CC Mitsubishi ready for punishing 2007 Dakar Rally challenge

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News
2007 Dakar Rally

For immediate release
Tuesday, December 19th, 2006


•Mitsubishi carries out final pre-Dakar shakedown at Le Creusot in France
•Peterhansel and Roma reach quarter-finals of 2006 Race of Champions
•Masuoka and Alphand take part in Trophy Alphand competition

PONT-DE-VAUX, France - Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) and its motorsport unit MMSP have completed their preparations for a potential seventh successive defence of their Dakar Rally title, after a hectic 10 days of physical training, team bonding, light-hearted motorsport competition and testing in France.

After completing a four-day physical training and team bonding session at Douarnenez in Brittany last week, team drivers Stéphane Peterhansel and Joan ‘Nani’ Roma took part in the prestigious 2006 Race of Champions at Stade de France in Paris on Saturday, December 16th, while team mates Luc Alphand and Hiroshi Masuoka took part in the Trophy Luc Alphand.

MMSP are bidding to win the Dakar Rally for an unprecedented 12th time in January. Key team members spent Monday, January 18th at Le Creusot, in the south of France, carrying out the final official shakedown test on the four Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolutions that the Japanese manufacturer hopes will culminate in another Dakar success in the team’s 25th anniversary year of taking part in the world’s most famous off-road motorsport event.

In front of a partisan crowd of 51,000 people at the Stade de France, Peterhansel and Roma were both eliminated from the 2006 Race of Champions at the quarter-final stage. Peterhansel joined Yvan Muller in Team Auto Hebdo France, while Roma linked up with WRC driver Dani Sordo in Team Spain in a light-hearted, traditional finale to the 2006 motorsporting calendar year.

Peterhansel lost out to American driver Travis Pastrana and Roma succumbed to the eventual beaten finalist and defending WRC champion Sébastien Loeb. Swede Matthias Ekström eventually beat Loeb in the final.

“I was too keen to start pushing and I spun in my quarter-final,” said Peterhansel. “Then I spun again. But it was great experience to compete against drivers from other motorsporting disciplines and a nice way to prepare for the Dakar. It was not the first time that I competed in the Stade de France. I had two or three motorcycle races there, but it was so different to race over one or two laps in front of all those people, compared to racing on the Dakar for 10 hours and not seeing a single spectator.

“Now I will spend a quiet Christmas and New Year with my family and friends. It has been 18 years since I was in a position to do this. Before Mitsubishi, I worked for the Yamaha team and we were always involved in the Dakar and preparations for the event. It will be nice to relax and get myself ready for the next Dakar.”

Team mate Roma was always going to be up against a formidable opponent in Loeb in his quarter-final. “I drove better than I did in the Nations Cup, but beating Loeb was always going to be tough. It was close on the first lap, but then I made a mistake. It was a shame, but now I must get down to the real business of the Dakar.

“Competing in the Race of Champions was a great souvenir for me. In a stadium, with so many people, was a great experience. Now I will go and relax with family and friends and spend a nice Christmas and New Year with them. It has been 11 years since I was last able to celebrate the end of the year party with the family. I will carry out a little light training, but just relax and prepare for the Dakar.”

While Peterhansel and Roma were taking part in the Race of Champions, Luc Alphand and Hiroshi Masuoka were joined at the Alpine town of Serre-Chevaliers – Alphand’s home town - by co-drivers Lucas Cruz, Jean-Paul Cottret, Gilles Picard and Pascal Maimon to take part in the Trophy Alphand, organized by Luc Alphand Aventures.

Key Mitsubishi team members were joined by VIPs, sponsors and invited guests to take part in go-karting and buggy racing on ice on Saturday, December 16th, with several individuals taking part in a skiing competition the following day.

Hiroshi Masouka enjoyed the activities at Serre-Chevalier and was positive about the shakedown: “I have a good feeling about the new car and was pleased with the shakedown,” said Masuoka, winner of the Dakar Rally in 2002 and 2003. “The ice racing was great fun and a good promotional exercise. Now I will go back to Japan and spend time with my family, before returning to Portugal for the start of the Dakar after New Year.”

Team mate Alphand admitted that he has been inundated with media and promotional work since winning the UAE Desert Challenge in November. “It has been really crazy, very busy since the rally in Dubai,” said Alphand.

“I have a great feeling with the new car and drove only about 40km at Le Creusot on Monday. I drove quite slowly, just to check a few minor points. After a media training day at Pont-de-Vaux I will go back to Serre-Chevalier and spend Christmas and New Year with the family. Hopefully I will be able to switch off the ‘phone for a few days and relax, maybe take part in a little cross-country training to keep myself in trim.”

There was no respite in the hectic pre-Christmas, final preparations for the Dakar Rally. All four drivers and Dakar-specification cars were present at the Le Creusot test on Monday. According to MMSP’s Technical Director Thierry Viardot, each of the drivers had between 15km and 50km behind the wheel of their respective Dakar MPR13 cars and technicians checked various suspension geometry and clutch components.

“Everything went well and perfectly according to plan,” said Viardot. “We made some tests with suspension geometry on Stéphane’s car and checks with new and spare clutches to make sure they were bedded in, but everything was fine. Now we can focus on the Dakar.”

MMSP’s Team President Isao Torii has also played an integral part in the pre-Dakar preparations: ~I took part in the physical training for two days. Then I attended the Race of Champions in Paris and also the shakedown test on Monday,~ said Torii. “Everything was fine with the test and the last days were chances for me to see the great spirit, motivation and preparation that this team has put into preparing for the Dakar Rally.

“I also spent time with the mechanics at the workshops in Pont-de-Vaux and have seen the preparation of the logistics team and the mechanics in France. Everything has gone according to plan and I am very proud of the whole team. Now we are ready, focused and looking forward to Lisbon.”

Managing and Sporting Director Dominique Serieys is upbeat about the team’s preparations after another hectic and diverse week of activities for the MMSP team. “Everyone is very positive, focused and working well as a team unit,” said Serieys. “We have had many events recently to bring the team together. We will spend the next few days making sure the cars are completely ready and then the whole team will be able to enjoy a deserved break over Christmas before the Dakar.”

The 2007 Dakar Rally will start for the second successive season from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon on Saturday, January 6th.

Scrutineering and documentation take place in Lisbon on January 4th and 5th, before a capacity entry of cars, bikes and trucks head south through Portugal and on towards Africa. The event will finish in Dakar, Sénégal, on Sunday, January 21st.


Date issued: 19/12/2006

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