CC Alphand takes second place and leads Mitsubishi challenge into Arabian desert

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

2006 UAE Desert Challenge
FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, final round

Leg 1: Umm Suqueim, Dubai – Umm Suqueim, Dubai
Liaison 5 km, Special 2 km, Liaison 5 km - Total 12 km

Weather conditions: hot and sunny – 36-39 C

For immediate release
Sunday, November 5th, 2006


• Dakar winner Luc Alphand takes second fastest time; Japan’s Masuoka in fourth;
• Frenchman Peterhansel holds sixth position after first test for MPR13

UMM SUQUEIM, DUBAI, UAE – Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart held second, fourth and sixth places after the opening timed Super Special stage of the UAE Desert Challenge held at Umm Suqueim in the baking heat and humidity of a Middle Eastern autumn afternoon, today (Sunday).

Dakar Rally winners Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard held second place in their MPR12 version of the all-conquering Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution and will head the car contingent into the opening desert selective section on Monday morning.

“I suppose the ideal position to start tomorrow for me would have been third,” said Alphand. “The first stage is traditionally very fast and it is not so easy to be leading the way. But I am happy with this position.”

Hiroshi Masuoka won the UAE Desert Challenge in 2004 and the Japanese driver and French team mate Pascal Maimon were fourth overall in their MPR12.

“Fourth or fifth was the target for me to start the first desert stage,” said Masuoka, who had been impressed by the performance findings from a back-to-back test carried out on an asphalt surface with both the MPR12 and MPR13 versions of the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution in Dubai shortly before the start. “So my position is ideal to start the rally tomorrow.”

The event marks the final competitive test for the Mitsubishi team before January’s Dakar Rally showdown and defending UAE Desert Challenge champions Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret held sixth position after their first two competitive kilometers in the new MPR13 version of the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution, a mere 0.5 seconds behind his girlfriend and former MMSP official driver Andrea Mayer.

The opening stage ran in reverse seeding order and Russian Sergey Shmakov duly clinched the FIA Cross Country World Cup Drivers’ Championship by crossing the start line. South African Mark Corbett and co-driver Juan Mohr will now lead the 40 cars, 57 bikes, eight quads and three trucks into the opening desert selective section on Monday morning.

No less than three official factory Mitsubishis and two privateer Mitsubishi drivers feature on the strongest starting list in the 16-year history of the UAE Desert Challenge. The event entered the FIA World Cup for the first time in 1993.

Today’s sandy and dusty two kilometre special was staged to the west of Dubai city, with the diverse back drop of the Burj Al-Arab - the world’s first seven-star hotel - and a myriad of cranes and construction sites which mark the skyline of one of the world’s fastest growing cities. Dubai is rapidly becoming the ‘Manhattan of the Middle East’ and hopes to transform itself from a major oil and trading hub into one of the world’s most popular tourist resorts.

“It was not an ideal driving stage,” said MMSP’s Managing and Sporting Director Dominique Serieys. “It was narrow, sandy, rutted and not really any indication of what we can expect over the next five days. But I am happy, We had no problems at all and can look forward to the real desert stages this week.”

Tomorrow (Monday) marks the first of the desert selective sections in this year’s UAE Desert Challenge. Teams leave the official start from the majestic Emirates Palace Hotel on the Abu Dhabi Corniche and embark upon a 284.45 km timed desert section from Abu Dhabi, via Arjan, and on to a finish near the Humeem Road. A liaison of 119.03 km takes crews to the centralized and purpose-built bivouac at Moreeb Hill, near Liwa.

Positions after Super Special – unofficial @ 18.45 hrs
1. Mark Corbett (ZA)/Juan Mohr (ZA) Nissan Navara Pick-Up 2m 51.4s
2. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2m 51.7s
3. Carlos Sousa (P)/Andreas Schulz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 2m 52.9s
4. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2m 55.0s
5. Andrea Mayer (D)/Jorg Sänd (D) Mega Dakar Desert Special 2m 55.9s
6. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2m 56.4s
7. Ari Vatanen (FIN)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 2m 56.6s
8. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X3 CC 2m 59.7s, etc


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Date issued: 05/11/2006

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