Mitsubishi Motors Team Ready For Start of 2005 Dakar Rally The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team completed its scrutineering and documentation today at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, just hours ahead of the start of the 16-day...
Mitsubishi Motors Team Ready For Start of 2005 Dakar Rally
The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team completed its scrutineering and documentation today at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, just hours ahead of the start of the 16-day mammoth Dakar Rally. The event starts tomorrow in the Spanish city and finishes in Senegal on Sunday January 16.
Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution driver Hiroshi Masuoka - who won the event for Mitsubishi Motors in 2002 and 2003 - was in an upbeat mood during the final formalities. "It is nice to start the race in Spain for a change", said the Japanese, who claims to be in peak form both mentally and physically. "The sun is shining, there are many people here and I am looking forward to the start. I think that the race will start in a competitive sense on Monday. We must take no risks through the small stages and then I plan to speed up after the Morocco stages next week".
Adding to his comments, German co-driver Andreas Schultz said: "This race will begin in real terms when we get to Zouerat. This is where we will see gaps appearing in the leaderboard and a pattern beginning to emerge".
Defending Dakar Rally champion Stéphane Peterhansel has a similar strategy and plans to take it steady in the opening stages as he bids for his second victory in this awesome cross country rally.
"I think it is completely different to start the race in Spain," said Peterhansel. "In 1988, the Dakar Rally passed through Barcelona and many people tried to touch all the bikers. There was a lot of excitement. The organization is perfect here and, of course, we have been lucky with the weather.
"The first couple of stages will be nice, but for me the race starts between Rabat and Agadir in Morocco. My tactic is to stay in contact with the leaders until the first Marathon stage in Mauritania".
Newcomer to the Mitsubishi Motors Team, Luc Alphand, is no stranger to the Dakar having first competed in 1998, and the Frenchman was confident of his chances ahead of his first Dakar outing in the Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution.
"It is a great feeling to be a member of such a professional team", he said. "Now I must repay the team's faith in me with a responsible and professional performance".
Joan 'Nani' Roma is also a seasoned Dakar challenger, although the Spaniard will be contesting the event for the first time in a car. Roma, who won the event outright on a motorcycle in 2004, will be piloting the fourth official Pajero / Montero Evolution and even he could never have foreseen the welcome he received from his home supporters during today's scrutineering.
Surrounded by journalists, flashing cameras and television crews, Roma admitted that his main objective was to finish the Dakar and support his team-mates. "I had a good debut with the Mitsubishi team in Qatar last month and will build on this first experience as soon as I can. The team is behind me and there has been a lot of interest in Spain in my progress. But I am realistic and will not start this race as one of the favorites in a car".
Andrea Mayer rounds off the Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team entry, however the German will be piloting a turbo-charged diesel-engined L200 Pick-Up in her second official outing with the team.
"Everyone keeps telling me that I will need to be cautious", said Mayer. "I know that and will enjoy my role as a support driver, but it will be difficult not to push a little harder on some stages when I feel that I could go quicker".
The 2005 Telefónica Dakar Rally starts in Barcelona on New Year's Eve with a short six kilometer Prologue stage. On Saturday, the 51 cars and a host of bike riders and truck racers then begin their epic journey with a long 920 kilometer liaison section to Granada.