"ALL SYSTEMS GO" FOR REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART TEAM
The four cars which are due to spearhead the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team's 2008 Dakar bid successfully completed the special shakedown session which took place today at the squad's usual test venue in Marmagne, northwest of Macon, approximately 60km from its headquarters in Pont de Vaux, France.
All four crews braved the freezing weather to give their respective Pajero Montero Evolution MPR13s a final systems check before the vehicles are trucked to Lisbon, Portugal, in time for scrutineering and the official start of the African marathon which kicks off on January 5, 2008.
Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (France), Hiroshi Masuoka/Pascal Maimon (Japan/France) and Stephane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (France) and Joan 'Nani' Roma/Lucas Cruz (Spain) all profited from the day to bed in a variety of mechanical parts and make a number of fine-tuning adjustments to their cars and seating positions round the maze of gravel tracks that make up the test base.
"Everything went perfectly smoothly," reported the team Technical Director, Thierry Viardot. "The intention of today's run wasn't to work on the set-up of the cars. That was done some time ago as a function of the results of the different test sessions organised during the year. Our objective was essentially to ensure there were no problems following the cars' build. Certain drivers were happy to call it a day after a brief drive, others spent longer at the wheel, but the exact distance covered by each crew was up to them. When you're talking about an event that lasts several thousand kilometres, it really wasn't a difference of a few of kilometres one way or the other today that will make a big difference once the competitive action begins next month.
"The beauty of the test facilities we use is that they offer a wide variety of surface types and we are free to make any changes we wish if we want to reproduce certain conditions,"concluded Viardot. "Another advantage is the fact that the tracks never get muddy, even it rains. However, with temperatures ranging from -6C to -3C today, that wasn't a problem this time!"
The shakedown session took place just days after the crews had completed their final physical fitness course of the year together. After their hike le Tour du Mont Blanc in July and a week of outdoor activities in Catalonia, Spain in November, this month's programme took them to the Thalasso Centre in Douarnenez, in Brittany, France, for a week of running, cycling, swimming, sauna and thalasso-therapy.
"It's always nice to get together off events but this sort of work is a vital part of our build-up to the Dakar," explained Luc Alphand's co-driver and former biker Gilles Picard. "The programme wasn't quite as intensive as it was the two other two times, and the sauna and thalasso-therapy were quite relaxing. That said, it was still sufficiently taxing to ensure we slept soundly each night!"
The 16-day 2008 Dakar starts in Lisbon on Saturday, January 5, and is scheduled to finish by the Lac Rose, near Dakar, Senegal, on Sunday, January 20.
-credit: mitsubishi ralliart