On the Dakar Rally
Who can perhaps beat the Mitsubishi 4X4's on the Dakar? The question is posed each year as New Year's Eve approaches. And systematically for the past six years, the red cars answer categorically on the terrain: no one. Even when their lead driver, Stéphane
Peterhansel, experienced misadventure in the late stages of the rally when he was leading the overall standings (2003 &2006). During last year's rally, it was team mate Luc Alphand who was left to defend the positions of the Japanese armada, winning his first Dakar in his eighth participation. The former skier, who has made an extraordinary re-conversion, is now a legitimate candidate to repeat, as are fellow “Mitsu” men Peterhansel, Masuoka and Roma, all former victors of the event.
Despite the Japanese brand's presentation of an improved version of the famous Pajero, the MPR13, the competition seems to be closing the gap, to the point of becoming a threat to the pre-race favourites. At Volkswagen, the Race Touareg, in search of reliability has, each year, made up lost ground and has a more credible chance to go for the win thanks to a stronger driver line-up. Discreet but very complete, the South African, Giniel de Villiers, runner-up to Alphand in 2006, has continued to make steady progress. And WRC legend Carlos Sainz got off to a flying start with four stage wins when his main objective was “only to learn”. Volkswagen has a new driver for 2007; Ari Vatanen also wants to return to his glory days. He will be attempting to retake the record of stage wins that “Peter” broke last year.
The BMW X-Raid team has also come on strong over the past three years. The Qatari driver, Nasser Al Attiyah, who has already demonstrated his competitiveness, needs to just add consistency, while world extreme skiing champion Guerlain Chicherti, 9th on the 2006 Dakar and winner of the rally's final stage will be looking for a top five result.
Team boss, Sven Quandt will especially be counting on the services of Jutta Kleinschmidt who has added all of her vast experience to the development of the X3. And finally, Jean-Louis Schlesser, the last to have defeated Mitsubishi in 1999 & 2000, will enter just one blue buggy this year. “ But I have never been as fast as when I ran alone”, warned “Schless”, who, as usual, will be aiming for the win.
The organisers of the Dakar rally announce that entries for the motorcycle category are now closed for the 2007 edition. On the 8th of June, only seven days after the opening of entries, 330 complete entries had already been received. Nevertheless, the limit fixed for 240 riders at the start in Lisbon on the 6th of January next remains unchanged.
Amaury Sport Organisation