By Nancy Knapp Schilke
Veteran racer/navigator Henri Magne lost his life on Monday, June 5th in the FIA Cross-Country World Cup event, Rally Morocco. While in fifth place entering the final leg of this year's event, Joan 'Nani' Roma slid into a concrete wall between first and second control points. The main damage was done on the co-pilot's side, instantly killing Magne.
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart immediately withdrew their entire team from the event on the final day of competition, which included the top runners for the team, Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret, as they faced their first loss of a team member in over a quarter of a century of cross-country rally events.
The Frenchman who co-piloted for many top world class drivers since 1990 had won the Morocco event three consecutive times: 2000, '01 and '02. For the past two years, including this season, he had teamed with Roma. Prior to that, Magne had co-driven with Luc Alphand, Carlos Sousa, Jean Louis Schlesser, Bruno Saby and many other elite pilots.
In his early years, he ran in the Truck category for Mitsubishi. It was in the Car class that he became a Dakar legend with the win in 1997 co-driving for Kenjiro Shinozuka.
The same years that he won Rally Morocco, Magne and pilot Schlesser notched the world Cross-Country rallies title in a buggy. The French ace navigator returned to Mitsubishi in 2003 to team with Sousa and the duo combined to take the title in their first year together. With his first title in 1998, Magne had five under his belt prior to the 2004 season.
In 2005, Mitsubishi moved him over to drive with Roma -- the former bike champion in the rallies had joined the team to drive four-wheels. In their first major event, the two ended up sixth in Dakar -- the world's longest and most demanding event. In this year's Dakar, Roma and Magne finished third on a somber ending due to fatalities to children and one competitor: Andy Caldecott.
Hiroshi Masouka and his navigator Pascal Maimon were the first to arrive on the scene of their fellow team members. The medical staff arrived quickly but were unable to revise Magne -- they official declared him dead at 10.02 local time.
Even with Peterhansel having taken the overall lead from Giniel de Villiers (Volkswagen), Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart's Team Director Dominique Serieys withdrew the team as a whole out of respect for Magne.
"For over 25 years Mitsubishi has been competing successfully in this sport without any tragic incident of this kind," said Serieys. "Today, tragically, Henri ran out of luck. In the name of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) and MMSP I give my deepest sympathy to Henri's wife and family.
Henri was a good friend and colleague. He was a gentle man, always smiling, always cheerful. We worked together when I was a co-driver. Henri was a true professional, without any desire to end his career. The next goal for us will be dedicated to Henri. My heartfelt sympathies are also with Nani after this awful day. It will not be easy for him to get over this, but we will all support him all the way."
Magne is survived by his wife Lucette Magne and two children.