Biasion second today; punctures for Fontenay; Sousa hangs on to fifth

ABU RISH (Egypt): The French pairing of Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret moved into the final two days of the Telefonica Dakar Rally, with a 25m 50s advantage over Mitsubishi Motors team mates Hiroshi Masuoka and Andreas Schulz, as Finland's Ari Vatanen won his third stage of the rally - the 477 kms run from Luxor to Abu Rish today (Friday).

Mitsubishi had advised its two leading drivers to preserve their cars and to prevent Peterhansel and Masuoka competing against each other and risking their first and second positions. Peterhansel is now 3h 08m 26s ahead of his nearest non-Mitsubishi rival, sixth-placed Giniel de Villiers.

"One more long stage to go," said Peterhansel. "I am happy because it was a difficult stage today without GPS. I had no problems, but I was a little nervous. Yesterday we heard some noises from the car, but nothing today. I will try and sleep for at least four hours before the restart in the morning."

The leading Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution pairings remained well clear of third-placed team mate Jean-Pierre Fontenay in his classic Pajero. Fontenay, the Dakar winner in 1998 with Mitsubishi, sustained two flat tyres 200 kms into today's stage - a combination of tricky sandy and gravel tracks tackled without the benefit of GPS.

"We had two punctures on the left-hand side," said Fontenay. "But the problem came when we changed the rear wheel. We started again and then saw that the front tyre was also going down, so we had to stop again. It was a very fast stage at the beginning and tricky without the GPS. The first 100 kms were okay, but then it was dusty, twisty and there were some big canyons. We will work on the road book now and try and take as much rest as possible before the early start in the morning."

continues... | Part Two

Published : 18/01/03 Author : Melanie Carter

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