MITSUBISHI MOTORS REPSOL ATS STUDIOS TEAM
BIDS FOR FIFTH SUCCESSIVE DAKAR RALLY VICTORY
WITH STRONG FIVE-CAR TEAM
Defending champion Peterhansel and double winner Masuoka spearhead Mitsubishi Motors' assault
2004 Dakar motorcycle winner Roma and Frenchman Alphand join the team
Support role for German lady driver Mayer and new co-driver Polato
The Mitsubishi Motors team has not been beaten on the grueling African event since the Millennium. It has entered a team of four Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolutions and a Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up for the 16-day event, which starts in Barcelona, Spain, on New Year's Day and finishes in Dakar, Senegal, on January 16th, 2005.
The team's assault is spearheaded by defending Dakar Rally champion Stéphane Peterhansel and twice former event winner Hiroshi Masuoka. Peterhansel is partnered by regular co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret, while Masuoka is reunited with Germany's Andreas Schulz, with whom he won the event in 2003.
Completing the official team line-up is Spanish newcomer Joan 'Nani' Roma, Frenchman Luc Alphand and Germany's Andrea Mayer, with their respective co-drivers Henri Magne, Gilles Picard and Jean-Michel Polato.
During his illustrious career, Stéphane Peterhansel has won the Dakar Rally six times on a motorcycle and became only the second person in the 27-year history of the event to win outright on both two and four wheels when he won the Dakar last January.
"We have carried out a lot of testing with the car since the last Dakar Rally," said Peterhansel. "I won both the Tunisia and Morocco rallies with the Pajero/Montero Evolution MPR10 and we were delighted with the performance of the new MPR11 during the recent competitive test in the UAE Desert Challenge. The revised car is more stable in the dunes and over fast ground, has more torque than the MPR10 and should be more competitive on this year's Dakar."
Hiroshi Masuoka won the famous Dakar Rally outright in 2002 and 2003 and finished second in the 2004 event.
"It has been a quiet year for me in terms of competition since the Dakar Rally," said Masuoka. "One of my goals was to win the UAE Desert Challenge and I achieved that at my sixth attempt in October. That was a great result for my confidence. The team has tested the revised car in Morocco and there have been some marked improvements. I am confident that I can take my third Dakar victory."
Newcomer to the team, Joan Roma, has competed in numerous Dakars and won the 2004 event at the helm of a factory KTM motorcycle. He joins the Mitsubishi Motors team for the first time with Andorra-based Henri Magne, one of the most experienced cross-country co-drivers and the winner of last year's FIA World Cup and this year's FIA European Baja Cup.
The Spaniard had his first taste of the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution in September during the team's Morocco test and then again after October's UAE Desert Challenge. In order to gain as much experience as possible ahead of The Dakar, he will pilot a Pajero/Montero in the Qatar Baja in November. For Roma, the Dakar Rally start will therefore mark only his second outing with the Mitsubishi Motors team and his first behind the wheel of a Pajero/Montero Evolution.
"This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for me to join Mitsubishi Motors for the Dakar," said Roma. "I have witnessed the successful transition that Stéphane and Andrea have made from motorcycle riding to rallying and hope that I can repay the team with a good result."
Luc Alphand competed at the highest level in skiing before making the switch to cross-country rallying. The former World Downhill Champion became the first driver in history to win a stage of The Dakar in a diesel-engined car and finished fourth overall in 2004 with co-driver Henri Magne. The Frenchman also took victories in the Baja Spain and Baja Germany events last year.
"Mitsubishi Motors was always the team that I was trying to beat on rounds of the World Cup and The Dakar," said Alphand. "I am proud to be a part of the team now and feel confident that I can be one of the front-runners."
German lady driver Andrea Mayer joined the official Mitsubishi Motors team in 2003 and finished the 2004 Dakar Rally fifth overall in a Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero. She tackled the recent UAE Desert Challenge in a Ralliart customer development car and returns for The Dakar at the wheel of the L200 Pick-Up in which she finished 10th overall in June's Rallye Orpi Maroc.
Mayer teams up with Frenchman Jean-Michel Polato for the first time. Polato, who co-drove Carlos Sousa in the Mitsubishi Motors Portugal team during the 2001 Dakar Rally, also partnered Ralliart customer driver Nicolas Misslin in the 2003 Tunisia and Morocco rallies in a Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero MPR9.
"It has been an excellent learning year for me," said Mayer. "I was running as high as fifth overall in the recent UAE Desert Challenge and have worked with the team throughout the 2004 season. The L200 Pick-Up is a competitive car and I hope to achieve a good result on The Dakar. I have a crucial support role to play for the team and that is the most important factor."
MMSP's Team Director Dominique Serieys said: "We have worked tirelessly to ensure that the revised Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution stays at the forefront of development and competitiveness. We have put together a team for The Dakar which offers a balance of experience and speed and I am confident we can fulfil the goal of a tenth Dakar win and continue the overall winning streak we started in 2001."
"I was impressed with the professionalism of the entire team when I saw everyone working in extreme conditions in the UAE Desert Challenge for the first time in October," added Isao Torii, the new President of Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports. "I am confident they can deliver the goals we are looking for and wish everyone every success for The Dakar."
Spain will play host to the Dakar Rally for the fourth time, the event having started from Granada in 1995, 1996 and 1999. The starting venue will be Spain's second city, Barcelona, where the Dakar Rally passed through in 1987 and 1989.
Scrutineering and documentation take place in Barcelona on December 28th-29th, before a Prologue stage on New Year's Eve. On New Year's Day the event gets underway from the Plaza de España and heads south for two timed sections en route to Granada.
Over the following 16 days, the capacity entry heads into Morocco, through the Sahel and depths of the Mauritanian Sahara, before a rest day at the town of Atar. From there, the planned route heads across the Mauritanian wilderness en route to the Republic of Mali and a traditional finish beside Lac Rose, near Dakar, in Senegal on January 16th 2005.
There will be only limited GPS points made available to competitors, one or more stages without GPS and two Marathon stages where service assistance is not permitted.
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