03 June 2004 - 10:48
Rally Orpi Morocco: Peter and Despres burn rubber !
In the menu today, a 250 kms ‘warm up' special starting in the heart of the Anti-Atlas and heading directly south to the oasis of Assa and its 30,000 date palms. A first Rallye ORPI Maroc stage that marked both man and machine and which saw important gaps open up in both the bike and the car class. Continuing on from their Tunisie rallye victories, both Stephane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi Pajero Evo) and Cyril Despres (KTM LC4) charged into the lead today on a stage which massacred everybody's tyres...
The finish of the special at Foum El Hassan, nearly 100 kilometres from the bivouac in Assa, looked more like a depot for worn out tyres than a round of the rallye-raid championship. The first cars to arrive at the line, the Mitsubishi Pajero Evos of Stephane Peterhansel and Carlos Sousa, were no exception to the rule – despite the Frenchman having chosen to change his ‘rears' at the assistance point situated just after the mid-way point. And looking at the piteous state of his Portuguese team mate's tyres it looked like a wise decision !
The Ford Buggies of Jean Louis Schlesser and Jose Maria Servia faired no better, with the Spaniard's tyres worn right down to he carcass. Miraculously he still managed to finish in 3rd place. In fact it would seem that the only driver to have successfully ‘managed' his tyres was Kenjiro Shinozuka. Second on a stage that turned out to be well suited to his agile Nissan Pickup, the Japanese driver needed no outside assistance and suffered no punctures. Sixth and seventh respectively, Philippe Gache (SMG Buggy) arrived with a completely bald rear left tyre, while Stephane Henrard (VW Tarek Buggy) run into cooling problems. Despite this they both managed to finish in the wake of the buggy master Jean Louis Schlesser.
A bad day on the other hand for the Volkswagen Touaregs. Jutta Kleinschmidt gave away half an hour after suffering from brake and steering problems, while team mate Bruno Saby stopped on the piste after running out of fuel following a leak.
In T1 Isabelle Patissier (12th) and her Nissan Pathfinder finished just behind her X-Trail equipped team mate Paul Belmondo. The ex-world champion climber is now 15 minutes ahead of Toyota rival Ronan Chabot, while the Mercedes MLs of Alexandra Debanne and Jean-Pierre Strugo lost huge chunks of time with broken wheel studs.
In the bikes Cyril Despres and Richard Sainct (KTM LC4) posted the fastest times, with the Frenchmen managing to pull out an significant lead over their Spanish rivals Marc Coma and Esteve Pujol who are this evening more than five and a half minutes behind. Not a great day either for Nani Roma and Fabrizio Meoni. Both absent from the Tunisie due to illness and injury, they struggled to ride at their race pace, with the Italian finding it hard work over the technical going aboard his big V-twin.
No such problems on the other hand for the Chilean Carlo De Gavardo who managed to dominate the 450 class aboard his works KTM to beat his rivals Olmi and Beneke by a considerable margin.
Neveu Pelletier Organisation [02/06/04 - 16:30]
Peterhansel extends Mitsubishi Team's advantage into Laayoune
Orpi Rally of Morocco - Leg 3
Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret extended the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Team's advantage in the Orpi Rally of Morocco by winning the fourth and fifth stages, along a route which ended near the remote fishing village of Tarouma on the blustery Atlantic coast, south of Laayoune, today.
Peterhansel, driving the first of MMSP's two Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolutions, beat Volkswagen's Bruno Saby by seven seconds through the 155 kms third stage from Smara to a finish near Lemseyed. The defending Dakar champion was then classified first overall, ahead of his team mate Carlos Sousa, through the shorter fourth stage. Peterhansel now leads his nearest rival by 13m 55s.
After 30 kms on the first stage we caught (Kenjiro) Shinozuka's dust, said Peterhansel. I used the horn and he pulled over and stopped. He is a gentleman. Then we pushed harder and drove with Jean-Louis (Schlesser) and finished the stage just before him. I didn't want to drive too hard. I decided to attack on the short stage and then we touched a big rock after five kilometers and had a flat tire. Jean-Louis passed me and we drove together in the dunes. He stopped in the soft sand and we finished the stage first. Each dune was broken and it was dangerous to push too hard. But it was cooler today and much better for me, the car, Jean-Paul, the tires, everything.
Portugal's Sousa and his Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne completed the first special stage in fourth position, 1m 01s behind team mate Peterhansel, and in second position in SS4. No real problems today, except that we broke a wheel early in the second stage and had to change it, said Sousa. The dunes were difficult and I kept seeing pieces of other cars in the track and decided to slow down. Then we saw Shinozuka and the two Volkswagens stopped in the sand and I knew that I had made a good decision. I could have driven faster in the first stage, but the thought of hitting a rock or puncturing a tire kept going through my mind and I didn't want to take the risk.
The German pairing of Andrea Mayer and Andreas Schulz produced their best form of the rally so far to take the fifth fastest time through the third stage, which was held over varied terrain in the Sequiet El Hamra wadi. But they lost over 15 minutes stuck in soft sand in the fourth selective. We hit a rock on the first one and punctured in the same place as our team mates, said Schulz. Then we were going well into the last part of the second stage when we came across Khalifa's (Al- Motaiwi) BMW stuck at the foot of a dune and we didn't have the speed to get past. We lost about 15 minutes.
Tomorrow is the penultimate stage of the event and features a 332 kms selective section in a route of 376 kms between Laayoune and Oued Chebika. The competitive section starts at Foum El Oued and runs close to the bivouac. The opening 60 kms will take place on the beach, pass several shipwrecks and lead teams to the village of Amgriou. The route then heads east to an assistance point and then along the Sebkha Tah depression, 55 meters below sea level. After passing an old Spanish fort at Al Hagounia, the tracks are smoother en route to the second coastal bivouac at Oued Chebika.
Ralliart Teams :
Dominique Housieaux and his French co-driver Loic Fagot finished the third stage of the Orpi Rally of Morocco in 10th position and an excellent third place through the shorter fourth stage moved them up to fifth in the overall classification. Everything was going perfectly yesterday until we lost a wheel just after the final passage control, said Housieaux. It cost me a lot of time and six places on the leaderboard. But today was much better. We had a flat tyre early on, but I really enjoyed the dunes. The sand was fantastic and that showed in my performance.
Their Spanish team mates José-Luis Monterde and Rafael Tornabell made up ground after Thursday's rear suspension problems, which dropped them down to 28th position in the overall standings. We lost a lot of time on the stage on Thursday with rear suspension problems, said Monterde. We could not push hard at all and dropped over one hour to the leaders. It appears that there was an oil leakage to the rear dampers. We know our level and when the car is running perfectly we know we can push. On the first stage this morning we had another rear shock absorber problem and we changed the rear shock absorbers at service. Then the car was perfect and we set a top six fastest time on the second stage.
Mitsubishi Motors [04/06/04 - 17:37]