Baja Portalegre : Mitsubishi Motors - Finish
Mitsubishi Motors Repsol Team driver Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard clinched a superb victory in the 19th Baja Anta Da Serra 500-Portalegre, after the final 102 kms timed selective section, south of Portalegre in Portugal,
Frenchman Alphand had begun the final selective 4m 28s ahead of his nearest German rival Jutta Kleinschmidt, with former FIA World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz trailing 11m 57s behind this year's winner of the Rally of Tunisia.
The former World Downhill Skiing Champion and this year's Dakar Rally runner-up noticeably eased his pace through the opening kilometers of the twisty and slippery stage and was fourth fastest through the first passage control, situated at the 48.14 kms point.
Entering the final 53.86 kms, Alphand was 2m 28s behind Sainz on the stage but, more importantly, he maintained a commanding 3m 45s advantage over Kleinschmidt in the overall classification. Alphand held on over the closing kilometers to take his MPR10 version of the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution to victory by the margin of 5m 52.8s, the margin extended still further when Kleinschmidt collected a puncture.
"We saw that Jutta was gaining a little time early on, but we had a safe pace today," admitted Alphand, "It was a little muddy, but the stage had dried out a lot. This is a great result for me. I did not expect to win, especially with Sainz and Saby on this type of WRC stage. I suppose on the last Dakar I was getting used to the team and the car and now I feel really comfortable. This was a good test. I had a little luck, bur you need some luck sometimes."
"This was a perfect result," said a delighted MMSP's Team Director Dominique Serieys. "I feel a little sad for Hiroshi, but we have learned a lot. This was a good team job. Everyone worked well. We want to keep this team spirit. This is our 2004 car. It is not a new car and I must congratulate Luc and Gilles on their performances."
"This is a fantastic boost for the whole team, particularly for Luc and Gilles, before the Dakar Rally," added MMSP's Team President Isao Torii. "I am delighted for everyone involved in the result."
Alphand's team mates Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon were forced out of the event after breaking the alternator belt shortly after the start of the second selective section on Saturday afternoon. They had been lying fourth overall at the start of that stage and had been running fastest on the road when the incident occured.
This was the final competitive test for Mitsubishi Motors Repsol Team drivers Luc Alphand and Hiroshi Masuoka before they line-up alongside team mates Stéphane Peterhansel and Joan 'Nani' Roma at the start of the 2006 Dakar Rally on New Year's Eve in Lisbon.
Overall final positions after leg 2
1 Alphand-Picard Mitsubishi Pajero 6h56'32.4s
2 Kleinschmidt-Pons Volkswagen Touareg 7h02'25.3s
3 Sainz-Schulz Volkswagen Touareg 7h04'49.0s
4 Saby-Périn Volkswagen Touareg 7h13'29.4s
5 Ramos-Jesus Toyota RAV-4 7h16'25.1s
6 Miller-Zitzewitz Volkswagen Touareg 7h22'42.
Press Release Mitsubishi Motors