FIA World Cup For Cross Country Rallies
FIA International Cup For Cross Country Bajas


Start: Nice, France / Finish: Djerba, Tunisia
Total Distance: 2274km (Liaison 232km / Competitive 2042km)

Stéphane Peterhansel / Jean-Paul Cottret
Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution
Winners - 2006 Rallye Optic 2000 Tunisie

Stéphane Peterhansel / Jean-Paul Cottret
Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution

Hiroshi Masuoka / Pascal Maimon
Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution

Stéphane Peterhansel / Jean-Paul Cottret
Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution

Luc Alphand / Gilles Picard
Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution

Stéphane Peterhansel / Jean-Paul Cottret
Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution
Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team driver Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret clinched their third victory in the Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia. The victory was the team’s 19th win out of 21 starts with the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution only defeats in Morocco in 2004 and South America’s Patagonia-Atacama Rally last March have blotted a clean sweep of international rally wins.

Peterhansel’s success marked Mitsubishi’s fourth win in Tunisia in the last five years and the Japanese manufacturer’s eighth triumph on the event since Frenchman Jean Da Silva’s first win back in 1987. Peterhansel and Cottret won the event together in 2002 and 2004 and ’Peter’ was twice a winner on factory motorcycles in 1990 and 1994.

The result also means that Stéphane Peterhansel joins his Mitsubishi team mate Luc Alphand at the head of the driver’s points standings in this year’s FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup. Alphand claimed 15 points for his victory in last month’s Patagonia-Atacama Rally. Peterhansel’s winning margin over Volkswagen’s Giniel de Villiers was 7m 13s, with third-placed Jean-Louis Schlesser 15m 33s adrift.

"It’s a great feeling to win here again," said Peterhansel. "I remember three years ago, on the final stage, we were leading and we were forced to stop with a fire just 50 km from the end. After a bad Dakar it is good to win here again. It was a fast race with a strong entry. After 66 km on the final stage, Giniel passed me. I started slowly on the last day. I heard his horn and he passed me. I tried to follow him, but he had a good pace and I lost a couple of minutes with a tricky navigational section near the finish on the beach."

Peterhansel trailed Volkswagen’s Carlos Sainz after the opening super special stage at Levens, near Nice, but hit the front on the first desert stage around the Ras El Oued bivouac, near Remada. He was able to control the race from the front from then on and set three outright fastest stage times on his way to victory. Schlesser set a pair of fastest times in his Buggy and Giniel de Villiers set two fastest times, including the final stage.

"This was a tough rally and I am delighted that we have a victory," said MMSP’s Team Director Dominique Serieys. "Our rivals also had problems with one car. We have learnt a lot for the next Dakar. We are still winning. We have now won in Dubai, Dakar. South America and, now, here in Tunisia. Our new car is coming and that can only make us stronger in the future. I am proud of our team and I am positive about the future."

"I am delighted for the entire team and would like to thank them for their efforts this week," said MMSP’s Team President Isao Torii. "This is another major step towards the next Dakar. Stéphane has regained his confidence with this win. Hiroshi’s goal is the next Dakar. He and Luc had bad luck, but they have both learned from this event and we hope that this will stand them in good stead in the future."

Japanese team mate Hiroshi Masuoka and co-driver Pascal Maimon lost their chance of a potential podium finish when they suffered transmission woes on Sunday’s Ksar Ghilane loop stage and were unable to complete the stage in just front-wheel drive.

But the duo were permitted to restart on the final morning from 31st place in the overall standings with a 15-hour time penalty imposed. They duly set the fourth fastest time on the final stage between Ksar Ghilane and El Kantara, overtaking 25 cars in the process.

"We wanted to finish the stage on Sunday, but it was not possible," said Masuoka. "You can drive in rear-wheel drive, but not in front-wheel drive over this terrain. I wasn’t sure what caused the mechanical failure. It was sudden and very disappointing. But I wanted to start the final stage today. I passed many cars. The Sentinel system worked well and everyone let me through, but it was not possible to set the fastest time."

Masuoka had struggled to maintain the pace of the leading trio after suffering a couple of costly punctures early in the rally. There was no doubting his outright pace, but the Japanese star suffered cruel luck even before a sudden high-speed differential failure robbed him of fourth place in the overall standings on the penultimate stage around Ksar Ghilane.

Mitsubishi team management were unable to decipher what caused the transmission problem, but it meant that Masuoka was unable to complete the sixth stage of the event and he duly incurred 15 hours of time penalties and slipped to 31st in the overall standings. Phillipe Gache’s late retirement with engine problems on the final stage moved Masuoka back into the top 30.

Only two of the three Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolutions reached the finish: Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard held second overall at the start of the El Borma to Ksar Ghilane stage on Easter Saturday, but were forced to retire the third Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution after an accident.

Alphand last year’s winner in Tunisia - sustained a minor hand injury in the incident, but the car’s integral roll cage was damaged by the impact and team management had no alternative but to withdraw this year’s Dakar Rally winners from the event.

Alphand had been comfortably running in second position and was determined to challenge his team mate Peterhansel for the outright victory. He had already won two events this season Dakar and Patagonia-Atacama. But an eight-kilometer navigational error cost him dearly on the Nekrif to El Borma stage and he was under pressure to reduce the gap on his team mate when he crashed.

