TEAM REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART SAFELY ON TRACK FOR START OF 29TH DAKAR RALLY IN LISBON ON SATURDAY MORNING After many months of detailed preparations, members of Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart are counting the hours before the start of the...
TEAM REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART SAFELY ON TRACK FOR START OF 29TH DAKAR RALLY IN LISBON ON SATURDAY MORNING
After many months of detailed preparations, members of Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart are counting the hours before the start of the 2007 Dakar Rally, which gets underway on Saturday morning (January 6th) in the Portuguese capital.
The Japanese manufacturer's four teams of Stephane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret, Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard, Hiroshi Masuoka/Pascal Maimon and Joan 'Nani' Roma/Lucas Cruz safely passed through documentation and scrutineering checks at the fog-shrouded Belem Cultural Centre in Lisbon on Thursday morning.
Their four new Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution MPR13s have been meticulously prepared at MMSP's workshops in Pont-de-Vaux and the gleaming quartet attracted massive interest from spectators and media alike at the official technical checks.
Crew members spent a relaxing Christmas and New Year with family and friends, following a hectic few weeks, which began with the UAE Desert Challenge in Dubai and included several physical training and test sessions, press conferences, the pre-Christmas shakedown at Le Creusot in France, the Race of Champions in Paris, a sporting competition at Serre-Chevalliers and numerous public relations functions and meetings with members of the media.
Team Repsol Misubishi Ralliart have based their operation at Mitsubishi Portugal's headquarters in Lisbon in the three-day build-up to the Dakar Rally and the local importer offered enthusiastic support. While mechanics and engineers go over the complex logistical plans for the 15 competitive days that lie ahead, Mitsubishi crew members will be able to relax a little for one final day on Friday, before the competitive action gets underway on Saturday morning.
Ahead of a capacity entry of 185 cars, 233 bikes, 14 quads and 85 trucks lies a total route of 7,915km, of which 4,309km will be competitive following the route amendments in Mauritania and Mali that were announced shortly before Christmas. There are a total of 38 Mitsubishi cars on the ASO's latest entry list.
"People say I am the defending champion and I am the favourite and will have pressure, but I say no," said defending champion Luc Alphand. "I do not feel pressure. I will do my best. We have a great team and I am confident that the 'reds' can win the rally again. We lost two of the original stages, but I have every confidence in the ASO and will just take each day as it comes.
"For me, it was a really nice New Year. I managed to switch off from the Dakar. We hired a one-star Michelin chef from a local restaurant and 12 of us, six couples, enjoyed a beautiful meal in Serre-Chevalliers in the mountains. It was my way to switch off."
"I have enjoyed two weeks' rest and it has been quite relaxing without the pressure," admitted twice former champion Stphane Peterhansel. "I am quite happy with the changes that the ASO have made to the route. The most important thing is security on the race. We lost Timbuktu, but this is not so bad and we now have a lap around Nema. I am also pleased that we now have the final stage at Lac Rose."
"I am very happy with the new car, the MPR13," said Hiroshi Masuoka, winner of the Dakar Rally in 2002 and 2003. "The suspension, the handling, everything is better. After Nema the route has been modified, so the rally is shorter than other years. This may make it more important for us to drive harder and more competitively in the early days."
"Every year we seem to have more teams, more media and more interest in the Dakar Rally," said Joan 'Nani' Roma, shrouded by clicking cameras at the entrance to scrutineering on Saturday morning. "The Dakar has been on my mind for two months now. It was strange having New Year with the family, but now it is time to completely focus.
"The route changes have made the rally very different. Four days after Atar we were to have two Marathon stages and now we only have one and a rest day. But it is the same for everyone. Now we will arrive in Lac Rose and need to concentrate to the very end."
"We have been working for 16 months on this project and Mitsubishi has been involved in the Dakar Rally for 25 years," said MMSP's Managing and Sporting Director Dominique Serieys. "I, myself, have been involved for 15 years. I am happy we are here. The last two weeks have dragged before the start. The team is motivated and we are raring to go."
"Everyone has done a fantastic job so far," said MMSP's President Isao Torii. "I am happy and confident that the team can take another victory. Maybe the cancelled section could have been one of our advantages. This is a pity, but this rally is never over until we reach the podium in Dakar."
Saturday morning (January 6th) marks the official start of the 2007 Dakar Rally with a 117 km selective section between the Portuguese capital and the Algarve tourist town of Portimao. The timed test constitutes 25% of the day's route of 464 km and will take place over hilly farmland terrain in the Alentejo wine region to the south-east of Lisbon.