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American Mike Petersen Begins Move Back Up Standings with Stage 4 of Central Europe Rally

Petersen Motorsports Finishes Longest Stage 39th, Gains One Position in Overall

VESZPREM, Hungary, April 23, 2008 – Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA) began his march back up through the running order of the inaugural Central Europe Rally today. Stage Four returned the No. 217 Petersen Motorsports/MMPIE/PAWS/Petersen Holdings/BF Goodrich Chevrolet to the site of the first stage where Petersen and co-driver Matthew Stevenson (Ipswich, England) finished 14th in the car class. The route, all within Hungary, from Debrecen to Veszprem was run in the reverse direction of Stage One but still proved much more to the liking of the new T1.3 class buggy. Petersen drove to 39th in the car category covering the two Special timed portions- combined a total of 93.2 miles/150 km- in two hours, 13 minutes and 23 seconds. Overall, the Wide Open Dakar-entered buggy sits 67th for the four stages held thus far. Petersen, one of only three American drivers in the event, has covered the four stages in 11 hours, 3 minutes and 53 seconds. He is currently 5 hours, 53 minutes and 18 seconds back from the category leading Mitsubishi factory entry of Stephane Peterhansel with three stages remaining.

The landscape of today’s 360.3 miles/580 km stage, including the Specials and four Connection legs, was a far better fit for the white buggy with the neon yellow roof and lightning bolts down its flanks than the mountains that composed the last two stages. Furthermore, the prime issue that slowed times on both Monday and Tuesday, a windshield wiper malfunction, did not come into play as the lower elevations did not see the rain, snow and mud of the mountain course. The buggy traversed 38.5 miles/62 km of sand and “woops” in the first Special and an additional 128 miles/206 km of paved roads to reach the second Special of the day. The second Special was a 54.7 mile/88 km timed run across fast, smooth flats and muddy, bumpy paths. Petersen and his British co-driver closed the longest stage of the rally-raid across Romania and Hungary with another 68.3 miles/110 km on paved roads. The competitors, now worn from non-stop driving and preparation over the last four days, will bed-down at a military base in Veszprem.

Unlike the traditional Dakar Rally where teams made huge leaps from country to country with each stage, the Central Europe Rally, sanctioned by the Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.), revisits many of the same locations from stage to stage. Stage Five is no exception. After leaving Veszprem in the morning, the Petersen Motorsports buggy will travel a total of 197 miles/317 km to arrive back in the same location Thursday evening. Again, two Specials will set the times for the day. At 97.5 miles/157 km, Special One is the longest timed portion of the rally. It follows one of the shortest Connections (6.8 mile/11 km). An additional 24.8 miles/40 km will bring the rally drivers to the second 33.5 mile/54 km Special before the 37.9 mile/61 km drive back to Veszprem. For the only time in the rally, the competitors will be timed more than they will be making the connection to the next Special (130.4 miles/210 km versus 66.4 miles/107 km).

Portions of Stage Five should help continue the Chevy-powered, two-wheel drive buggy’s move up the standings. The terrain is among the quickest that Petersen will see lending itself to the two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning team owner’s natural driving talent. However, not all will be picture perfect as the areas that are off-road are expected to be very technical and muddy further challenging the buggy’s setup.

The Dakar Rally Series is making its premiere with the Central Europe Rally, a precursor to the 2009 Dakar Rally. While the Dakar Rally has traditionally been held in Africa, due to political and safety concerns, the 2009 edition will travel through Argentina and Chile, January 3-19, 2009. Petersen Motorsports will enter the 2009 running with the same buggy and team that the American operation is competing with in the Central Europe Rally. As a rookie in the 2007 Dakar, Petersen earned an impressive finish of 23rd overall, fifth in the two-wheel drive class. He drove to a high stage finish of eighth-place in the final leg of the rally.

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