Dakar: Mitsubishi stage 1 report

Biasion heads Mitsubishi assault Four Pajeros/Monteros in the top eight The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Team Dakar Rally challenge got off to a good start in Clermont Ferrand this afternoon with all four Pajeros / Monteros placed in the top...

Biasion heads Mitsubishi assault
Four Pajeros/Monteros in the top eight

The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Team Dakar Rally challenge got off to a good start in Clermont Ferrand this afternoon with all four Pajeros / Monteros placed in the top eight and split by just 8.2 seconds. Former World Rally Champion "Miki" Biasion led the assault, the Italian third overall and just nine-tenths of a second adrift of stage winner Shinozuka.

Despite freezing temperatures and snowfall, an estimated 5,000 spectators turned out to watch the opening stage of the 2004 Telefónica Dakar Rally, the first time the event has been hosted in the Région d'Auvergne since 1991.

Four hundred entrants took the start under the distant shadow of the extinct snow-capped Puy de Dôme volcano; 142 in cars, 195 bike riders and 63 in trucks. After the short Prologue stage (of which times do not count for the final classification), the crews now head 395 kilometers south for the overnight halt in Narbonne.

Double World Rally Champion "Miki" Biasion and co-driver Tiziano Siviero powered their Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution around the muddy dual lane circuit in the Grande Halle complex to set third fastest time, while team-mate and double Dakar Rally winner Hiroshi Masuoka was hot on his heels in fourth.

Andrea Mayer, who is making her debut with the Mitsubishi Motor Sports factory team, finished the stage in sixth position in a classic Pajero / Montero, while French team-mates Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret were eighth in the team's third Pajero / Montero Evolution.

Tomorrow's second leg of the 2004 Dakar Rally kicks off with a short six kilometer liaison section to the start of a tricky 25 kilometer stage near Narbonne. Crews then drive 532 kilometers, across the border into Spain, for the overnight halt at the coastal town of Castellón.

Misslin leads Mitsubishi privateers assault
Monterde leads Ralliart customer teams

French Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero privateer Nicolas Misslin got off to a fine start and was 10th on the stage, while Qatar's Nasser-Saleh Al-Attiyah was 12th.

Spaniards José-Luis Monterde and Rafael Tornabell were classified first of the seven Mitsubishi Ralliart customer teams. They hold 16th overall in another Pajero / Montero. Despite the tricky conditions, all the Mitsubishi drivers acquitted themselves well in the opening crowd-pleaser and Poland's Lukasz Komornicki and Rafal Marton were hot on Monterde's heels in 18th position, 15 seconds adrift of the stage winner.

Other Ralliart customer crews include Kolberg (28th) and Housieaux (33rd). For his first ever experience on snow, Thailand's Siriwattanakun finished 42nd and China's Luo Ding 53rd. All the 141 starters completed successfully this first special stage of the 2004 Dakar Rally.

-mitsubishi-

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Series Dakar
Drivers Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Tiziano Siviero , Andrea Mayer , Jose Luis Monterde , Rafael Tornabell , Luo Ding , Lukasz Komornicki , Nicolas Misslin , Rafal Marton