CC Mitsubishi make cautious start to Dakar Rally title defence
Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News
2007 Dakar Rally
Leg 1: Lisbon - Portimao
Liaison: 122.53 km, Special 116.13 km, Liaison 232.14 km, Total 470.80 km
Weather conditions: cool and sunny after morning fog – 12C-14C
For immediate release
Saturday, January 6th, 2007
TEAM REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART MAKES CAUTIOUS
START TO DEFENCE OF DAKAR RALLY TITLE IN PORTUGAL
Spaniards Roma and Cruz head Mitsubishi challenge in seventh place;
Team mates Peterhansel, Masuoka and Alphand in eighth, 10th and 16th
PORTIMAO, Portugal – Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart began the defence of its Dakar Rally title by holding a cautious seventh, eighth, 10th and 16th positions after the tricky opening 117km special stage of the event between Lisbon and Portimao in Portugal on Saturday.
A crowd of around 1,500 people gathered outside the Belém Cultural Centre on Saturday morning to witness the start of the 29th running of the world’s most famous off-road event. The bumper bike entry managed to leave the start in relatively clear conditions, but fog from the Tagus river enveloped competitors soon afterwards and the majority of the leading cars left in foggy conditions and poor visibility.
Joan ‘Nani’ Roma, making his return to active competition with new co-driver Lucas Cruz, was the leading Mitsubishi driver after the opening stage in a troublefree seventh position, albeit 4m 53s behind the early leaders Carlos Sousa and Andreas Schulz.
Twice former winners Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret recorded a time 24 seconds slower than their team mates in a second Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution and held eighth place, while Japan’s Hiroshi Masuoka and Frenchman Pascal Maimon were classified in 10th overall.
Defending champions Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard were the first crew into the opening stage and that was always going to be a disadvantage for the French duo. But their cause was not helped when they collected a puncture and were not able to stop and make a change.
“I knew that the pace would be high on the rally this year,” admitted 16th-placed Alphand. “So we need to keep in touch without taking any risks. I want to make a proper race and that means being very clean through the next stage in Europe. The margin of error is getting smaller all the time as the pace increases. We saw last year there were accidents for me, for Carlos and for ‘Nani’ on rallies, so this must be taken into account.”
MMSP’s Managing and Sporting Director Dominique Serieys was a little disappointed with the result of the day and openly congratulated his rivals on their performance. “Maybe we underestimated the pace at the front of the field today,” said Serieys. “‘Nani’ is nearly five minutes behind the leader and that is something we need to address.
“We will up the pace a little, because we do not want to leave too much work for Africa and Mauritania in particular. I take my hat off to Volkswagen today. They did a good job and it just emphasises that we will have quite a fight on our hands to retain the title. One big positive is that there were no mechanical problems with any of our cars and this is a major bonus.”
“The impact of the recent route changes will not be too strong,” added Serieys. “The ASO made a good decision after discussions with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We must not just consider the professional teams, but also the amateur teams at the back of the field. These changes came with Mitsubishi’s total approval. We will slightly change our strategy after this, but the tough stages will not necessarily be in this area. We must also remember that no one has ever won the Dakar on the first two or three stages. You can just lose the Dakar.”
Tomorrow (Sunday) is the second and final European stage of the Dakar Rally, with crews set to tackle an extended 67km WRC-style special stage after a 15km run out from the start in Portimao. The route then heads east towards the Spanish frontier and a 463km liaison takes teams to Malaga and pre-boarding formalities before the sea crossing to Africa on Sunday night.
29th Dakar Rally - Positions after leg 1 – (unofficial @ 13.55 hrs)
1. Carlos Sousa (P)/Andreas Schulz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 1h 20m 38s
2. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 1h 23m 09s
3. Carlos Sainz (E)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 1h 23m 16s
4. Ari Vatanen (FIN)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 1h 23m 16s
5. Mark Miller (USA)/Ralph Pitchford (ZA) Volkswagen Touareg 1h 24m 34s
6. Guerlain Chicherit (F)/Mattieu Baumel (F) BMW X3CC 1h 25m 30s
7. Joan ‘Nani’ Roma (E)/Lucas Cruz (E) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 1h 25m 31s
8. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 1h 25m 55s
9. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X3 CC 1h 26m 38s
10. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 1h 27m 54s
16. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 1h 31m 29s