COMMUNIQUE 5
14 March 2004 Leg 3 Release

MITSUBISHI SCORE POINTS ON FIRST PROPER GRAVEL RALLY
Manufacturer and Driver points for Mitsubishi and Panizzi
Mitsubishi gather more valuable gravel data for development

Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04
Gilles Panizzi / Hervé Panizzi
(Leg 3 - 14 March 2004)

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sport crew Gilles and Hervé Panizzi scored two points on the third day of Latin American sunshine and 28 degree temperatures, to boost Mitsubishi’s points total on the inaugural Corona Rally México, the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04s first true gravel event since its return to the world series.

Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04
Gilles Panizzi / Hervé Panizzi
(Leg 3 - 14 March 2004)
The Mexican event was a tough rally and the field diminished to 28 from an original field of 54 by the time competitors arrived back in León this afternoon. The final day covered the remaining five stages and 132 competitive kilometers but the day was far from easy.

The opening stage of the final leg was the longest of the Mexican event at just over thirty kilometers but the bright morning sunshine was so low that when combined with a huge amount of dust from the hard-packed gravel roads, it made visibility very difficult.

The Mitsubishi crew of Gilles and Hervé Panizzi today recorded their fastest stage times of the event, clocking one sixth and two seventh fastest through the day. The all-French crew have had a mixed event, encountering transmission and brake issues on occasion but they drove consistently, ensuring they held onto their eighth position overall to take two valuable manufacturer points for Mitsubishi.

"We had a few problems but I prefer to keep a positive feeling; I’m just pleased to be at the finish after 400km", commented Gilles. "We now know what our priorities are for making improvements on the upcoming test. I’m very happy as Mitsubishi are a team who work well together and I enjoy working with them. I think we can set faster times in New Zealand but we will know for sure after the test in Europe".

Commenting on the event itself, Gilles added: "It was nice rallying here in Mexico for the first time. The stages were a combination of fast and flowing and aggressive roads through some beautiful landscape and I’m looking forward to returning here".

Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04
Gilles Panizzi / Hervé Panizzi
(Leg 3 - 14 March 2004)
The second registered Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04 of "Gigi" Galli was forced into retirement on the second day of the rally with a damaged suspension and the likable Italian is now focusing on his next event.

Commenting on the team’s performance, Mario Fornaris, Team Technical Director said: "This is our first proper gravel run so it’s difficult to assess our position relative to other teams. Our testing was cut short before the rally so it was not as extensive as we had hoped and our expectations on this rally were fairly low as a result. We have however made a big improvement on the reliability of our transmission after Sweden which I am pleased about".

Looking ahead he added: "Before New Zealand we have another test scheduled and we plan to work on the damper and differential settings to improve the set-up. I expect our performance on the next rally to be more competitive and for the Lancer WRC04 to be a bit faster".

The fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship takes contenders to the more familiar gravel terrain around Auckland for Rally New Zealand (April 15-18). Twenty-six-year-old Finn Kristian Sohlberg will join Gilles Panizzi in the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sport Team, the pair piloting the two registered Lancer WRC04s. Rally New Zealand also qualifies as round three of the 2004 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship and all 20 crews registered in the FIA PWRC have nominated this as one of their points-scoring rallies. Both "Dani" Sola and "Gigi" Galli will be piloting Mitsubishi Group N machinery on one of the favorites of the series.

News from our rivals...

Ford driver Markko Märtin drove a perfect rally to take victory just ahead of young team-mate François Duval in second, the pair recording Ford’s first 1-2 finish since Cyprus Rally in 2000. Spaniard Carlos Sainz (Citroën) took third place, despite taking a stage win today, as a half roll in the morning’s group of stages made moving up the order difficult. Petter Solberg, who has won the lion’s share of stages on the rally, eventually overhauled his young team-mate Mikko Hirvonen on the penultimate stage of the rally, to take fourth and fifth for Subaru.



2004 FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP - ROUND 2

MITSUBISHI DRIVER SOLA TAKES CRUSHING PRODUCTION CLASS WIN ON RALLY MEXICO

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Daniel Solà / Xavier Amigo
(Leg 3 - 14 March 2004)
Mitsubishi Motors driver "Dani" Solà was a clear winner of the Production World Championship class on the second round of the 2004 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, the Corona Rally México. Driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, the Spaniard led from the second stage to the finish.

Second overall in the Group N category was Peruvian Ramón Ferreyros, a distant two minutes behind the winner, followed by Toshihiro Arai in third, the Japanese now lying second in the FIA Production Car World Championship to Solà.

There was no respite for weary crews and cars in the final leg of the latest addition to the FIA World Rally Championship, as they faced another five stages including two runs at the longest of the rally in the arid mountains north-east of León.

Hot, dry weather made conditions less treacherous than they had been earlier in the rally, but loose stones meant the roads were often slippery and increasingly rough. Fewer than half the starters reached the finish of the 15-stage rally.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Xavier Pons / Oriol Julià
(Leg 3 - 14 March 2004)
Former Junior World Champion "Dani" Solà stamped his authority on the rally from the outset in his Lancer Evolution and was therefore able to ease off and take no chances in the closing stages.

