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CC Spaniard Joan Roma loses thrilling Transiberico Rally in final kilometers

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

Vodafone Transiberico Rally, May 12th-15th, 2006
2006 FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, round three

Leg 4 - Liaison 146.04 km, Special 112.32 km, Liaison 14.71 km, Special 112.32 km, Liaison 14.71 km, Special 112.32 km, Liaison 254.29 km – Total 766.61 km

Weather conditions: hot and sunny with a slight breeze – 16C-28C

For immediate release
Monday, May 15th 2006

REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART DRIVER ROMA LOSES
THRILLING TRANSIBERICO RALLY IN FINAL KILOMETERS

• Spaniard Roma edged out of victory by rival De Villiers on final stage;
• French duo of Alphand and Picard consolidate third overall

ESTORIL (Portugal) – Spaniard Joan ‘Nani’ Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne were deprived of victory on the final kilometres of the final stage of a breathtaking 2nd Vodafone Transiberico Rally, when they lost crucial seconds and the win to arch South African rival Giniel de Villiers, today (Monday).

The Spaniard, who only switched from motorcycle enduro racing to join the Japanese manufacturer’s team at the end of the 2004 season, had increased his 25-second overnight lead to 36 seconds after the fourth leg’s first two stages and was cruising to an emphatic win until the last dramatic kilometers. Team mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard finished a solid and distant third overall in a second Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution.

“I cannot believe it,” said Roma. “I drove a good stage and could not believe that I had lost the race. I am so disappointed. I improved on each of the laps today and set a better time every lap. I was absolutely flat out this morning. I had no option. You know if you make a slight mistake, each second lost is going through your mind. I think this is the hardest I have ever pushed a car since I switched from bike racing.

“When we passed a section which I thought was flat out on the first lap, I told Henri and he made a mental note to modify our road book for the next lap. There were many places where I thought that we could be quicker on the repeat runs.”

Alphand and Picard began the day in third place and the Frenchman accepted that it was unrealistic to think about catching his rivals. He slowed to a sensible pace to conserve the car and earned a second podium place for Mitsubishi,

“Today was merely a case of making sure I finished third and not damaging the car, because it is needed for the next race in Morocco,” admitted Alphand. “I knew that Nani and Giniel would be pushing hard and there was no way that I could make up eight minutes. The starter problem yesterday was so disappointing. A puncture can happen at any time, but to lose four minutes with that problem really cost us the race. One big positive though was to regain my confidence after the accident in Tunisia.”

Today’s trio of 112.32 km special stages were located to the north of Portalegre in a rural region to the south and east of Castelo Branco. The special ran in an anti-clockwise direction, started to the west of the town and skirted Vila Velha de Bodao, before heading in a north-easterly direction to a finish near the town. Teams then embarked upon a 254.29 km liaison section across the breadth of Portugal to Estoril.

Roma and De Villiers were inseparable after 16 km of the opening stage, but Roma edged into a seven-second lead at the 49 km point, with Alphand and Kahle trailing well behind. Roma led by 10s after 65 km and nine seconds after 88 km, but De Villiers regained vital seconds over the faster closing kilometers, as Roma reached the finish a mere one second ahead of his rival to extend his lead to 26s. Alphand used the opportunity to try out suspension settings and set the third fastest time, the Frenchman finishing the stage 2m 20s behind Roma.

As the excitement and tension mounted, the leaders embarked upon the second lap. “I was feeling a lot happier before the second lap,” admitted Roma. “It is much better when you have seen the stage and know what to expect, but I am sure it was the same for Giniel.”

Roma and De Villiers were again closely matched, but Roma managed to edge a further 10 seconds ahead over the sixth stage and headed into the final 112.32 km section with a lead of 36s in the overall standings. Alphand was an untroubled third, 13m 32s adrift.

The drama continued with De Villiers edging seven seconds ahead of Roma at the 16 km point on the final stage. The difference remained the same after 32 km, but Roma had overturned the difference by PC1 and was eight seconds ahead of his rival and 44s to the good with less than half of the stage to complete.

The difference was up to 11s on the stage after 65 km, but De Villiers had overturned the momentum after 88 km and was running 16s in front of Roma. It set the scene for a thrilling showdown, with the Spaniard defending a 20s lead over the closing 24 km. But Roma was unable to hold De Villiers at bay over the final nail-biting kilometers and the South African took full advantage to take the outright lead and victory by the margin of just 24 seconds after nearly 15 hours of racing.

“It was a truly exciting race and one on which the whole team can be proud of their performances,” said MMSP’s Team President Isao Torii. “I am obviously disappointed for Nani. He did not know where he had lost those seconds at the end of the last stage. He had beaten his first two lap times and is improving all the time as a driver. We must accept this defeat and use it to make ourselves stronger for the next race and for the Dakar Rally next year.”

The 2nd Transiberico Rally ran over a total route of 2,075.85 km and 1,173.08 km were competitive, with teams tackling a total of seven timed special stages and a super special over four days. Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team driver Joan Roma won five specials, including the opening timed super special, while Volkswagen’s De Villiers clinched victories on the first, fourth and final stages.

Positions on SS5 (112.32 km):
1. Joan Roma (E)/Henri Magne (AND) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 1h 33m 12s
2. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 1h 33m 13s
3. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 1h 35m 32s
4. Matthias Kahle (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 1h 35m 40s

Positions on SS6 (112.32 km):
1. Joan Roma (E)/Henri Magne (AND) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 1h 31m 43s
2. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 1h 31m 53s
3. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 1h 34m 30s
4. Matthias Kahle (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 1h 34m 34s

Positions on SS7 (112.32 km):
1. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 1h 30m 32s
2. Joan Roma (E)/Henri Magne (AND) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 1h 31m 32s
3. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 1h 32m 50s
4. Matthias Kahle (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 1h 33m 36s

Provisional final positions at end of leg 4:
1. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 14h 51m 41s
2. Joan Roma (E)/Henri Magne (AND) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 14h 52m 05s
3. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 15h 06m 55s
4. Matthias Kahle (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 15h 39m 14s
5. Pedro Grancha (P)/Pedro Tavares (P) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 16h 13m 49s
6. Filipe Campos (P)/Jaime Baptista (P) Renault Mégane 16h 27m 37s

Ends

Copyright free photographs and driver profiles for editorial media only can be downloaded from www.mmsp-media.com

For further information please contact Florian Moser, MMSP’s Communications Department:

Telephone +49 (0) 172 6697 578
E-mail f.moser@mitsubishi-motor-sports.com



Date issued: 15/05/2006

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