|MMSP GmbH announced its team line-up for the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship today (Friday). The 16-round series gets underway in Monte Carlo on January 23-25th, 2004.
Frenchman Gilles Panizzi, co-driven by brother Hervé, will drive the first Mitsubishi Lancer WRC on all 16 events in the championship. Three nominated drivers - Finlands Kristian Sohlberg, Spains Daniel Solà Vila and Italys Gianluigi Gigi Galli - will share the second Mitsubishi Lancer WRC throughout the season and will drive a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII in other WRC rounds to gain further worldwide rally experience.
Panizzi, 38, will renew a successful working relationship with MMSPs Technical Director Mario Fornaris, with whom he worked during his time at Peugeot. Panizzi currently lies eighth in this years FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers, despite only being entered in eight of the 13 rallies to date. He began rallying in 1988 and has taken seven WRC wins in 53 events.
"I am delighted to be working with Gilles and Hervé again next year", said Fornaris. "Gilles has shown time and again a competitive spirit and a determination to succeed. He is a very talented driver and his impressive victory in Spain recently is proof of his ability. It is a challenge for both of us. We both have an excellent working relationship and Gilles has a special way of feeding information about a car to engineers. We are both looking forward to working together again and pushing forward with this new and exciting opportunity".
Finnish driver Kristian Sohlberg, who began rallying in 1997, represented Mitsubishi Motor Sports in this years Rally Deutschland and finished 14th overall. The 25-year-old teams up with fellow Finn, Kaj Lindström, former co-driver of four-times World Rally Champion Tommi Mäkinen who retires at the end of this season.
Gianluigi Galli, from Italy, will be co-driven by fellow countryman Guido dAmore. Galli, 30, began rallying in 1994 and won the 2000 Italian Rally Championship Cup for Drivers of Group N cars. Hes entered the FIA Cup for Drivers of Production Cars on four occasions and finished sixth overall in 1998. His WRC partnership with dAmore began in the 1998 Sanremo Rally.
Spains Solà joins forces with Alex Romani Balcells. The Spanish pair first competed together in the 2002 Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava and have tackled selected rounds of the WRC for two years. Solà, 28, lies fifth in the 2003 FIA Cup for Drivers of Production Cars and took a Production victory this season in the Rally Deutschland and second place in Argentina. Daniel Solàs WRC career began in the 1997 Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava and in 2002 he won the FIA Junior World Rally Championship for Drivers.
"I am delighted to welcome Gilles and our young drivers to the new WRC team", said Sven Quandt, Head of Motor Sport, MMSP GmbH. "The youngsters will share our second car. Our philosophy is to promote young drivers for the future and our main focus is to develop drivers from the Group N category to compete at the highest WRC level. Galli, Solà and Sohlberg are all are talented young men with great potential".