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Mike Petersen Makes Incredible Comeback to Close Central Europe Rally 19th Overall
American Finishes 13th in Final Stage to Secure Top-20 Overall Result
LAKE BALATON, Hungary, April 26, 2008 – Mike Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA) dug deep within himself to pull the No. 217 Petersen Motorsports/MMPIE/PAWS/Petersen Holdings/BF Goodrich Chevrolet from last in the overall running order to 19th at today’s conclusion of the Central Europe Rally. Using a string of top-15 finishes in the last four stages, the American and co-driver Matthew Stevenson (Ipswich, England) pulled themselves from 72nd overall at the conclusion of Stage Two on Monday into the top-20 as the rally closed today. The final strong stage run came today as the Wide Open Dakar-entered two-wheel drive machine crossed the finish line 13th quickest for the last timed Special. Petersen, the third-highest ranking American in the field, completed all the Specials in 14 hours, 33 minutes and 54 seconds just three hours, 15 minutes and 46 seconds behind the rally-winning factory Volkswagen of Carlos Sainz (Spain). In total, Specials and Connections, the American team covered 1,616 mile/2,600 km since Sunday, April 20.
Despite being the longest Special of the rally-raid, today’s single, 96.3 mile/155 km Special was among the fastest of the event. As has proven the case in recent stages, the quicker terrain has lent itself well to the No. 217 buggy and Petersen’s driving style. Today’s Special took just one hour, 49 minutes and nine seconds to complete. As he did in his single Euromilhões Dakar start in 2007, Petersen saved much of his best driving for last. The two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans GT class-winning owner drove onto the finish ramp just 11 minutes and 38 seconds behind Sainz who won not only the rally but today’s stage as well.
During the course of the event Petersen’s T1.3 class buggy suffered from multiple teething problems that set the overall program back. These problems, primarily in the windshield wiper and defogging system of the new buggy, were magnified by cold and wet conditions on the mountain stages of the six day rally-raid that traveled through Hungary and Romania. That windshield wiper issue led to an overall slowdown during those stages and played a part in an “off” that cost the driving pair of Petersen/Stevenson nearly 15 minutes in the second stage. A one hour penalty followed due to the need to make repairs. All told, without the teething problems and the penalty, it is easy to follow the course of events to the top-15 finishing position that Petersen had set as his original goal at the inaugural event of the Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.) sanctioned Dakar Rally Series.
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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