"It was a freak accident and so annoying for me," admitted Alphand. "I was distracted at a crucial braking point and missed the corner. My speed was too high and we went over a ditch and rolled several times. It was my first accident of this kind in a rally car. I am bitterly disappointed for the entire team."

To make matters worse, Alphand rolled his car within sight of the assistance route and in front of a watching MMSP Team President Isao Torii and MMSP Team Director Dominique Serieys!

After scrutineering and documentation in Nice on the French Riviera on Friday, April 7th and Saturday, April 8th, the event got underway with a timed Prologue stage on Sunday, April 9th. The entire field of bikes, cars, officials and support teams then boarded a Mediterranean ferry bound for Tunis, before the event proceeded in Africa on April 10th with a non-competitive road liaison section between Tunis and the first overnight halt at Ras El Oued, near Tataouine.

The first of seven desert selective sections took place between Tataouine and Remada in the south of the country on Tuesday, April 11th and was followed by a Remada loop stage on Wednesday, April 12th. Competitive action continued on Thursday, April 13th with a tricky desert stage to the remote outpost at El Borma, near the Algerian frontier, in western Tunisia.

An El Borma loop stage on Good Friday was followed by a timed section to Ksar Ghilane on Easter Saturday and a loop stage around Ksar Ghilane on Easter Sunday (April 16th). The event drew to a conclusion on the holiday island of Djerba in eastern Tunisia, on Monday, April 17th, after a final selective section from the town of Ksar Ghilane.

This year’s Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia was held over a compact total route of 2,274 km, of which 2,042 km were competitive.

Pos Driver
Vehicle Cat
1 Stephane Peterhansel
Jean-Paul Cottret
Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution T1
19:09:17 **:**
2 Giniel De Villiers
Dirk Von Zitzewitz
Volkswagen  T1
19:14:30 +5:13
3 Jean Louis Schlesser
Francois Borsotto
Schlesser-Ford  T1
19:22:50 +13:33
4 Krzysztof Holowczyc
Jean Marc Fortin
Nissan  T1
21:00:11 +1:50:53
5 Sergey Shmakov
Sergey Mishin
Buggy  T1
23:39:52 +4:30:35
6 Alain Thuilliez
Yves Kornstein
Nissan  T1
24:38:56 +5:29:38
7 Isabelle Patissier
Thierry Delli Zotti
Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution T1
25:57:42 +6:48:25
8 Jean-Claude Reboux
Jacky Lechleiter
Volkswagen  T1
26:07:52 +6:58:35
9 Madalena Antas
Jean Michel Polato
Nissan  T1
26:40:25 +7:31:08
10 Ian Rochelle
Robert Pugh
Bowler  T1
27:33:15 +8:23:58
11 Ludovic Leloup
Sofiane Driss
Toyota  T2
27:42:32 +8:33:15
12 Philippe Pinchedez
Laurence Pinchedez
Toyota  T2
27:47:35 +8:38:18
13 Jean Pierre Strugo
Yves Ferri
Mercedes  T1
28:06:34 +8:57:17
14 Maxence Maurice
Fabien Lamidey
Bowler  T1
28:07:04 +8:57:47
15 Stephane Posteau
Patrick Antoniollo
Nissan  T1
28:09:21 +9:00:04
16 Alain Raynal
Jean-Marc Panis
Toyota  T2
31:09:08 +11:59:51
17 Francisco Inocencio
Paulo Fiuza
Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution T2
31:16:24 +12:07:07
18 Bertrand Honvaut
Pascal Milleville
Bowler  T1
31:21:50 +12:12:33
19 Jean Antoine Sabatier
André Fournol
Nissan  T2
32:19:45 +13:10:28
20 Jean-Marie Davoy
Marc Jourdan
Toyota  T2
35:33:32 +16:24:14
21 Med Anis Keskes
Karim Marrakchi
Toyota  T2
36:02:38 +16:53:20
22 Regis Delahaye
Dominique Bourdon
Isuzu  T2
36:04:02 +16:54:44
23 Guillaume Balloy
Frederic Becart
Bowler  T1
36:24:25 +17:15:08
24 Laszlo Palik
Gabor Darazsi
Nissan  T1
36:29:33 +17:20:15
25 Paulo De Almeida Nobre
Luis Carlos Palu
Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution T2
38:47:34 +19:38:17
26 Claude Pardigon
Dominique Garin
Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution T1
39:06:56 +19:57:39
27 Hatern Achour
Ons Driss
Toyota  T2
39:42:52 +20:33:35
28 Hiroshi Masuoka
Pascal Maimon
Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution T1
41:31:11 +22:21:54
29 Ghilene Baaziz
Abdelmonem Bardi
Toyota  T2
42:32:00 +23:22:43
30 Hend Chaouch
Ramzi Ateb
Toyota  T2
44:19:17 +25:10:00
31 Aad Van Der Voort
Ed Vink
Land Rover  T1
46:07:22 +26:58:05
32 Antoine Maze Sencier
Christophe Crespo
Mercedes  T1
46:58:42 +27:49:25
33 Nicolas Clerget
Laurent Guyot
Toyota  T2
49:13:09 +30:03:52
34 Gerard Benielli
Jean-Bruno Lomelet
Renault  T1
51:03:15 +31:53:58
35 Francis Stevy
Thierry Ruyselaar
Land Rover  T1
62:29:39 +43:20:22
36 Marc Racine
Richard Cretier
Mercedes  T1
80:47:57 +61:38:39

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