Peterhansel and Biasion head entry in Tunisia
MITSUBISHI MOTOR SPORT NEWS
For immediate release
PETERHANSEL AND BIASION HEAD
MITSUBISHI'S CHALLENGE IN TUNISIA
TOULON (France): Mitsubishi Motors bids for a third successive victory in 2003 and to extend its early lead in the FIA World Cup, when Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel and Italian Miki Biasion take part in the nine-day Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia, the second round of the global Cross Country series, between April 5th-13th.
Mitsubishi's new Pajero* Evolution remains unbeaten since its competitive debut in last November's UAE Desert Challenge. This year Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka won the Telefonica Dakar Rally for the second time and began his challenge for honours in the FIA World Cup by winning the recent Baja Italy.
Mitsubishi last won the FIA World Cup for Manufacturers' in 2001, but the team is bidding to win the series again this year by tackling select rounds of the series in the Pajero* Evolution.
Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret won the Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia last year on the Frenchman's first rally for the Mitsubishi team. He followed up that debut success with victory in Dubai and second places in both the Dakar and Baja Italy races, after losing the lead on both events in dramatic circumstances.
~After the Dakar disappointment I was even more determined to bounce back,~ said Peterhansel. ~Everything was going well in Italy and then I had that steering bracket problem near the end. I was stunned. It was so disappointing. Last year in Tunisia was successful for me. I enjoy competing in the dunes and did well in Tunisia during this year's Dakar. It will be difficult, but I am looking forward to making amends.~
His Mitsubishi team mate in Tunisia will be the twice former World Rally Champion Miki Biasion and co-driver Tiziano Siviero. Biasion made his debut for Mitsubishi with third place in November's UAE Desert Challenge. He set the fastest time on the Abu Rish to Sharm El Sheikh stage of January's Dakar Rally, before slipping from fifth to 15th overalll after a time penalty was imposed on his classic Pajero*.
The Italian is currently recovering from a broken arm sustained in a freak skiing accident, but was an interested spectator on the recent Baja Italy and is looking forward to his first appearance for Mitsubishi in a Pajero* Evolution.
The Mitsubishi Motors team faces stiff competition in Tunisia from the Nissan of South African Giniel de Villiers and the return of defending World Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser in his revised Ford-engined Buggy.
~Tunisia is a difficult rally,~ said Team Manager Dominique Serieys. ~Stephane won the rally last year and is determined to put in a good performance. It will be Miki's first event in the Evolution and he is looking forward to the challenge.~
The Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia begins with scrutineering and documentation at the Plage du Mourrillon in Toulon (today) Friday, April 4th. There will then be a short Prologue at Seyne-sur-Mer before the entire caravan of organisers, teams and officials set sail for Tunis.
The first stage takes place in Tunisia on Monday, April 7th, with competitive action reaching its conclusion on Sunday, April 13th.
Organised by the Neveu-Pelletier Organisation, the majority of the timed selectives will take place in the south of the country, with stages featuring treacherous dune crossings in the region of El Borma.
Last year's Rally of Tunisia featured a violent sandstorm - some of the worst weather conditions ever seen on a cross-country rally. A route through Tunisia was also used on the Dakar Rally this year for the first time since 1989.
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