RABAT, Morocco - The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team held fourth and joint seventh positions in the overall classification of the 2005 Dakar Rally, after the second timed special stage, near Granada, in Andalucia, today 2nd January 2005 (Sunday).
A short liaison section from the overnight halt in Granada - nestled under the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains - took teams to the Armilla gravel stage at a nearby military area and Scotland’s Colin McRae set the fastest time in his Nissan to take a one-second overall lead.
Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret were second fastest through the stage in their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution with a time of 7m 54s. Mitsubishi team mate Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard set a time of 8m 03s and were sixth quickest.
"It was a nice stage with a lot of spectators," said Peterhansel. "But there could be problems for the cars running behind, because the track was getting softer and cutting up quite badly."
"I had a discussion with Gilles and we thought about a strategy for the next couple of days," said Alphand. "The second stage in Morocco will be narrow and there will be no real places to overtake. So, perhaps, we will push a little on Monday after Rabat to ensure that we take a position inside the top five or six. The top few cars are sure to push, so there should be no risk of being held up in dust."
Hiroshi Masuoka and German co-driver Andreas Schulz now lie equal seventh in the overall standings, tied on the same time as their team mates Alphand and Picard, after setting the eighth fastest time at Granada.
"I heard that the stage would be dry and dusty," said Masuoka. "There has been no rain in this area for a long time, so I was pleased to be running second on the road, because of the risk of dust. It was a nice stage and we had no problems."
German lady driver Andrea Mayer completed the stage in 17th position and holds 17th overall. "The dust was a problem for me," said Mayer. "It was hanging in the air and you were into a corner before you had time to react properly."
Spanish team mate Joan Roma soaked up the Spanish atmosphere and took the 19th fastest time on his second ever rally in a car. Last year’s Dakar motorcycle winner now holds 19th overall.
From Granada teams headed south towards the ferry port at Algeciras and the short Mediterranean Sea crossing to Tangier and the subsequent road section to the Moroccan capital of Rabat. The commercial capital of Morocco has played host to the Dakar Rally on three occasions prior to 2005. The event visited the modern city in 1994 and 1999 and competitors spent New Year’s Eve there during the 2001 Arras-Madrid-Dakar Rally.
Tomorrow (Monday) will be the first of the traditional African stages and the first real competitive test for members of the Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team.
After a 122 kms road section, the 123 kms special stage heads towards Agadir and features numerous twisty tracks on a wide range of tricky surfaces. The leg is completed by a 421 kms road liaison to the night halt in Agadir. The stage offers a fine balance of navigation, sinuous hilly sections and high-speed piste.
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