Baja Anta da Serra 500 Portalegre / FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas - Round 5 of 6
20 - 23 October 2005

MITSUBISHI PAJERO / MONTERO EVOLUTION DRIVER LUC ALPHAND WINS IN PORTUGAL

Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution
Luc Alphand / Gilles Picard

Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution
Luc Alphand / Gilles Picard
The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol Team crew of Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard claimed a superb victory in the 19th Baja Anta Da Serra 500-Portalegre today, the fourth round of the FIA International Cup for Cross Country Bajas in eastern Portugal. Pajero / Montero Evolution team-mates Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon were however forced into retirement when thick mud caused the alternator belt to slip and break after the start of the second of three competitive sections.

In his final competitive outing with the team ahead of the 2006 Dakar Rally, Luc Alphand set a blistering pace from the outset, the Frenchman fastest through the opening two competitive sections to the south and north-west of Portalegre on Saturday (October 22). Alphand suffered two punctures in the second section, which dropped him to third, however he regained the lead when both Carlos Sainz and Jutta Kleinschmidt (Volkswagen) lost time in the muddy and rain-lashed conditions.

"When I collected two flat tires after 60 kilometers, I really thought I was out of the rally", admitted Alphand, who lost around six minutes, "as there were 160 kilometers still to go. But our BF Goodrich mud tires were good in some places. The car handled well under braking. Then it stopped raining. It was drier, but I decided to drive safely. Then I passed Carlos and realised that we were okay. It was time to ease off for the last 60 kilometers.

Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution
Luc Alphand / Gilles Picard
"This morning it was crazy", added Alphand. "There were almost 40 kilometers like pure ice. It was thick mud through the trees; we were sliding so much. You braked into a corner for 300 meters and then you slid for 100 meters. Then you gained control again. The target was just to stay on the track. The only option was to use mud tires for the second stage, even if there were some rocky sections".

Alphand started today’s closing leg with a four minute 28 second advantage over Kleinschmidt but a measured drive in treacherous conditions saw him victorious in the MPR10 version of the Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution.

"This is a great result for me", concluded Alphand. "I did not expect to win, especially with Sainz and Saby on these types of WRC stages. I suppose on the last Dakar I was getting used to the team and the car and now I feel really comfortable. This was a good test. I had a little luck, bur you need some luck sometimes".

A delighted Team Director, Dominique Serieys, added: "This was a perfect result. I feel a little sad for Hiroshi, but we have learned a lot. This was a good team job. Everyone worked well. We want to keep this team spirit. This is our 2004 car. It is not a new car and I must congratulate Luc and Gilles on their performances".

Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution
Hiroshi Masuoka /
Said Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports, Isao Torii: "This is a fantastic boost for the whole team, particularly for Luc and Gilles before the Dakar Rally. I am delighted for everyone involved in the result".

Japanese team-mate Hiroshi Masuoka, a double Dakar Rally winner, hit problems in the second competitive section on Saturday and the second Pajero / Montero Evolution was forced into retirement. He and Pascal Maimon had held fourth after the first section.

There was also disappointment for the Mitsubishi Portugal entrant, Armindo Araújo. The Portuguese Rally Champion was forced to retire when his GALP and TMN-backed Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up developed clutch problems on the first stage.

The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol team now continues its preparations for the 2006 Dakar Rally, which starts on New Year’s Eve in Lisbon, Portugal.

FINAL OVERALL CLASSIFICATION

  Driver / Co-driver Nat. Car Total Time Difference
 Luc Alphand / Gilles PicardE/F Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution 6.56.32.4   
 Jutta Kleinschmidt / Fabrizia Pons D/I  Volkswagen Touareg 7.02.25.3  5.52.9 
 Carlos Sainz / Andreas Schulz E/D  Volkswagen Touareg 7.04.49.0  8.16.6 
 Bruno Saby / Michel Perin F  Volkswagen Touareg 7.13.29.4  16.57.0 
 Joao Ramos / Vitor Jesus P  Toyota Rav-4 7.16.25.1  19.52.7 
 Mark Miller / Dirk Zitzewitz USA/D  Volkswagen Touareg 7.22.42.6  26.10.2