Dakar : Mitsubishi Motors - Preview
Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) and its motorsport unit MMSP have completed their preparations for a potential seventh successive defence of their Dakar Rally title, after a hectic 10 days of physical training, team bonding, light-hearted
motorsport competition and testing in France.
After completing a four-day physical training and team bonding session at Douarnenez in Brittany last week, team drivers Stéphane Peterhansel and Joan 'Nani' Roma took part in the prestigious 2006 Race of Champions at Stade de France in Paris on Saturday, December 16th, while team mates Luc Alphand and Hiroshi Masuoka took part in the Trophy Luc Alphand at Serre Chevalier in French Alpes.
MMSP are bidding to win the Dakar Rally for an unprecedented 12th time in January. Key team members spent Monday, January 18th at Le Creusot, in the center of France, carrying out the final official shakedown test on the four Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolutions that the Japanese manufacturer hopes will culminate in another Dakar success in the team's 25th anniversary year of taking part in the world's most famous off-road motorsport event.
In front of a partisan crowd of 51,000 people at the Stade de France, Peterhansel and Roma were both eliminated from the 2006 Race of Champions at the quarter-final stage.
Peterhansel joined Yvan Muller in Team Auto Hebdo France, while Roma linked up with WRC driver Dani Sordo in Team Spain in a light-hearted, traditional finale to the 2006 motorsporting calendar year.
While Peterhansel and Roma were taking part in the Race of Champions, Luc Alphand and Hiroshi Masuoka were joined at the Alpine town of Serre-Chevaliers Alphand's home town - by co-drivers Lucas Cruz, Jean-Paul Cottret, Gilles Picard and Pascal Maimon to take part in the Trophy Alphand, organized by Luc Alphand Aventures.
Key Mitsubishi team members were joined by VIPs, sponsors and invited guests to take part in go-karting and buggy racing on ice on Saturday, December 16th, with several individuals taking part in a skiing competition the following day.
There was no respite in the hectic pre-Christmas, final preparations for the Dakar Rally. All four drivers and Dakar-specification cars were present at the Le Creusot test on Monday. According to MMSP's Technical Director Thierry Viardot, each of the drivers had between 15km and 50km behind the wheel of their respective Dakar MPR13 cars and technicians checked various suspension geometry and clutch components.
"Everything went well and perfectly according to plan," said Viardot. "We made some tests with suspension geometry on Stéphane's car and checks with new and spare clutches to make sure they were bedded in, but everything was fine. Now we can focus on the Dakar."
MMSP's Team President Isao Torii has also played an integral part in the pre-Dakar preparations: "I took part in the physical training for two days. Then I attended the Race of Champions in Paris and also the shakedown test on Monday," said Torii. "Everything was fine with the test and the last days were chances for me to see the great spirit, motivation and preparation that this team has put into preparing for the Dakar Rally.
"I also spent time with the mechanics at the workshops in Pont-de-Vaux and have seen the preparation of the logistics team and the mechanics in France. Everything has gone according to plan and I am very proud of the whole team. Now we are ready, focused and looking forward to Lisbon."
Managing and Sporting Director Dominique Serieys is upbeat about the team's preparations after another hectic and diverse week of activities for the MMSP team. "Everyone is very positive, focused and working well as a team unit," said Serieys. "We have had many events recently to bring the team together. We will spend the next few days making sure the cars are completely ready and then the whole team will be able to enjoy a deserved break over Christmas before the Dakar."
The 2007 Dakar Rally will start for the second successive season from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon on Saturday, January 6th.
Scrutineering and documentation take place in Lisbon on January 4th and 5th, before a capacity entry of cars, bikes and trucks head south through Portugal and on towards Africa. The event will finish in Dakar, Sénégal, on Sunday, January 21st.