AGADIR, Morocco - The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team completed the first African special stage of the 2005 Dakar Rally between Rabat and Agadir in Morocco in second and fourth positions. Team drivers Stéphane Peterhansel and Luc Alphand now hold similar places in the overall classification. The stage was cancelled for the bikes because of dense early morning fog on the route.
Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret shadowed stage winner and overnight leader Robby Gordon to the finish of the 123 kms competitive section and will start Tuesday’s run south a mere 59 seconds behind the American.
French team mate Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard completed the stage 31 seconds behind their team mates and hold fourth overall behind Frenchman Bruno Saby. Twice former champion Hiroshi Masouka lost seven minutes with a flat tyre and slipped from seventh position to 14th overall.
Joan Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne completed the stage in 14th position in their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero MPR10 and German team mate Andrea Mayer - who celebrated her birthday in Rabat on Sunday evening - was 17th.
"I told our drivers not to push and drive in a restrained and sensible manner over the first two African stages," admitted Team Director Dominique Serieys. "There is more to lose than to gain by pushing too hard. We learned from the Rally of Morocco in June that it is easy to get a flat tyre on these stages. Admittedly, the temperatures were much higher in the summer, but the rocks are very sharp and we had a catalogue of punctures on the rally last summer.
"I have been pleased with the performance of all the team so far. I have spoken to each driver in turn and they have a strategy. Nani Roma has begun very well. I told him that if he feels confident then he can push harder after Smara, but I want him to feel completely comfortable behind the wheel first."
Tomorrow 4th January (Tuesday) will be the most difficult stage of the Dakar Rally so far, with a testing 381 kms special stage following a 240 kms run south from Agadir. The stage is scheduled to finish 33 kms north of Smara in the deep south of Morocco and features a mixture of high-speed gravel and stony sections from Goulimine, via a remote route to the east of Tan Tan.
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