Mitsubishi Motors Corporation today announced that Frenchman Gilles Panizzi has signed a contract with its motor sports subsidiary MMSP GmbH to spearhead its assault in the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship. The Frenchman, who is ...
Mitsubishi Motors Corporation today announced that Frenchman Gilles Panizzi has signed a contract with its motor sports subsidiary MMSP GmbH to spearhead its assault in the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship.
The Frenchman, who is regarded as one of the fastest rally drivers in the world on asphalt, will be co-driven by brother Herve and brings a wealth of experience to the team as it re-enters the sport at its highest level.
The double French Rally Champion from Roquebrune joins MMSP after nearly a decade of association with the current holder of the world title for manufacturers, where his crushing victories and dedication to development work have reaped rich rewards. During these years, Panizzi forged an enviable relationship with Italian born Mario Fornaris, who joined MMSP as Technical Director in January 2003, and the pair's winning relationship will be rekindled in 2004 when the manufacturer returns to a full season in the FIA World Rally Championship after a year's sabbatical.
"Joining Mitsubishi is the perfect solution for me," commented Panizzi, who has won six World Championship rallies in his career. "We are all highly motivated and committed to success and the relationship I have with Mario (Fornaris), in particular, means we will be starting from a very good position. I have long stated that I wanted a full WRC program and I believe the long-term agreement we have will be beneficial for everyone. I am very pleased to be joining a team that has such a successful heritage in the sport. I'm also very excited about working with the young team and motivated to help the team succeed with this new challenge."
Adding to his comments, Sven Quandt, President and Head of Motor Sport at MMSP said: "We are taking our return to the sport very seriously and Gilles is part of our commitment to a successful future. His talent on asphalt is unmatched and he has proved to be a mounting force on loose surfaces but, more than anything, he is motivated and dedicated and will be an enormous asset in such a highly-competitive arena."
Panizzi made his debut in the World Rally Championship in 1990 on the famous Rallye Monte Carlo, and the 37-year-old Frenchman went on to claim two consecutive French Rally Championship titles (1996 and 1997). His first taste of victory at World Championship level came in 2000 when he won the Tour de Corse, and he and brother Herve have together claimed another win on the Mediterranean island (2002), as well as a hat-trick of victories in Sanremo (2000, 2001 and 2002) and a win on the 2002 Rallye Catalunya.
With the signing of Mr. Panizzi, MMSP GmbH has decided not to renew the contract with WRC driver Alistair McRae who has been driving for Mitsubishi since 2002.