Mitsubish Ralliart lead Transiberico

2008 FIA CROSS-COUNTRY RALLY WORLD CUP (Round 2) RALI TRANSIBERICO (MAY 20-25, 2008) Thursday May 22, 2008


The 2008 Ralli Transiberico's first full day of competition has seen Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart take control at the top of yesterday evening's leaderboard. Juan 'Nani' Roma/Lucas Cruz (Spain) gave the new diesel-powered Pajero/Montero Evolution its very first stage win in the afternoon to take the lead. While Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (France) and Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (France) join their Spanish team-mates on the overnight podium. The best-placed non-Mitsubishi runner is more than 15 minutes behind Roma.

Despite recent rain, the return of warm, sunny weather to Central Portugal - with temperatures as high as 23°C - ensured predominantly dry conditions for the two visits to today's 207.49km stage through forested mountains near Castelo Branco, close to the border with Spain. Dust was consequently the biggest problem for most competitors during the morning's run, although that didn't prevent Stéphane Peterhansel from emerging as the early pace-setter.

The Frenchman headed a provisional Mitsubishi one-two-three at the first service halt of the leg-2, but then lost a little ground following a puncture 48km after the start of the afternoon's repeat run. His lead was immediately snapped up, however, by Nani Roma who profited from the occasion to put the new diesel Pajero/Montero Evolution MPR14 into the lead of a major international event for the first time on only its second competitive outing!"Nani's fastest time this afternoon and the fact that he leads tonight with the new MPR14 is a great reward for everyone involved," underlined Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Dominique Serieys. "Our Japanese colleagues from Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, our partners, our own engineers at MMSP, the drivers and the team have been working extremely hard on this project and today's result is a great morale booster. We now need to keep improving step by step and using events like this to progress. There is still a long way to go in the development of the new car."

Serieys was also pleased to see the healthy fight that opposed his three crews in Portugal and which saw Nani Roma complete the day's action on top spot "It was a good day," agreed the Spaniard who is chasing his first win on the Rali Transiberico after second places in 2006 and 2007. "I've been suffering from a bad cold these past few days, so the prospect of almost 420km of competitive driving in one leg was physically quite difficult. That said, we succeeded in finding a good pace and I have started to adapt my driving style to the needs of a turbocharged diesel engine. This was especially important through the twistier portions. The MPR14 and the new engine have clearly got lots of potential and I would like to say a big thank you to all those who have worked so hard to make it as competitive as it already is."

Although Roma claimed the day's fastest aggregate time over SS2 and SS3, his French team-mate Luc Alphand came within six seconds of winning the afternoon's test. "We have enjoyed a good run today. There was more grip this afternoon because the loose top-coating of gravel had been swept clear and we profited from the first service halt of today to make some small set-up modifications which seemed to pay. There was a light drizzle for the last 20km or so of SS3, but that didn't really change the conditions."

"The rain began to fall heavily after the stage," continues Stéphane Peterhansel, "so perhaps the conditions will be a bit different tomorrow. That said, Friday's stage takes place some 100km from here; we will see." Peterhansel's day started well enough, but he understandably regrets the time lost on the afternoon's run because of a slow puncture: "About 48km into SS3, Jean-Paul and I began to feel the car's handling become unstable and we were forced to stop and change the wheel. We don't yet know what the cause was, but it's interesting to note that the people from BFGoodrich pulled a big nail out of one of my tyres after the morning's stage. That was a lucky escape! Apart from that, my Pajero/Montero Evolution performed like clockwork and I hope it stays that way"

Following last night's stop in Castelo Branco (230km northeast of Lisbon), competitors will tackle Friday's shorter, 140,58km stage twice: once in the morning, once in the afternoon. They will then cross the border into Spain for an overnight halt in Badajoz (230km east of Lisbon).

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