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American Mike Petersen Faces the Terrain, Elements and Mechanical Problems in Romania
Petersen Motorsports Teething Problems Lead to Stage 2 Struggles in Central Europe Rally
BAIA MARE, Romania, April 21, 2008 – Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA) fell from 14th to 72nd, car class, in the overall standings with the conclusion of today’s Stage Two of the Central Europe Rally. Petersen and co-driver Matthew Stevenson (Ipswich, England) opened the six day, 1,616 mile/2,600 km rally-raid through Hungary and Romania impressively with a 14th-place finish in the timed “Special” section yesterday. However, the two struggled with teething problems on the new No. 217 Petersen Motorsports/MMPIE/PAWS/Petersen Holdings/BF Goodrich Chevrolet in today’s 181 miles/292 km stage. Mechanical issues and heavy rains led to a laundry list of issues that impacted their day and left them sitting in a heavily forested ravine in Romania for 14 minutes. When the two crossed the timing beacon at the end of the 94 miles/152 km, the Wide Open Dakar-entered buggy was 74th on the day, two hours and 39-minutes behind the category leader with five stages remaining.
The Central Europe Rally, the first event of the Dakar Rally Series sanctioned by the Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.), marked the debut of the T1.3 class (two wheel-drive, two-passenger, enclosed body) buggy. The Central Europe Rally became the premiere for the custom-built vehicle when January’s Euromilhões Dakar 2008 was canceled for safety reasons. With little time to test, the much different conditions of this rally-raid have introduced elements not expected in the deserts of Africa for which the machine was designed. Unfortunately, the development issues have significantly hurt Petersen’s goal of a Top-10 finish in the event.
The troubles for the American team began when heavy rains flooded the tight and twisty mountain course. In the cold, wet conditions the buggy had a number of mechanical issues including inoperative windshield wipers. Exasperating the problem for the veteran off-road racer and one-time Dakar Rally starter was a setup that was not right for the rocky terrain and quick switchbacks that the No. 217 faced. Combined, the issues led to an “off” where Petersen plummeted down a small, densely forested ravine. Unable to extricate themselves, Petersen and Stevenson waited 14 minutes for a tow. Once out, the duo made their way to the end of the timed portion falling behind the factory-backed leaders. At the conclusion of the second Special of the day, the buggy- festooned in the colors so familiar to sports car racers around the world- traveled the 18.6 miles/30 km of the third leg of the stage.
Overnight, between Stage Two and Stage Three, the No. 217 crew will have to overcome not only the damage caused in the incident but, more importantly, the mechanical issues that plagued the team today. It will be critical to give Petersen a car that he can drive in Stage Three because the timed portion is the exact route run in Stage Two, only reversed! Organizers are planning to prepare the roads again overnight.
Stage Three will again be challenging taking the participants from Baia Mare back into Hungary and the city of Debrecen. The 94.4 mile/152 km Special will be part of a total day’s run of 271.5 miles/437 km with opening and closing road sections accounting for the remaining 177 miles/285 km.
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.
Michael Petersen, Driver: “That was a terrible stage. It was stony and really wet. The car just didn’t handle that well. About 15 km in we went off, thank goodness it was a cliff. Finally someone came in and, literally, yanked us out. Then we had a flat and the jack didn’t work. So, it was a frustrating stage. Water is everywhere. It is like driving in a river; a river on a mountain. We are pretty bummed. It is going to be pretty difficult to reach our goal for a finishing position but, there is still time left and we’ll try for at least the Top-20. The guys are working on the car now and we are going to go for it again tomorrow.”
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