall standings. Germany’s Jutta Kleinschmidt was the team’s nearest rival in third place, albeit 70 minutes 45 seconds behind Peterhansel’s leading Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution.
"Stéphane and I drove well together today," said Alphand. "We pushed a little, nothing that would risk our position. We stopped to put some air in the tyres after PC2 and ran together to make sure that we were together if anything happened. I think it was a good strategy and we have taken more time out of Jutta Kleinschmidt today."
Japan’s Hiroshi Masuoka and German co-driver Andreas Schulz were delayed with mechanical problems 100 kms after the start of the Atar loop stage and were waiting for assistance.
Germany’s Andrea Mayer and French co-driver Jean-Michel Polato had been running as high as 10th position at the first passage control point, but were forced to stop with electrical problems in their Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up, awaiting assistance.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) the rally heads south towards Kiffa and a 656 kms special stage en route to the Republic of Mali. The stage crosses over the Nega Pass, the Pic de Bou Naga and the valleys of the Tagant massif and the Ksar el Barka oasis.
This promises to be one of the most varied stages on the Dakar, with canyons, twisty sections, fast piste, dunes and camel grass on offer. The ASO’s Patrick Zaniroli has warned that this could be the most difficult stage of the entire rallyPublished 10 January 2005