FIA INTERNATIONAL CUP FOR CROSS COUNTRY BAJAS (ROUND 3/6) BAJA ESPANA ARAGON JULY 17-20
A THREE-CAR ENTRY FROM TEAM REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART FOR THE BAJA ESPANA
Following the victory of Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard (France) with the petrol-powered Pajero/Montero Evolution MPR13 on May's Rali Transiberico, Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart continues its 2008 cross-country program with a three-car line-up for the Baja Espana, round three of the 2008 FIA International Cup for Cross Country Bajas.
Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) and its motorsport unit MMSP have entered Pajero/Montero Evolution MPR13s for Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard and Joan 'Nani' Roma/Lucas Cruz (Spain), while Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon (Japan/France) make their return to the competitive scene with the latest diesel-engined MPR14.
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart travels to Spain with the objective of repeating its one-two finishes on the Baja Espana in 2005 and 2007, although Team Director Dominique Serieys (France) is expecting some stiff opposition. "This event is the third of the program we announced at the beginning of the year," he explains. "We go to Zaragoza with two main objectives. The first is to keep our drivers and co-drivers match fit in readiness for the challenge of the 2009 Dakar which awaits them in South America next January. Indeed, the Baja Espana stages are fairly representative of the terrain they can expect in Argentina in six months' time. Our other aim is to continue the development of the diesel-engined Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution MPR14 which showed significant promise on the recent Rali Transiberico. It claimed three stage wins in the hands of Nani Roma and has just returned from an encouraging test in southern Spain and Morocco where we were able to validate several solutions aimed at enhancing its endurance and speed. As was the case on the Central Europe Rally, it will be driven by Hiroshi Masuoka whose co-driver Pascal Maimon has fully recovered from the fractured ankle he sustained in Romania. Nani and Luc will spearhead our bid to win the Baja Espana with the MPR13 for the third time in four years, but success for the diesel car is by no means out of the question. There will be a strong field, though, and we will need to hit the ground running."
Hiroshi Masuoka has every intention of doing his best to repeat Roma's leading performance at Transiberico. The Japanese driver is particularly upbeat following the team's recent test work with the new car, but acknowledges that he lacks recent experience of the Baja Espana. "I last contested this event some 15 years ago," he confirms, "and it was a very different event back then. However, I'm delighted to say that Pascal Maimon is now 100 per cent fit again after a final operation to the ankle he fractured on the Central Europe Rally in April. On top of that, we've just come back from a very positive 3,000km test which has taken the diesel-engined MPR14 a further step forward. It has improved enormously since the CER - especially the engine cooling system - and should be even more powerful and reliable. It would be fantastic if I could give it its first win"
Nani Roma came close to depriving his Japanese team-mate of that honour when he emerged on top of the provisional leaderboard on the recent Transiberico before losing ground on the penultimate day. For his home event, the Spaniard will be back behind the wheel of the familiar petrol-powered Pajero/Montero Evolution. "The plan was always for me to drive the MPR13 on the Baja Espana," he says. "I was fortunate enough, however, to try the MPR14 at Transiberico. I quickly got a feel for the driving style it required and I was proud to become the first person to post a fastest time with it. The pace of the Baja is faster than that of the Transiberico, but I think the MPR14 is capable of another top performance. That obviously won't stop me trying to win with the petrol-engined car, although it won't be easy because there's a strong entry, including Luc Alphand of course. It's an event I know well, though: I won it four times on two wheels and then once, in 2005, with Mitsubishi. It's also very close to my home, so I am hoping for a good run again this year."
Like Roma, Luc Alphand has seen the Baja Espana evolve from the days when it used to be a 900km uninterrupted dash to today's more conventional format. "For sure, the Baja Espana has changed, and I have some fond recollections of my early visits to this event," says the Frenchman who won outright in 2003. "But motor sport is changing all the time and cross-country rallying is no exception. For example, the pace of the two events we have contested so far this year - namely the CER and the Transiberico, which I won - is much quicker than in 2007. Today's Baja Espana shares a certain number of similarities with the Transiberico, although the stages in the Zaragoza region tend to be faster on the whole. The weather is generally much hotter and drier, too, and the dusty surface of those portions that are repeated can often turn into a sort of fesh-fesh sand which is quite a challenge. I'm expecting another very close fight, but our sights are set on victory"
The four-day, Zaragoza-based baja, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary, has traded Madrid as start venue on July 17th for the small town of Alcaniz, situated a little more than 100km to the southeast of the event's host city. Scrutineering and a short spectator stage (3.00km) will be held in Alcaniz before the event moves on to Zaragoza for three action-packed days divided into seven further stages, including two attempts at the 2.50km Colin McRae Memorial spectator stage.
The event ends in Zaragoza on the afternoon of Sunday July 20th after covering 1,493km for a total competitive distance of 880,40km. Two of the stages exceed 200km and the longest test of the weekend is Saturday's 235.30km SS4 (Longares/Alcaniz/Belchite).
ENTRIES1 - Nasser Al-Attiyah/Tina ThornerBMW X3 CC (T1.2)
2 - Boris Gadasin/Vladimir KorolevNISSAN OVERDRIVE (T1.1)
3 - Luc Alphand/Gilles PicardMITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION (T1.1)
4 - Joan Roma/Lucas CruzMITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION (T1.1)
5 - Filipe Campos/Jaime BaptistaBMW X3 CC (T1.2)
6 - Orlando Terranova/Lee PalmerBMW X3 CC (T1.2)
7 - Francesc Termens/Alberto PascoalMITSUBISHI MONTERO (T2.2)
8 - Miroslav Zapetal/Zdenek UlehlaMITSUBISHI L200 (T1.2)
9 - Marc Blazquez/Manuel NavarroFORNASARI RR450 (T1.2)
10 - Hiroshi Masuoka/Pascal MaimonMITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION (T1.2)
11 - Santiago Anglada/Enric OllerMITSUBISHI MONTERO (T1.2)
12 - Manuel Plaza/Marcos De QuintoMITSUBISHI PAJERO (T1.1)
14 - Bruno Saby/Alain GuehennecBMW X3 CC (T1.2)
15 - Bernardo Moniz/Joana Sott-MayorBMW X3 CC (T1.2)
16 - Leonid Novistsky/Oleg TyupenkinBMW X3 CC (T1.2)
17 - Alberto Dorsch/Carlos BravoTOYOTA LAND CRUISER (T2.2)
18 - Pablo Rodriguez/Marino ZuletHERRATOR HR1-D (T1.2)
19 - Fernando Hernandez/Jordi MoralesMITSUBISHI MONTERO (T1.2)
20 - Josep Vendrell/Joan SolerMITSUBISHI MONTERO (T2.2)
21 - Julian Vera/Marcos MartinezMITSUBISHI MONTERO (T2.2).../