Masuoka Leads Mitsubishi Motors' Early Assault Mitsubishi starts its bid for fifth consecutive victory and 10th overall win Alphand fifth and Peterhansel ninth in Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolutions Roma makes steady start in first Dakar...
Masuoka Leads Mitsubishi Motors' Early Assault
Mitsubishi starts its bid for fifth consecutive victory and 10th overall win
Alphand fifth and Peterhansel ninth in Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolutions
Roma makes steady start in first Dakar outing in a car
The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team assault on the 2005 Dakar Rally is being led by Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka and co-driver Andreas Schultz, the Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution crew lying second after today's opening Prologue stage
The double Dakar Rally victor was beaten by just two seconds over the six kilometer stage on the beach at Castelldefels, west of Barcelona - Robby Gordon claiming victory to become the first American to take a Dakar stage win in a car.
"These stages are always great for the sponsors and the spectators, but not really that important for us unless you have a problem", said Masuoka. "My plan is to push harder when we reach the Marathon stage in Mauritania".
A massive New Year's Eve crowd gathered in warm winter sunshine to give the 26th Dakar Rally a festive send-off at the Costa Brava beach village. Bike riders kick-started the action in reverse order before the leading cars got underway on the sandy stage at two-minute intervals.
For the first time in the history of the Dakar Rally, the times from the Prologue stage will not only determine the starting order for the second leg, but they will also count towards the overall classification.
The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution crew of Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard were fifth and the French duo of Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret were ninth overall.
"It is great for me to be part of such a large professional team", said former World Downhill Skiing Champion Alphand. "Now I must repay the team's faith in me with the best performance I can do over the next two weeks".
Adding to his comments, Peterhansel said: "I think it is completely different to start the race in Spain. The organization has been perfect here and, of course, we have been lucky with the weather. 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".
Spanish team-mate Joan Roma won the event last year on a motorcycle and has been staggered by the response the Spanish public has given him since he joined the Mitsubishi Motors team. He finished the opening stage in 23rd position in the fourth Pajero / Montero Evolution.
"Everywhere I go there have been well-wishers," said Roma. "The crowd today has been fabulous; it is like a dream for me to start the race in Catalunya".
Andrea Mayer rounds off the Mitsubishi Motors team assault, the German driving an L200 Pick-Up in her second official outing with the team.
"I know I have a role as a support driver, but I am relishing the challenge of tackling the Dakar in the L200 Pick-Up", said 15th-placed Mayer. "My co-driver Jean-Michel Polato and I have worked together for several weeks and teamed up at the final shakedown in France before Christmas to make our final preparations for the Dakar".
Tomorrow, the route for the Dakar Rally is made up entirely of a 920 kilometer liaison section between Barcelona and Granada, where teams will spend the first evening of the New Year.
Housieaux leads the nine-strong Mitsubishi Ralliart customer challenge
Mitsubishi Ralliart is running no fewer than nine customer teams in the 2005 Dakar Rally and Dominique Housieaux/Loïc Fagot were quickest at the wheel of their Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero.
The Frenchmen claimed 22nd position, just ahead of Joan 'Nani' Roma.
Brazil's Klever Kolberg was second fastest of the Ralliart customers to hold 26th position while former European Rally Champion Krzysztof Holowczyc - who was nervous about a noisy engine during the pre-event scrutineering formalities - completed the stage in 35th position.
Guan Yuang Men has undergone intense tuition in China with Mitsubishi's former Dakar Rally winner Jean-Pierre Fontenay since October's UAE Desert Challenge.
The Chinese driver finished the stage equal 35th with Holowczyc. "I am feeling a lot more confident now and looking forward to fulfilling my goal of reaching Dakar", said Men.
Thailand's Pornsawan Siriwattanakun tackled his first stage in the new Mitsubishi Truck Evolution and was classified 50th overall.
New Mitsubishi Ralliart customers Alexey Berkut, Toni van Deijne and Arnold Meier finished 63rd, 70th and 81st respectively in the overall standings.
Francisco Inocencio was badly delayed with engine problems and the Ralliart mechanics were working against the clock to keep him in the rally.