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Dakar Series – Central Europe Rally (April 19-26)-Leg 5

April 28th, 2008



Thursday, April 24, 2008

Leg 5 (Thursday April 24, 2008), Veszprem (Hungary) - Veszprem (Hungary):
Road section: 11 km
SS5A: 157 km
Road section: 0.5 km
Road section: 35 km
SS5B: 54km
Road section: 61 km
Total distance: 318.5 km


The fifth day of the 2008 Central Europe Rally featured a menu of 211km of competitive action, including a second visit this morning to the longest test of the week close to Lake Balaton in Hungary. The 157km run saw Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart's Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret (France) momentarily dislodged from the lead following a puncture, but the Frenchman overcame a gearbox problem on the afternoon's test to hit back and retrieve top spot this evening. Meanwhile, two third-fastest times for Nani Roma/Lucas Cruz (Spain) have taken the Spanish pair to overnight third, and Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard have moved up two places into fifth place.

After a cold and overcast start from Veszprem this morning, the clouds quickly cleared to make way for warm springtime weather in the Lake Balaton region as competitors set out for the day's opener, a 157km loop to the northeast of Lake Balaton. The first stage turned out to be a drama-packed affair, with two of the front-runners – De Villiers and All Attiyah – both falling foul of the hazardous conditions, while World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz profited from Peterhansel's puncture to ease into a temporary lead by the margin of just three seconds.

"About 25km from the end of the long stage, we were forced to stop and change a wheel after one of our tyres was holed by a piece of metal," related Peterhansel. "We had a bit of trouble changing the wheel and the operation took a minute or so longer than it should have done.

Otherwise Carlos wouldn't have passed us." After being toppled from the lead, Peterhansel decided to push hard on the afternoon's test and all was going well until the Frenchman began to have trouble with his gearbox: "We only had the first three gears for the final 20km of the stage, and that was obviously a huge handicap along the long straights. I was surprised at the finish to see that I had regained the lead by 22 seconds!"

Nani Roma put in a consistent drive to secure two third-fastest times and he was rewarded by a footing on tonight's provisional podium: "Today's stages were fast, with lots of long straights and you couldn't always see the hazards coming. You had to be on your guard all the time, but I think I went quite well this morning. The navigation was complex but Lucas did a fine job. After the long break between the two stages, I had a little difficultly settling into the same fast
rhythm, and we dropped some time when we had to cover maybe 12km at the end of the test in the dust of Chicherit who had stopped to change a puncture."

Luc Alphand was pleased with his day and, like his Spanish team-mate, moved up the order to put a third Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution MPR13 in this evening's top-five. "The navigation was very tricky again but Gilles was on the case," he reported in Veszprem this evening. "We settled into a good pace for most of the day, but we had the frustration of being passed on a stage again – this time by Gordon, this morning – and that always means extra time lost because you have to pull over and then follow in their dust. The second stage was more fun, but you had to be on your toes all the time, and we saw quite a few top drivers in difficulty today."

"Stéphane, Luc and Nani all did a great job today," remarked Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Dominique Serieys (France). "After five days, there's less than half a minute in it between the top two and I think that says a great deal for the level of the competition in this discipline today. But we've got another long day ahead of us tomorrow and we can't afford to take our eye off the ball for a moment."

After the second of the three nights scheduled in Veszprem, survivors will contest exactly the same route as today, with the same two stages (157km and 54km).

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