Ralliart customer crews from 10 countries take part in African classic
Housieaux and Kolberg return in Ralliart customer cars
Massive logistical operation for Ralliart organization

Mitsubishi Ralliart, the motorsport customer division of Mitsubishi Motors, will field no less than nine cars in the 2005 Dakar Rally, forming one of the largest teams ever assembled for the event.

Crews from 10 countries will drive seven Mitsubishi Pajeros/Monteros, a brand new Mitsubishi Truck Evolution and a Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up on the grueling African classic, which starts in Barcelona on New Year's Day and finishes in Dakar, Senegal, on Sunday January 16th.

The French challenge will come from Dominique Housieaux and co-driver Loic Fagot in a petrol-engined Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero. Housieaux won the 2002 Egypt Rally, finished sixth overall in both Rallye de Tunisie and Rallye dŐOrient in Turkey this season and fifth in the Rallye Orpi Maroc and UAE Desert Challenge. He was classified 13th overall at the end of the 2004 Dakar Rally.

"For me, the Dakar Rally is the epitome of the very heights of world motorsport," said Housieaux. "It is a rally of attrition, where good preparation and a keen attention to detail are critical if you are to achieve a good result."

Brazilian driver Klever Kolberg is one of the most experienced privateers taking part in the Dakar Rally and a regular entrant with the Mitsubishi Ralliart team. He finished second of the Ralliart customers and 11th overall in the 2004 Dakar Rally, eighth overall in 2002 and 13th in 2003. He lines up with regular co-driver Roldan Lourival and the pair will also be driving a petrol-engined medium-wheelbase Pajero / Montero.

"I look forward to the Dakar Rally each year," said the Brazilian. "It becomes a bigger and better event every year. I have a good recent record on the event and I would like to improve on that this time."

Former Polish National Rally Champion Krzysztof Holowczyc tested a Pajero / Montero for the first time in the Middle East after this yearŐs UAE Desert Challenge and enters his maiden Dakar Rally with the experienced Belgian co-driver Jean-Marc Fortin. The Pole, who will be competing in a short-wheelbase petrol-engined Pajero / Montero, has tackled numerous rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship, but The Dakar marks his first competitive test in an FIA cross-country event.

Chinese Guan Yuang Men made his international competition debut in October's UAE Desert Challenge and teamed up with French co-driver Serge Henninot for the first time. The pair will use a Ralliart-owned, diesel-engined Pajero / Montero, and Guan Yuang Men will be hoping to better the 30th position he earned in the penultimate round of the FIA World Cup in Dubai.

The Netherlands pairing of Toni van Deijine and Francisco Zutven make their debut with the Ralliart team in their own short-wheelbase, diesel-engined Pajero / Montero. The pair, who will contest the Dakar Rally for the first time, will received full service support from Ralliart.

Portugal's amateur driver Francisco Inocencio and co-driver Joao Luz team up in a short-wheelbase, diesel-engined Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero, while one of the most unlikely teams taking part will be the Swiss father and daughter pairing of Arnold and Sarah Meier in a short-wheelbase, diesel Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero.

Thailand's Siriwattanakun Pornsawan has won numerous off-road awards in the Far East and tackled the Dakar Rally in 2004 in a Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up. He finished 15th overall but this year he and co-driver Sukahuta Pornthep wheel out a Ralliart-prepared, tubular-framed Mitsubishi Truck Evolution.

Russian driver Alexey Berkut tackled the Rally d'Orient Cappadoce in Turkey earlier this season and pieced together a late deal to drive the ex-Pornsawan Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up. He will be co-driven by Anton Nikolaev from Russia in the Ralliart-serviced and supported car.

Mitsubishi Ralliart's team of engineers and mechanics have worked around the clock in recent weeks to prepare the nine cars for the rigors of the 16-day competition which lies ahead.

According to Ralliart Team Manager Jürgen Masal, the team has been flat-out sorting the myriad of intricate logistics to ensure the smooth-running of the entire operation.

"It is a complex job running just one or two cars on an event such as the Dakar Rally," said Masal. "But to run nine cars we need to ensure that everything is checked and double-checked, right from the travel and transportation of team members, tires and components to the day-to-day running of each tiny section of the operation."

Dominique Housieaux (F) / Loic Fagot (F) Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero
Guan Yuang Men (CN) / Serge Henninot (F) Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero
Krzysztof Holowczyc (PL) / Jean-Marc Fortin (B) Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero
Francisco Inocencio (P) / Joao Luz (P) Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero
Klever Kolberg (BR) / Roldan Lourival (BR) Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero
Arnold Meier (CH) / Sarah Meier (CH) Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero
Siriwattanakun Pornsawan (TH) / Sukahuta Pornthep (TH) Mitsubishi Truck Evolution
Toni van Deijne (NL) / Francisco Zutven (NL) Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero
Alexey Berkut (RUS) / Anton Nikolaev (RUS) Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up