Dakar 2008 - PAX Rally - Leg 4

REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART TEAM 'S STEPHANE PETERHANSEL WINS SS5 AND LUCALPHAND SECOND TO CLOSE ON PAX RALLY LEAD

Leg 4 (Saturday, September 13, 2008), Alcochete (Portugal) - Portimao(Portugal):Road section: 89kmSS5: 159km Road section: 220kmTotal distance: 468km

The fourth leg of the 2008 PAX rally saw Mitsubishi's StéphanePeterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (France) claim the fastest time on the penultimate stage of the event to shave practically two minutes off the gapthat separates them from the lead in Portugal.

With just one 65km stage remaining before Sunday afternoon's finish in Portimao, the French crew are only 31 seconds behind Carlos Sainz.

Fellow Mitsubishi runners Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (France) profited from the day to go almost two minutes clear of Giniel De Villiers after sharing overnight third place with the South African driver, but Joan 'Nani'Roma/Lucas Cruz (Spain) dropped nine minutes and slipped back one place to sixth overall following a slow-speed roll.

 "I was a little concerned when I saw how much sand there was during the early part of today's stage, but the conditions became increasingly favourable to us as we progressed," observed Stéphane Peterhansel who admitted to enjoying the WRC-type loose-surface tracks.

"Our later running order also gave us an advantage, although I think I could perhaps have gone a little bit faster to begin with. When we realised that we were starting to take time out of Carlos Sainz, I decided to push harder towards the end, and that has enabled us to close the gap at the top of the leaderboard quit esignificantly. It won't be easy to win tomorrow, but I have every intention of keeping the pressure on Carlos: with a lead of just half a minute, he can't afford to make any mistakes"

Team-mate Luc Alphand was equally pleased with his day and, before the start of the SS5, he was aware of the how crucial it was pull clear of De Villiers before the short, final stage Sunday:.

"Given the importance of road order since the start and given, too, how varied the conditions have been, this has been a very challenging rally, but we haven't come out of it too badly so far. We wanted to make the most of our starting position today and we were practically going at the same pace as Stéphane to begin with. I then made a few tiny mistakes, however, including a 'straight on' into a field which could have gone horribly wrong, and I lost my concentration for awhile. But our Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution is continuing to go like a dream and we will do all we can on Sunday to keep our footing on the podium."

Like Luc and Stéphane, Nani Roma was also going very well today before a slow-speed roll put him out of contention. The time lost in the incident has seen him fall back to sixth place.

"It's such a shame," he said. "I was really pleased with my rhythm and we were pushing hard when I cut too deeply into the inside of a slow left-hand corner. We nudged the bank and that sent us into a roll, at no more than 20kph, I would say. Our car is obviously damaged but we were able to complete the stage and it's repairable for tomorrow."

Despite this setback, Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Dominique Serieys (France) was once again swift to applaud the work of his three crews. "After more than ten hours of rallying, nothing is by any means over because there's still one more difficult day to come. I am proud of their performance," he enthused. "What we are seeing this week here in Portugal is a valuable pointer for the future. The competitive career of the MitsubishiPajero/Montero Evolution comes to an end tomorrow, yet Luc, Nani andStéphane have succeeded in taking the fight to the drivers who promise to be their main rivals on the 2009 Dakar. That's a very encouraging sign indeed."

The final stage of the 1,583km rally takes the form of a 65km loop to thenorth of Portimao, close to Portugal's Algarve coast, before Sunday afternoon's finish ceremony.

SS5 CLASSIFICATION

1. Stephane PETERHANSEL (MITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION)- 1:56:28 (+**:**:**.*)

2. Luc ALPHAND (MITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION)- 1:57:32 (+1:04)

3. Nasser AL-ATTYAH (BMW X3 CC)- 1:58:17 (+1:49)

4. Carlos SAINZ (VW RACE TOUAREG 2)- 1:58:18 (+1:50)

5. Giniel DE VILLIERS (VW RACE TOUAREG 2)- 1:59:13 (+2:45)

6. Filipe CAMPOS (BMW X3 CC)- 2:01:04 (+4:36)

7. Orlando TERRANOVA (BMW X3 CC)- 2:01:55 (+5:27)

8. Joan ROMA (MITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION)- 2:06:17 (+9:49)

9. Pedro GRANCHA (NISSAN NAVARRA OFF ROAD)- 2:06:20 (+9:52)

10. Miroslav ZAPLETAL (MITSUBISHI L200)- 2:07:12 (+10:44)

CLASSIFICATION AFTER SS5

1. Carlos SAINZ (VW RACE TOUAREG 2)- 10:19:59 (+**:**:**.*)

2. Stephane PETERHANSEL (MITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION)- 10:20:30 (+0:31)

3. Luc ALPHAND (MITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION)- 10:22:32 (+2:33)

4. Giniel DE VILLIERS (VW RACE TOUAREG 2)- 10:24:13 (+4:14)

5. Nasser AL-ATTYAH (BMW X3 CC)- 10:27:29 (+7:30)

6. Joan ROMA (MITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION)- 10:32:48 (+12:49)

7. Filipe CAMPOS (BMW X3 CC)- 10:39:21 (+19:22)

8. Pedro GRANCHA (NISSAN NAVARRA OFF ROAD)- 11:07:20 (+47:21)

9. Guerlain CHICHERIT (BMW X3 CC)- 11:20:46 (+1:00:47)

10. Miroslav ZAPLETAL (MITSUBISHI L200)- 11:20:54 (+1:00:55)