January 9, 2006 As the Dakar Rally moved into its second half today, the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team continued to tighten its grip on a sixth successive victory in the 28th Dakar Rally, as overnight leaders Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret extended their overall lead in the daunting 599 kms special stage between Nouakchott and Kiffa in Mauritania. As the Volkswagen Touareg challenge faded, Mitsubishi teams now hold first, second and fourth in the car section.
The pair had led team mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard by a mere 32 seconds at the start of what promised to the hardest day of the entire event and had already edged over two and a half minutes further away from their nearest rival Giniel de Villiers after the first passage control at 97 kms.
Peterhansel stopped to change a puncture at the 315 kms point and arrived at the third and final passage control at 428 kms, with his advantage over team mate Alphand pegged back to 3m 38s. The defending champion eventually clinched his third stage win of the event to extend his advantage in the overall standings to a commanding 9m 16s. Mitsubishi’s nearest rival de Villiers now trails Peterhansel by 54m 16s
Today’s stage began near a large dune field to the east of Nouakchott and headed across one of the remotest parts of the Western Sahara to Tamassoumit, before turning in a southerly direction towards a finish near Letfata in the Tagant region, south-west of the former overnight bivouac in Tidjikja.
Spaniard Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne began the stage in fourth overall and fourth on the stage. They lost 25 minutes to the first passage control, but progressed over the remainder of the special to arrive in Kiffa with the fifth fastest time after holding ninth at PC3. But Roma maintained fourth place, albeit 1h 36m 14s behind his leading team mate.
"Now we can say that we performed very well on the three very difficult stages across Mauritania," said Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Dominique Serieys. "Our position is becoming more comfortable, although you never know in Africa what is around the next corner and we must keep our concentration and make no mistakes. But, for sure, Stephane and Luc did a very good job today."
Tomorrow the event resumes with a one-kilometer liaison to the start of a 283 kms special stage across the border into the Republic of Mali. The nature of the terrain begins to change, with dunes and sandy wastelands giving way to savannah, bushland, thicker vegetation and fast laterite piste. The arrival in Black Africa is completed by a 49 kms road liaison section to the bivouac in nearby Kayes.
Results of stage 9
1. Peterhansel (F)/ Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 6h 52m 45s 2. Alphand (F)/ Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 7h 01m 29s 3. de Villiers (ZA)/ Thörner (S) Volkswagen Touareg 7h 20m 45s 4. Kleinschmidt (D)/ Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 7h 42m 43s 5. Roma (E)/ Magne (AND) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 7h 45m 24s 6. Saby (F)/ Perin (F) Volkswagen Touareg 7h 51m 03s 7. Miller (USA)/ von Zitzewitz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 7h 59m 44s 8. Magnaldi (F)/ Debron (F) Schlesser Buggy 8h 07m 47s
Positions after stage 9
1. Peterhansel (F)/ Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 34h 36m 26s 2. Alphand (F)/ Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 34h 45m 42s 3. de Villiers (ZA)/ Thörner (S) Volkswagen Touareg 35h 30m 42s 4. Roma (E)/ Magne (AND) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 36h 12m 40s 5. Kleinschmidt (D)/ Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 36h 32m 50s 6. Magnaldi (F)/ Debron (F) Schlesser Buggy 37h 25m 08s 7. Miller (USA)/ von Zitzewitz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 37h 55m 38s 8. Sousa (P)/ Lurquin (B) Nissan Pick-Up 39h 44m 57s