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Masuoka clinches eighth Dakar Rally victory for Mitsubishi

2003 TELEFONICA DAKAR

Press Release No. 19

For immediate release
Sunday, January 19th, 2003

LEG 17: SHARM EL SHEIKH (Liaison 13 kms, Stage 34 kms, Liaison 9 kms)

MASUOKA CLINCHES EIGHTH DAKAR
RALLY VICTORY FOR MITSUBISHI

Fontenay and Peterhansel complete clean sweep of podium places; Sousa fourth

SHARM EL SHEIKH (Egypt): Mitsubishi clinched a record-breaking eighth Telefonica Dakar Rally success, when Japanese driver Hiroshi Masuoka and German co-driver Andreas Schulz secured victory over a 34 kms special stage, near Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, today (Sunday).

The result completed a hat-trick of Mitsubishi Motors Team victories on the gruelling 19-day race across five countries, which had started in Marseilles on New Years Day. Masuoka, the defending champion at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution, became the first Mitsubishi driver to win the event on two occasions.

~I am so very happy to win this 25th Dakar Rally,~ said Masuoka. ~This year was a great race. It was fast and there were some good stages in Tunisia and Libya. It was hard. Every day we were doing 160/180 km/h and it was exciting to race against (Stephane) Peterhansel. But in the second half we were more careful and reduced our speed to save the car. I was waiting in case he made a mistake.

~I feel sad for Stephane because he had a good race. One small mistake was expensive. It was important for Mitsubishi to win this race and I hope that this continues. I look forward to competing with Stephane again in the future.

~The car is fantastic. It was developed last year and finished at the end of August. Mitsubishi have worked very hard on the suspension settings. We tested the car for two weeks in Morocco and it showed potential from the start.~

It was also the second Dakar victory for Schulz, the winner in 2001 with Jutta Klenschmidt. For me it was maybe an easier victory this time. I have now won twice with Mitsubishi as well. Maybe in 2004 if we can develop the car still further we can win again, said the German.

The French pairing of Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Gilles Picard finished second overall in their classic Pajero, despite losing 45 minutes in soft sand in Tunisia and sustaining several punctures.

~Gilles and I are obviously happy to take second position,~ said Fontenay. ~But we would have liked to do this in a different way. We are disappointed for Stephane and Jean-Paul (Cottret), because they were driving a perfect race. It has happened before and it will happen again.~

Team mates Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret rounded off the podium places in third overall. They had led outright from the first stage in France on January 2nd to within 45 kms of the end of the penultimate stage on Saturday before losing the lead when a collision with a rock wrecked a wheel.

~It is not very easy to understand why these things happen and why I lost the race,~ said Peterhansel. ~It is only a sport. There are many things more important, but I will come back with complete motivation. Maybe there is a logic in what happened. Because it happened to Hiroshi as well two years ago. Maybe it will be my turn next year.~

Portugal's Carlos Sousa and French co-driver Henri Magne finished the rally in fourth position and successfully fended off a late challenge from the South African Giniel de Villiers.

~I'm pleased with fourth because I was fifth twice before,~ said Sousa. ~My car is much more competitive over the technical stages, like the one we had on Saturday. I was one of the fastest drivers over the rocky sections. I dont have the top speed and the gearing of the cars in front and therefore I have no chance of beating them unless they have problems.~

Miki Biasion and co-driver Tiziano Siviero looked set for a top three position after winning the last of the longer stages from Abu Rish on Saturday. But the Italians suffered the agony of a jammed gearbox on the podium in Sharm El Sheikh and a 10-hour time penalty was imposed by the panel of Stewards, as a result of the Italians making emergency repairs in a control zone. This dropped the twice former FIA World Rally Champion to 15th overall in the final classification.

~I didn't really sleep last night thinking about the time penalty,~ said Biasion. ~But it is better to forget the past and look ahead to the future. I felt that I did a good job for the team and enjoyed working with such a friendly group of people. The Dakar was harder than I thought it would be. But I am here at the finish, made no mistakes and had no accidents. This is the most important. Stephane won six Dakars and has lost his first one in a car. I also feel that I have lost a top three place, but I have plenty of time in the future.~

There was further success for Mitsubishi down the leaderboard. Spanish off-road champion Jose-Luis Monterde and co-driver Rafael Tornabell clinched 10th place and were classified as the top privateers in their Ralliart Pajero. They also finished second behind Frenchman Luc Alphand in the Super Production diesel category.

Brazilians Klever Kolberg and Roldan Lourival were 13th and won the Total Trophy for Amateur drivers. ~This year I think the Dakar was quite easy,~ said Kolberg. ~It was a fast Dakar. We had no problems any day. We just had to service the car to avoid potential problems. Even the navigation was not too difficult. I prefer the rally when we have more corners and more work for the drivers, like the last big stage in Egypt.~

Germany's Andrea Mayer made a successful transition from a bike to a car and was classified 21st in her Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero on her first Dakar on four wheels.

Positions after final leg (Top 10 only):
1. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 49h 08m 52s
2. Jean-Pierre Fontenay (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* 51h 01m 04s
3. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 51h 25m 20s
4. Carlos Sousa (P)/Henri Magne (F) Mitsubishi L200 Strakar 51h 36m 39s
5. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Pascal Maimon (F) Nissan Pick-Up 51h 54m 47s
6. Stephane Henrard (B)/Bobby Willis (GB) Volkswagen Tarek 52h 51m 07s
7. Ari Vatanen (SF)/Tina Thorner (S) Nissan Pick-Up 53h 34m 51s
8. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Tarek 57h 25m 48s
9. Luc Alphand (F)/Matthew Stevenson (GB) BMW X5 Rally-Raid 58h 04m 58s
10. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero* 58h 17m 11s

Ends

*Montero in Spanish-speaking countries/Shogun in the UK.

For more information, please contact: Daniel Nacass, General Manager PR (Mitsubishi Motors Europe BV) Tel + 31 204468371/Mobile + 31 610923842 and via e-mail: d.nacass@mitsubishi-motors-euro.com
or Cara de Vlaming by e-mail: cara@mdh.nl

Website: www.mitsubishimotorsport.com and click on the Dakar button for up-to-date photographs and on Press Release button for up-to-date information.

Date issued: 19/01/2003

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