Dakar : Mitsubishi Motors - Leg One
The Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team held, sixth, 7th, 12th and 13th positions after the opening timed 83 kms special stage in the Alentejo region between Lisbon and Portimao today (Saturday).
Leading the way for the defending champions
and winners of the grueling African classic for the last five years were Spaniard Joan 'Nani' Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne in their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution. The pair held fifth position at the end of the opening stage, ahead of team mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard, but some way behind the stage-winning Spaniard Carlos Sainz.
"I have mixed feelings about these long European stages," said Luc Alphand, winner of this year's Baja Portalegre, across similar terrain in the east of Portugal. "Unlike some of our rivals we had no problems with the windscreen misting over when it rained in October. But I think the problems could arise tomorrow if it rains. If it is really muddy on the second stage it could be dangerous. If you slide or lose traction, that is where the problems begin."
Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret had the disadvantage of running first on the road this morning and paid the price by collecting a flat tire near the start. They were forced to stop and change the wheel and lost over two minutes, slipping down a highly-competitive leaderboard to 12th position.
"Today's stage was quite varied," said Peterhansel. "There were places where you needed to be very careful. It was muddy in parts and some puddles of water stood in sheltered areas. Other places were much faster across rural farmland and you could push a little, but after the puncture we had no chance of setting a fast time."
Twice former winner Hiroshi Masuoka and French co-driver Pascal Maimon were running in third position in the stage until they also sustained a flat tire a mere eight kilometers from the finish. The delay dropped the Japanese star down to 13th place.
"We were a little unlucky today," said Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Dominique Serieys. "It is never easy to open the stage and Stéphane paid the price by getting a puncture. He lost time there and then Hiroshi also had to stop near the finish to change a tire. It is very early days. We will be patient, take no risks and wait until we reach Africa."
After the entire field had completed pre-event technical checks in Lisbon, a record number of 475 vehicles were permitted to start from the Portuguese capital this morning. The final number included 232 bikes, 174 cars and 69 trucks with 108 assistance cars and 129 assistance trucks registered to lend support. The Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team has 59 staff on hand forthe entire duration of the event, with a further 11 scheduled to arrive for the rest day in Nouakchott on January 8th.
Tomorrow (Sunday) the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team heads out of Portimao on a 65 kms road liaison section to the start of a 115 kms timed special stage across the hilly ridges of the Algarve. This tricky stage along mountaineous and winding tracks will be followed by a 387 kms road section to the city of Malaga. Teams will then embark upon a seven-hour overnight Mediterranean sea crossing to Morocco, where the African section of the event will commence on Monday morning.
Press Release Mitsubishi Motors