Mitsubishi And BFGoodrich Take Dakar Rally One-Two Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi rewrote the history books by claiming a seventh successive victory in the Dakar Rally after the final 16km special stage, near Dakar, in Senegal. The success...
Mitsubishi And BFGoodrich Take Dakar Rally One-Two
Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi rewrote the history books by claiming a seventh successive victory in the Dakar Rally after the final 16km special stage, near Dakar, in Senegal.
The success was a record-breaking 12th win in the team's 25-year history of competing in the event. Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret won for the third time in four years in their Mitsubishi/BFGoodrich Pajero/Montero Evolution and beat team mates and defending champions Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard by a margin of just 7m 26s after 15 days of bruising competition across Portugal, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and Senegal.
But BFGoodrich-backed Volkswagen Motorsport dominated the stage victories, taking 10 of the 14 stage wins. Carlos Sainz recorded five of the 14 stage wins, Giniel de Villiers won four specials, including the final sprint around Lac Rose, and Portugal's Carlos Sousa won the first special stage in Europe. Mitsubishi failed to clinch a single stage win, although Jutta Kleinschmidt and Andreas Schulz clinched overall victory for the Japanese manufacturer in 2001 without winning a special.
Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah won his first ever Dakar special for X-Raid, Jean-Louis Schlesser clinched two stage wins in his BFGoodrich-backed Buggy and American Robbie Gordon won the Tan Tan to Zouerat stage in a Hummer. BFGoodrich-backed cars therefore won all but one of the special stages.
Mitsubishi hit the front on the ninth special stage between Tichit and Nema in the Mauritanian Sahel, when long-time South African leader Giniel de Villiers suffered turbocharger problems and lost his place in the top 10. For the last six days of the rally, Mitsubishi controlled proceedings through careful team management to eventually take first, second, fifth and 13th places.
Volkswagen led for much of the early part of the rally through Sousa, Sainz and then De Villiers, but each of the drivers suffered mechanical problems and eventually finished in seventh, ninth and 11th places. American Mark Miller was their leading finisher and benefited from time penalties for his main rival to seal fourth place and the coveted diesel category award.
The X-Raid Team managed to bring four of its five cars to the finish: Guerlain Chicherit crashed out of a top six position in Morocco, but Al-Attiyah flew the team flag proudly to take sixth position in an X3CC, although he could well have been third or fourth had it not been for speeding penalties that cost him over two vital hours. German team mate Jutta Kleinschmidt overcame numerous early technical problems to seal 15th and Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde was 16th. Paulo Nobre blotted his copybook in Europe, but reached the finish in his BMW X5.
But the last word belonged to the Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser, who pedalled his BFGoodrich- bedecked Schlesser-Ford Buggy into a sensational third place and the honour of being the leading two-wheel drive car to reach Dakar. The twice former winner won two special stages outright and a second time penalty for Al-Attiyah in Dakar means that the result of an appeal court in France to determine whether Al-Attiyah's Moroccan time penalty is lifted bears no consequence to Schlesser's podium finish. What the drivers said... Stephane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (Mitsubishi/BFGoodrich) "I was very nervous on the last big African special stage yesterday and I just drove very slowly on the beach this morning. It was not necessary to do the show for the crowd and the television on the last stage. When I won my first motorcycle race in Tunisia, I did not win a special stage so in my head it was never a problem not to win a special stage on this Dakar. It is not that important.
"Taking the overall victory on the Dakar is the important thing. It is the best feeling. Our new MPR13 is very good and very fast, but I am sure that we can make even more improvements this year before we come back to try and win the Dakar again in 2008."
Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (Mitsubishi/BFGoodrich) "I won the race last year, but the important thing was to give the team victory again this time. This morning it was like a party on the beach, with friends, the ocean and the victory. We proved that we have great team spirit, real determination and the best group of people."
Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (VW/BFGoodrich) "It is important for the team that we won the diesel category. Volkswagen proved on this race that we were generally the fastest team and, with a little more luck, we would have won the race. The team won 10 special stages. That statistic speaks for itself. Fourth place for me is very nice, but it would have been better to reach the podium. There is always next year."
Jean-Louis Schlesser/Arnaud Debron (Schlesser-Ford/BFGoodrich) "The time penalty for Nasser meant that we were guaranteed third place. I am delighted. I knew that we could match the factory teams with their enormous budgets. This is a terrific result for me and my small team. Against the odds we have achieved a great success."
Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah/Alain Guehennec (BMW X3CC/BFGoodrich) "I am sure that there was a mistake with the system that measures speeds, because I braked before the control zone. This is a real disappointing end to the race for me, especially as it was only around seven metres into the zone where the measurement was taken. The team did a great job to get us to fourth position and we were all set for the diesel victory. We have proved that the BMW is strong, reliable and competitive, but it is so frustrating to lose fourth, and even third place, because of time penalties."
Dominique Serieys (Manager, Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart /BFGoodrich) "I am very proud that we have managed to record the seventh win in seven years. The new car won out of the box with a couple of minor problems with some external components and this bodes well for the ongoing development throughout 2007 and into 2008. I don't think that this was a difficult Dakar. For sure, our strategy was different this time, but you can see from the number of finishers that it was maybe an easier race than previous years. We had many more difficult battles with Citroen in previous Dakars.
"Last summer we suffered the tragic loss of Henri Magne and he is always in our thoughts. But life has to go on. For that reason we have dedicated this victory to his honour and to his wife Lucette and baby Louis, who have joined us in Dakar to share this special and emotional occasion."