MARC COMA AND LUC ALPHAND CLINCH THE VICTORY IN THE UAE DESERT CHALLENGE IN DUBAI
Absolute success for Repsol riders and drivers in Dubai. Peterhansel finishes second in the car class, and Jordi Viladoms, third, achieves his first podium finish in the world of raid racing. The Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart team takes de Manufacturer's world title
Reigning Dakar Rally champions Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard clinched outright victory for Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart after five punishing desert legs of the 2006 UAE Desert Challenge, today. The French duo of Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret confirmed second overall on the final timed selective sections on Friday, wshile team mates Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon finished in seventh place. Mitsubishi also confirmed victory in the 2006 FIA Cross-Country Manufacturers' Championship
The event is arguably the most difficult round of the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, held across some of the most remote and spectacular desert terrain in the world. This year it took place in some of the most extreme temperatures ever faced by teams in international Cross-Country rallying. Alphand became the sixth Mitsubishi driver to win the UAE Desert Challenge in its 14-year history in the FIA World Cup. The Japanese manufacturer has now clinched eight wins in the last 14 seasons -- the most successful run of form by any team in the history of the event. Alphand joins a list of Mitsubishi winners that includes Saeed Al-Hajri, Bruno Saby, Jean-Pierre Fontenay and team mates Masuoka and Peterhansel (three wins).
Alphand and Picard began the final day with a 20m 45s lead over Peterhansel and Cottret, the latter pairing giving the MPR13 version of Mitsubishi's new Pajero/Montero Evolution its competitive debut before the Dakar Rally in January. The new car recorded its first ever stage win on Wednesday's third leg and the French duo confirmed the runner-up spot over today's final two selective sections, as both leading cars stayed clear of trouble to complete a resounding Mitsubishi 1-2 finish. Alphand's winning margin was 15m 59s.
Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon began the day 2m 42s behind sixth-placed Jutta Kleinschmidt and the Mitsubishi duo reduced the deficit to a mere 1m 17s after the first section of the final selective by recording the third fastest time. But Kleinschmidt fended off the Japanese driver's late challenge on the second timed test and Masuoka duly settled for seventh place, the finish boosting the twice Dakar champion's confidence before his next Dakar challenge.
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart crews will now embark upon a further desert test this weekend in the dunes to the south of Dubai and then one final physical training and team building session in Brittany in December. Then the entire team's efforts are concentrated on the defence of the Dakar Rally title for a record-breaking seventh successive season.
Big success as well for the riders of the Repsol KTM team in the motorbike class. Marc Coma clinched a clear victory after dominating throughout the race and his team mate Jordi Viladoms finally finished third, thus taking his first podium finish in the Raids World Championship. With this victory, Coma has become championship runner-up, which means a great success considering the fact that the Repsol rider has not taken part in all of the rounds of the season. Frenchman David Casteu was proclaimed today in Dubai Raid World Champion. The results of this Dubai rally may be a certain hint as regards the 2007 Dakar Rally, considering that it has gathered the highest contenders for the victory of the African race which will be starting on January 6th, 2007 from the Portuguese city of Lisbon.
Dominique Serieys, MMSP's Managing and Sporting Director: "The entire team has worked very hard in the last six months to develop our new car. We carried out tests in June and September and now we have achieved this great success in the UAE Desert Challenge. I am obviously delighted for the entire team that we have achieved this result, but my thoughts are also on the fact that it is only six months since we lost Henri (Magne) in Morocco and that was on my mind today. The goal will be to hopefully dedicate the next Dakar victory to him. We are pleased that another difficult test with the new MPR13 has gone well. Luc, Stephane and Hiroshi did a good job and 'Nani (Roma) will test the new MPR13 here in the next couple of days. We can now look forward to the Dakar with this good result behind us."
Luc Alphand: "Today was a matter of staying out of trouble and making no mistakes. This was a long and difficult rally and I am delighted to win here for the first time. The terrain here is quite stunning and the temperatures inside and outside the car made it that much more of a challenge. Our whole team has performed superbly well."
Stephane Peterhansel: "There was no point in taking any risks today. We proved again that we are a very strong team and I am very happy with the performance of the new car. This was a good test for me and a great result for the whole team."
Marc Coma: "It's a very good result, in fact it was our objective. I think that this has boosted our morale and confidence for the Dakar Rally. I'm very happy. I want to thank the team for the work they have done, the mechanics, Jordi Arcarons, Jordi Viladoms as well, because the truth is that it is very easy to work with a team like this. I would also like to dedicate the race to all those who are suffering from home; I know there are lots of them. As regards the special, the aim was not to take any risks and reach the finish. There was fog during the first special and y was opening the road and therefore the pace was rather slow. But the fog had disappeared during the second special so I was able to set a much faster pace. I'm happy because we achieved our aim today, which was securing the rally, and that's what we did."
Jordi Viladoms: "I'm very, very happy, because this year we've taken part in many races. Things worked out well already during the Pharaoh's Rally but we couldn't round it up. In this event, with the best riders, we've been able to make a good race and also finish on the podium, which is a big success for me. Today's stage was rather long, because there was a lot of fog at the start of the first special and you never know if your pace is good enough. You hardly see anything and you don't know whether the other riders are having the same problems as you. Anyway, I tried to push in other avoid being caught. This is how I reached the finish and it went good because I managed to recover 4 minutes over Blais and Casteu. I'm very happy."
<pre> UAE Desert Challenge top five results
Overall Cars 1. Alphand/Picard Mitsubishi 16h 51m 15s 2. Peterhansel/Cottret Mitsubishi 17h 07m 14s 3. Schlesser/Guigou Schlesser 17h 27m 42s 4. Sousa/Schulz Volkswagen 17h 32m 12s 5. Saleh Al-Attiyah/Guehennec BMW 18h 02m 09s
Overall Motorbikes 1. M.Coma KTM 18h02'17 2. C.Despres KTM 18h 16'36 3. J.Viladoms KTM 18h 26'10 4. D.Casteu KTM 18h 32'51 5. C.Blais KTM 18h 33'21