"I am very, very happy. My aim was to show that I am fast on gravel here and everything has worked well. This gives us a good chance for the FIA Production Car World Championship", Solà stated.

Fellow Spaniard "Xevi" Pons put in a fine drive on his first attempt at the Rally México to finish fifth of the Production World Championship contenders in his Lancer Evolution.

"It has been a hard rally, but today has gone well and I am very happy with this result. This gives me confidence for the rest of the year", Pons commented.

Japan’s Fumio Nutahara is contesting the FIA Production Car World Championship for the first time and emerged from the event with considerable credit, guiding his Lancer Evolution to sixth of the championship contenders.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Fumio Nutahara / Satoshi Hayashi
(Leg 3 - 14 March 2004)
"I am very pleased. Today we just wanted to avoid trouble and get to the finish. It has been a difficult rally and it was easy to make a mistake, but everything has gone well in the end", Nutahara stated.

Mitsubishis figured prominently among the finishers, Ricardo Triviño finishing as top Mexican in his Lancer Evolution and also scoring FIA Production Car World Championship points.

Finn Kristian Sohlberg saw his rally come to an end when his Group N Lancer went off the road on the first stage of the final day, after recording a trio of stage wins on leg two.

The Production World Rally Championship resumes next month with the most southerly round of the series, the Rally New Zealand.

FINAL OVERALL CLASSIFICATION

  Driver / Co-driver Nat. Car Gr/Cl Total Time Difference
 Markko Märtin M / Michael Park EE/GB  Ford Focus RS WRC 03 A/8 4.06.46.2   
 François Duval M / Stéphane Prevot B  Ford Focus RS WRC 03 A/8 4.07.28.7  + 42.5 
 Carlos Sainz M / Marc Marti E  Citroën Xsara WRC A/8 4.08.07.1  + 1.20.9 
 Petter Solberg M / Phil Mills N/GB  Subaru Impreza WRC 04 A/8 4.10.00.9  + 3.14.7 
 Mikko Hirvonen M / Jarmo Lehtinen FIN  Subaru Impreza WRC 04 A/8 4.10.22.4  + 3.36.2 
 Marcus Grönholm M / Timo Rautiainen FIN  Peugeot 307 WRC A/8 4.10.44.6  + 3.58.4 
 Jussi Valimäki / Jakke Honkanen FIN  Hyundai Accent WRC A/8 4.18.03.1  + 11.16.9 
 Gilles Panizzi M / Hervé Panizzi F  Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04 A/8 4.18.16.8  + 11.30.6 
 Anthony Warmbold / Gemma Price D/GB  Ford Focus RS WRC 02 A/8 4.20.46.6  + 14.00.4 
10   Harri Rovanperä M / Risto Pietiläinen FIN  Peugeot 307 WRC A/8 4.26.06.5  + 19.20.3 
11   Daniel Solà P / Xavier Amigo E  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 4.26.44.9  + 19.58.7 
12   Ramón Ferreyros / Rubén Garcia PE/RA  Subaru Impreza N/4 4.28.43.4  + 21.57.2 
13   Toshihiro Arai P / Tony Sircombe J/NZ  Subaru Impreza N/4 4.28.51.2  + 22.05.0 
14   Niall McShea P / Gordon Noble IRL/GB  Subaru Impreza N/4 4.29.21.8  + 22.35.6 
15   Karamjit Singh P / Allen Oh MAL  Proton Pert N/4 4.30.51.7  + 24.05.5 
16   Xavier Pons P / Oriol Julià E  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 4.32.30.4  + 25.44.2 
17   Fumio Nutahara P / Satoshi Hayashi J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 4.34.06.1  + 27.19.9 
18   Ricardo Triviño P / Jordi Barrabàs MEX/E  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 4.41.13.6  + 34.27.4 
19   Joakim Roman P / Ragnar Spjuth S  Subaru Impreza N/4 4.48.01.1  + 41.14.9 
20   Sergey Uspenskiy / Victor Timkovskiy RUS  Subaru Impreza N/4 4.49.18.1  + 42.31.9 
21   Andrés Montalto / Max Rohrmoser CR  Subaru Impreza N/4 4.53.13.4  + 46.27.2 
22   Ferran Font / Miguel Amblas AND/E  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 4.55.22.1  + 48.35.9 
23   Alejandro Pimentel / Marielen Izaurieta MEX  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 4.55.43.9  + 48.57.7 
24   Weyth Gubelmann / Therin Pace USA  Subaru Impreza N/4 5.13.12.9  + 1.06.26.7 
25   Jorge Altmann / Arturo Suarez CR  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 5.22.27.7  + 1.15.41.5 
Nationalities: AND=Andorra/ B=Belgium/ CR=Costa Rica/ D=Germany/ E=Spain/ EE=Estonia/ F=France/ FIN=Finland/ GB=Great Britain/ IRL=Ireland/ J=Japan/ MAL=Malaysia/ MEX=Mexico/ N=Norway/ NZ=New Zealand/ PE=Peru/ RA=Argentina/ RUS=Russia/ S=Sweden/ USA=United States of America/
Names underlined followed by M indicate drivers nominated in the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers
Names underlined followed by P indicate drivers eligible for FIA Production Car World Rally Championship points