Dakar : Mitsubishi Motors - Leg 13
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart's Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz Senra (both Spain) gave the new turbo diesel-engined 'Racing Lancer' its first Dakar stage victory on the shortened 13th special stage between La Rioja and Cordoba on Friday
The pair began the special from 21st position, but surged through the field to record a first stage win for Mitsubishi in this year's Dakar Rally to confirm sixth position in the overall rankings.
The success was also Roma's first stage win with the Mitsubishi team and his first on four wheels and it came on an emotional day for Roma, when a special Henri Magne trophy was presented to a deserving co-driver in the bivouac in Cordoba (Magne was a former co-driver for Roma, who lost his life in the 2006 Rally of Morocco).
Friday afternoon's special stage was shortened from an original 543km to just 220km by race officials, because of recent heavy rains in the Cordoba and La Rioja regions and started after a long 357km liaison section across the Catamarca Province.
The special began at the original PC4 (364km) point and used classic WRC Rally of Argentina terrain, finishing just short of Villa Carlos Paz, before a short liaison took crews to the bivouac on the outskirts of Argentina's second city. The ASO permitted 132 bikes and quads, 93 cars and 55 trucks to start the stage, with Roma and Senra taking the stage start in 21st position.
They were running second fastest behind Guerlain Chicherit (France) at the 62km point of the stage, but hit the front mid-way through the fast, flowing special and had a good lead at the 132km mark. They managed to maintain the pace to the finish to record an historic first stage win for Mitsubishi's new Dakar challenger.
Tomorrow (Saturday) marks the final special stage on the 2009 Dakar Rally between Cordoba and Buenos Aires. Teams will use a 224km liaison section through Oliva, Villa Maria and Ballestros to the start of a 227km special stage, along similar gravel roads to the ones they experienced on day one into Santa Rosa de la Pampa.
The nerve-wracking stage will include two passage controls, near Marcos Juanez and Cruz Alta, and a final liaison through San Nicolas de Los Arroyos and Baradero Alsina will take teams back to Buenos Aires in readiness for the ceremonial finish on Sunday, January 18th.
Dominique Serieys, Team Director
"I am obviously very happy, especially for 'Nani' and Lucas because they have done a great job to bring the car this far, and also for all the mechanics, engineers and race truck drivers for their strong work, often late into the night, on this rally.
"This result is also for Hiroshi and Pascal, who had to stop early in the race when they were leading the team. It is also for Luc and Gilles and Stéphane and Jean-Paul. We have seen again that the Dakar is very tough to win. We will work as hard as possible and invest everything to be ready for 2010 and make sure that we can win back the title."
Joan 'Nani' Roma
"It was a really bad day yesterday and we were close to being out of the race. But to win the stage was a pleasure for me. Everybody in the team has worked for this. Some times it is not possible to win the rally, but this is a reward for the hard work from all the team. It is also the first Dakar stage win for the Lancer and the first Dakar stage win for me with a car.
"It is a really important day for me as well. This evening, in the bivouac at the briefing, there will be a presentation of a special Henri Magne award. For me to win the stage, on the same day as the presentation, is a special moment for me and everyone in the team."
Lucas Cruz Senra
"I am happy for all the team. We needed this stage win today as we continue to develop the new car and the new engine. We had our problem last night, but the mechanics worked so hard and this win is for them."