back to articles
Petersen Motorsports Announces 2008 Dakar Rally Series Program
Central Europe Rally Marks Debut of American Team and Driver Mike Petersen
LAS VEGAS, Nevada, April 11, 2008 – Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA) announced his participation in the 2008 Dakar Rally Series today from his home in Las Vegas, Nev., USA. The one-time Dakar Rally starter (2007) is anxious to return to the sport after the disappointing cancelation of the Euromilhões Dakar 2008 in January. Petersen, who finished 23rd overall in his rookie run at Dakar driving a rented buggy, will debut his No. 217 Petersen Motorsports/MMPIE/PAWS/Petersen Holdings/BF Goodrich Chevrolet in the Central Europe Rally with co-driver Matthew Stevenson (Ipswich, England), a 12-time Dakar starter. The six day, 1,616 mile/2,600 km rally-raid travels through Hungary and Romania from April 20 until April 26. It is the first event of the newly announced Dakar Rally Series sanctioned by the Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.).
Unlike the more direct route of the Dakar rally-raid, which was scheduled for 5,762 mile/9,273 km, the Central Europe Rally creates a loop across the countries of Hungary and Romania. The Petersen Motorsports buggy will undergo technical inspection in the ancient city of Budapest on Saturday, April 19. The following day, the capital city of Hungary will be the launch point for the competitors as they travel on the first stage to Baia Mare in Romania. Due to recent snows in Romania, the originally charted course has been changed with the new map book taking the rally on several loops of Baia Mare. Stage Two (Monday, April 21) will be run in its entirety there with the Stage Three (Tuesday, April 22) starting in Baia Mare before finishing in Debrecen. Stage Four (Wednesday, April 23) continues the trek eastward entering the bivouac in the city of Veszprem in Hungary. Stages Five (Thursday, April 24) and Six (Friday, April 25) will take place in Veszprem. The final stage, Stage Seven, leaves Veszprem and crosses the rally’s finish line in Balatonfüred/Balaton Lake, Hungary on Saturday, April 26.
Each day is made up of three separate stages within the stage. The opening “Connection” or transit stage brings the competitors to the “Special” stage zone. It is within the “Special” that Petersen, one of only four Americans entered in the car class, will be timed over the course setting the standings for each stage and the rally as a whole. A total of 684 miles/1,100 Km will make up the “Specials”. Once scored, Petersen will run the third leg of the day, the second transit stage, to the nightly campground/bivouac. This process will occur seven times between April 20 and 26.
As it had for the canceled Euromilhões Dakar, Petersen Motorsports has recruited Darren Skilton’s (Lake Wood, Calif., USA) Wide Open Dakar to assemble a T1.3 class (two wheel-drive, two-passenger, enclosed body) buggy with a chassis designed by off-road legend Bill Savage. The Petersen entry brings together the best of both the world’s of US-type desert racing (Petersen Motorsports combined with White Lightning Racing for three Baja 500 and Baja 1000 victories and well over 50 other off-road titles) and the traditional Dakar buggy. The vehicle should posses a unique balance on the yet untested stages through Hungary and Romania. The SPD chassis (the designation for first letter of the last name of the company’s founders: Bill Savage, David Perrault and Ivan Davis) is clothed in an original body by Mike McQueen of McQueen Prototypes. The entire piece was built in Skilton’s Southern California facility with shop assistance of Nate Engel, Matt Cruson and Eric Schmid. Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing’s top technicians Dennis Chizma, Crew Chief (Las Vegas, Nev.) and Lead Technician Nico Castellaccio (Tracy, Calif., USA) further assisted in the build in California. Chizma will help oversee the maintenance of the buggy during the rally at the nightly bivouacs.
The Dakar Rally Series will be 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. It will be the first time the rally, which dates back to 1979, has ever not finished in Africa. Petersen Motorsports will enter the 2009 running with the same buggy and team that the American operation competes 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.
Michael Petersen, Owner/Driver:
(About the Central Europe Rally): “The cancellation of the 2008 Dakar was a major let down. Now, to finally have a rally for the teams to go to is a great challenge. The Central Europe Rally in Hungary and Romania is going to make things more even for all of the teams. Our entire team has been testing up to this event. It is going to be very different than Africa but still very fast and challenging for all the competitors. We want to go out and put a relatively new car through the paces against the very top level teams that have been entered for this rally.”
(About the strategy of the rally): “This event is short compared to Dakar. It will be quite fast and technical. The goals that we have are to run clean and stay out of trouble. After several days of racing we’ll see how things pan out and decide if progress can be made for positions. We’ll decide whether or not to push or stay where we are. I would be quite happy for a top-ten finish. Really, to be in the top-three of our class is my goal for this race. Matt and I just want to get in the buggy and race! The team has been waiting to do this since the cancelation of the Dakar.”
(About the biggest challenge of the Central Europe Rally): “The biggest challenge for us is really to get the car sorted out in rally race conditions for the 2009 Dakar race. The car has been quite good during the testing that we have done in Spain, and I am looking forward to what it can do in the conditions that we are going to be facing in Hungary and Romania. Those conditions are really unknown to all the competitors. The rally should be quite enjoyable for Matt and myself and the rest of the crew.”
(About getting back to rallying): “To get back to a rally is a big relief for the team. The hard work and the money had been spent and to have nothing to do, other than testing the car and getting it ready, for quite some time is a real bummer! Soon the team will be heading over to Europe and even though there will be some who cannot make it for other reasons, it will be a big relief just to get things going under race conditions. We are all looking forward to a good and safe rally event.”
(About future plans): “We are thinking about doing another Rally in August down in Australia to put even more miles on the car. We want to get ready for next year’s Dakar race in Argentina and Chile so the more miles and different terrains will help us prepare for the ‘new’ Dakar Rally.”
More on Petersen Motorsports can be found at
To learn more about the Central Europe Rally and the Dakar Series please visit