Peterhansel and Alphand joined by Roma and Masuoka
he Mitsubishi Motors factory team has entered four cars in the 2006 Dakar Rally, as it bids to become the first team in history to win six successive Dakar rallies and clinch a record-breaking 11 overall victories in 24
years. Mitsubishi entered the event for the first time with an unofficial entry in 1983.
The Mitsubishi team has not been beaten on the grueling African event since the Millennium and has entered a team of four of the latest MPR12 versions of the all-conquering Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution for the 16-day event, starting in Lisbon on New Year's Eve and finishing in Dakar, Sénégal, on Sunday, January 15th, 2006.
Spearheading the team's challenge are the defending champion Stéphane Peterhansel and the Japanese twice former winner Hiroshi Masuoka. Peterhansel teams up with regular co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret, while Masuoka is reunited with Frenchman Pascal Maimon, with whom he won the event in 2002.
Completing the official team line-up are the Spanish driver Joan 'Nani' Roma and last year's French runner-up Luc Alphand, with their respective co-drivers Henri Magne and Gilles Picard.
Peterhansel won no less than six Dakar titles during an illustrious career as a motorcycle rider and became only the second individual in the 28-year history of the event to win outright on both two and four wheels when he won the Dakar with Mitsubishi in 2004. He repeated the success last January. Masuoka, meanwhile, won outright in 2002 and 2003 and finished as the runner-up in 2004.
"Jean-Paul and I are quietly confident," said Peterhansel. "We have a good track record together on the Dakar and will be well prepared. It will not be easy by any means. Experience tells us that the Dakar is such an unpredictable event. The route is complicated, but we are both well motivated this year and looking forward to the start."
"The new car is very strong and fast and I think it is the best of its kind in the world," said Masuoka. "I am very happy to be in this team. Every year team technicians improve the performance of the car. Now I feel that I can win the Dakar Rally for the third time."
Frenchman Luc Alphand was a former World Downhill skiing champion before he became involved in cross-country rallying. He was the first driver in history to win a stage of the Dakar in a diesel-engined car, before joining the factory Mitsubishi team in 2004.
'Lucho' went on to finish second overall on his first Dakar Rally with the Mitsubishi team in 2005 and followed up this result with an outright win in April's Rally of Tunisia. His last competitive outing was a test session in October's Baja Anta Da Serra 500-Portalegre in Portugal, where he took a stunning victory and beat a quartet of factory Volkswagens in a two-year old, MPR10 version of the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution.
"The main enemy is the desert," admits Alphand. "My first Dakar was a real disaster, but I and am getting used to it. Everything is possible this time. We are four drivers with the same car and we all want to win. I finished second last year. In 2006, I will have even more experience. I hope to do a good Dakar. With a little luck, who knows?"
Spaniard Roma joined the Mitsubishi Motors Repsol Team last autumn and went on to finish second in the Qatar Baja, sixth on the Dakar and fourth in both the Patagonia-Atacama and Morocco rallies, before taking a maiden win in July's Baja Spain.
He again teams up with Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne, one of the most experienced of all the cross-country co-drivers and the winner of the 2003 FIA World Cup and the 2004 FIA European Baja Cup.
"When I was young my mother gave me a present - the Yearbook of the Dakar," said Roma. “I started to follow the race. It was a dream to think about winning and it was incredible to win on the bike in 2004. Now I just hope that I can win the Dakar in a car."
"This year our main competitor has made good progress," said MMSP's Team Director Dominique Serieys. "They have learned a lot from us and about the FIA regulations. We made two small mistakes in South America and Morocco this year, but we won in Tunisia and Dakar. We won 13 of the last 15 races and my feeling is that we are going out to win again. It will be tough. But Africa and the tracks of the route will be the main competition for us. We are strong and motivated to win."
"I have been impressed by the team's positive attitude and meticulous preparations for this year's Dakar Rally," said MMSP's President Isao Torii. "Mitsubishi has achieved a remarkable run of success on this event in the last five years and I have every confidence that the team is capable of winning the race again for a sixth successive year."
The 2006 Dakar Rally will start for the first time in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon and the opening timed special stage will take place on New Year's Eve during the run south to Portimao on the Algarve coast.
Scrutineering and documentation take place in Lisbon on December 28th-30th. On New Year's Day the capacity entry of cars, bikes and trucks will head south towards Spain and the Mediterranean sea crossing to Morocco.
Over the following 15 days the capacity entry heads deep into Africa and through the depths of southern Morocco, across the treacherous Mauritanian Sahara to a rest day in Nouakchott.
From there the route heads further across the Mauritanian wilderness en route to more traditional Black African stages in the Republic of Mali, Guinea Bissau for the first time since 1996 and finally into Sénégal. The traditional finish will take place beside Lac Rose, near Dakar, in Sénégal on Sunday, January 15th.
There will be only limited GPS points made available to competitors, stages without GPS and at least two Marathon stages where service assistance is not permitted.
2006 Dakar Rally Entries
Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution
Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution
Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution
Joan Roma (E)/Henri Magne (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution
Press Release Mitsubishi Motors