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Dakar Series – Central Europe Rally (April 19-26)-Leg 4

April 24th, 2008


Leg 4 (Wednesday April 23, 2008), Debrecen (Hungary) - Veszprem (Hungary):

Road section: 213 km
SS4A: 62 km
Road section: 201 km
Road section: 5 km
SS4B: 88km
Road section: 11 km
Total distance: 580 km


As the 2008 Central Europe Rally moved back into Hungary for the fourth day of competition, Stéphane Peterhansel and his co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret (France) succeeded in maintaining their overall lead and the French pair is 1m44s clear of De Villiers (South Africa) this evening.The terrain to the north of Lake Balaton wasn't quite such happy hunting ground for the three Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution MPR13s, however, and Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (France) and Nani Roma/Lucas Cruz (Spain) have fallen back to sixth and seventh places respectively.

Wet, overcast weather continued to mark the first fixture of the newly-created Dakar Series as competitors lined up for the first of today's two stages. This was a repeat of the predominantly sandy and bumpy test that kicked off the event last Sunday and which was marked by sequences of long straights and tight turns. And just as they had been on the opening day, Mitsubishi's trio tended to be less at home through this part of the Hungarian countryside than they had been over the punishing mountain tracks of the Baia Mare region in Romania. The afternoon saw the caravan head southwest for the day's second stage near Lake Balaton.

Once again, this used military ground over which the organisers had devised a compact, but long and complex route which made picking a way through the often taped-off roads a particularly taxing challenge.

"This morning's stage produced pretty much the same scenario as Sunday," commented the overnight leader Stéphane Peterhansel this evening. "I think our rivals had the edge when it came to powering out of the many tight corners and it wasn't quite so easy to settle into a rhythm as it was on Monday and Tuesday. This afternoon's test was much less fun and perhaps a little unpredictable at times because there were place we came across other cars on parallel tracks, and we weren't always certain that we were on the right road and helped either by the strong wind which blew away some of the tape that was there to point us in the
right direction. We stay in this region near Lake Balaton for the rest of the rally and it won't be easy if the others keep on taking big chunks of time out of our lead. But at least we are in front, which means they are having to do all the chasing and we have every intention of defending our advantage!"

The reactions of Nani Roma at the end of the day were similar to those of his French teammate, the Spaniard adding that discovering new types of terrain like those encountered today was good for his experience. "It wasn't an easy day," he admitted. "I thought I had gone quite well on the first stage and I was surprised to see the times set by some of the other drivers. The tight corners followed by long straights called for repeated hard acceleration and that's
possibly where we were losing ground. Then, this afternoon, we dropped a little time finding the right route across the maze of military tracks. It was quite tough in places but our Pajero/Montero Evolution continued to run like clockwork."

Luc Alphand took time to praise the work of his co-driver Gilles Picard who faced one of the most challenges days of the event so far from the navigating point of view. "It was very complex, but Gilles did a great job," underlined the former World Champion skier. "Our day didn't get off to the best of starts when the windscreen wiper on my side was broken by an overhanging branch and stopped working halfway into this morning's rainy stage.

"It hasn't been the easiest of days for us," recognised Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Dominique Serieys (France), "and the opposition is beginning to put the pressure on Stéphane's lead. But with three days remaining, you can count on us to do all we can to shrug
that off…"

Competitors will spend tonight in the ancient city of Veszprem – close to the northern tip of Lake Balaton, central Europe's biggest lake – before the first attempt at the week's longest stage (157km) which will be repeated on Friday. Tomorrow afternoon's 54km stage to the
southwest of Veszprem will also be repeated the following day.

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