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American Mike Petersen Makes Massive Leap in Central Europe Rally Rankings
Petersen Motorsports 15th Quick in Stage 5, Moves to 24th Overall with Two Stages To Go
VESZPREM, Hungary, April 24, 2008 – One day ago American Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA) sat 67th in the overall standings of the first-ever Central Europe Rally. Today, the No. 217 Petersen Motorsports/MMPIE/PAWS/Petersen Holdings/BF Goodrich Chevrolet sits 24th with two stages remaining in the Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.) sanctioned event. The incredible 43-place leap came as a result of today’s 15th-place finish in the endurance rally’s fifth stage. It was the second day in a row that the United States-based team was able to run the T1.3 class buggy in the top-15. Petersen and co-driver Matthew Stevenson (Ipswich, England) took only two hours, 42 minutes and 28 seconds to cover the 131 miles/211 km of the two timed Specials and maintain the top-15 status. The Wide Open Dakar-entered buggy will attempt to break into the top-15 in Friday’s Stage 6 and the top-10 in the rally-raid finale on Saturday. Petersen is now just 20 minutes outside the Top-20 and two hours, 30 minutes and 24 seconds off the overall car leader; Carlos Sainz in a factory Volkswagen.
The American team suffered serious teething problems with the new buggy during Stages Two and Three that dropped them from 14th in the car category to last in the field. Today’s impressive run showed the true potential of the team but it was not without some challenges. The same malady that so hurt the team in the early stages, inoperative windshield wipers, came back to haunt them again today. However, a combination of better conditions and familiarity kept the car from suffering the same fate as before.
Stage Five was comprised of a 97.5 miles/157 km Special, the longest timed portion of the rally, and a second 33.5 mile/54 km Special. The fast, first Special suited the Petersen buggy well and much of the gain came there. The second Special, dusty and very tight, was less well-matched to the buggy. However, Petersen’s time was good enough to keep the No. 217 in the Top-15. An additional 66.4 miles/107 km of Connections got the competitors from one timed portion to the next. It was the only time in the rally-raid that the Specials (130.4 miles/210 km) were longer than the combined Connections
Friday’s penultimate stage promises to be a mixed-bag for the two-time American Le Mans Series GT2 championship-winning team owner because it is the same course. Unlike previous repeat stages, Stage Six will not be reversed. It will follow the exact 97.5 miles/157 km first Special and 33.5 mile/54 km second Special. The teams will start and finish in the exact location they did today; Veszprem, Hungary. The course will have new challenges primarily because of the damage done in today’s Specials. Stage Six is an ideal setting for the No. 217 to make its mark in the top-15 as the first Special fits the setup of the BF Goodrich-shod buggy perfectly. The second Special will offer the same challenges it did today but this technical and twisty layout could be in even worse condition on Friday because of the weather magnifying the handling issues of the buggy.
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.
Mike Petersen, Driver, No. 217: “We started way back and passed a lot of cars in the first Special. We had to stop twice along the way because the windshield wipers stopped working. I think without that problem we would have had a lot better finish. The second stage today was tight, twisty, dusty and through the forest and not really well suited for the car. We got a flat about 15 k [kilometers, nine miles] in and that set us back there. We are slowly but surely climbing our way back up. Tomorrow should be good. I am going to try and bust into the top-10 in the first Special and see what we can do in the second Special in the afternoon.”
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