BAJA ESPANA 2008

2008 FIA INTERNATIONAL CUP FOR CROSS COUNTRY BAJAS  (ROUND 3/6) BAJA ESPANA ARAGON

NANI ROMA LEADS TEAM REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART'S BID ON THE BAJA ESPANA AFTER SUPER-SPECIAL 

The three crews who will represent Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart on this weekend's Baja Espana are fighting fit and keen to repeat the team's successes on this event in 2005 and 2007. 

The squad's line-up for the Baja Espana features Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard(France) and Juan 'Nani' Roma/Lucas Cruz (Spain) in the petrol-poweredPajero/Montero Evolution MPR13, while Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon (Japan/France) are making their return to the competitive arena with the MPR14 diesel version of the same car, now that Maimon has recovered from the fractured ankle he sustained in April.

All three cars are using the latest All-Terrain tyre developed by the team's partner BFGoodrich. The third competitive outing of the squad's 2008 program follows a busy period of testing with the recently-revealed, diesel-engined Mitsubishi Racing Lancer MRX09.

For the time being, however, Mitsubishi MotorsCorporation (MMC) and its motorsport unit MMSP SAS are continuing to run the successful petrol-powered Pajero/Montero Evolution MPR13 and its diesel-fuelled sister car which will be making its third public appearance in Spain after highly encouraging runs on the Central Europe and Transiberico Rallies.

MMSP SAS President Osamu Nakayama is especially proud of the way the team's program is unfolding as it builds up to next January's Dakar, which breaks fresh ground with a move to South America.

"All the parts of our ambitious plans for 2009 and beyond are falling nicely into place," he said during scrutineering for the Baja Espana yesterday morning.

 "Earlier this week, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation confirmed our intention to compete with the new Racing Lancer MRX09. Its three-liter V6 diesel engine, which has been under development since 2007 in the Pajero/Montero Evolution, is a particularly clean and efficient way to deliver competitive performance. ForMitsubishi, it is very satisfying to be able to combine motorsport and a responsible approach to protecting the planet in this way."

The task of putting through the diesel engine through its paces in Spain this weekend falls to Hiroshi Masuoka who, like his team-mates, has played an active role in the MPR14's development since the beginning of the program.

 "Following some extremely fruitful testing in Morocco, Spain and France, the new V6 is improving all the time," smiles the Japanese driver."After all the hard work everybody has put in to achieve this result, I would be very proud if I could give this new diesel engine its maidenv ictory. I feel under a little pressure, but I'm sure it has the potential to win. That would be a great way, too, to mark the return of my co-driver,Pascal [Maimon], who has fully recovered after fracturing his ankle during the Central Europe Rally."

Team-mate Luc Alphand has profited from the recent lull in his personal calendar to recharge his batteries at his home in the French Alps. In addition to relaxing with his family, he used the time for valuable fitness training in readiness for the fast pace of the Baja Espana which generallytakes place in very hot weather.

"I feel rested and ready," he says. "My car is pretty much as it was when I drove it off the podium after winning the Transiberico in May. The team's efforts have understandably focused on the MPR14 recently, but we have made a few adjustments - including a lower'baja'-type suspension set-up - to keep it as competitive as possible over the tighter, twistier terrain we tend to find today. It was on this event that I claimed my first cross-country win back in 2003 and I will be targeting victory again this time round. We face some stiff competition, though, beginning with our own team-mates, Nani and Hiroshi!"

Following his strong run on the Transiberico with the MPR14, Nani Roma is contesting his home event with the petrol MPR13 with which he finished second overall here last year. Despite the power advantage it hands its more recent diesel rivals, the 2005 Baja Espana winner believes the latest evolution of this car is still very much a victory contender.

"I enjoyed driving the MPR14 on the Transiberico and it's got tremendous potential," he recognizes.

"However, the MPR13 is a well sorted machine with a proven trackrecord. Its suspension and chassis are fantastic and victory is a real possibility, although that will depend on how the weekend unfolds of course. I will try to make the most of my local knowledge. I've got 13 years' past experience of this event on bikes and in cars, and that has given me a certain feel for the terrain, although the stages are secret. You recognize certain portions here and there, but there are so many dirt tracks in this region that you can't afford to take your eye off the ball even for amoment."

The four-day, Zaragoza-based baja kicked off yesterday afternoon with a super-special near Alcaniz, 100km southeast of the host-city.

The 5.42kmtest used a dirt track round the perimeter of Alcaniz's motor racing circuit and was won by Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah ahead of Mitsubishi's Nani Roma (2nd) and Luc Alphand (3rd). Hiroshi Masuoka was 7th. The conditions were dry and dusty and the weather typically hot and sunny, with forecasters predicting it will stay that way until the finish. 

Competitive action continues today  (Friday) with a loop of two stages totalling 331.96km to the south of Zaragoza.

The event ends on Sundayafternoon (July 20) after covering 1,457km for a total competitive distanceof 837,40km. 

1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (BMW X3 CC)- 5:08.0 (+**:**:**.*)

2. Joan Roma (MITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION)- 5:10.

3 (+0:02.3)3. Luc Alphand (MITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION)- 5:10.5 (+0:02.5)

4. Filipe Campos (BMW X3 CC)- 5:12.9 (+0:04.9)

5. Orlando Terranova (BMW X3 CC)- 5:16.3 (+0:08.3)

6. Bruno Saby (BMW X3 CC)- 5:16.5 (+0:08.5)

7. Hiroshi Masuoka (MITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION)- 5:17.2 (+0:09.2)

8. Leonid Novistsky (BMW X3 CC)- 5:20.0 (+0:12.0)

9. Boris Gadasin (NISSAN OVERDRIVE)- 5:21.6 (+0:13.6)

10. Marc Blazquez (FORNASARI RR450)- 5:22.1 (+0:14.1)

11. Miroslav Zapetal (MITSUBISHI L200)- 5:29.1 (+0:21.1)

12. Santiago Anglada (MITSUBISHI MONTERO)- 5:29.3 (+0:21.3)

13. Bernardo Moniz (BMW X3 CC)- 5:29.7 (+0:21.7)

14. Tonnie Van Deijne (MITSUBISHI L200)- 5:34.2 (+0:26.2)

15. Manuel Plaza (MITSUBISHI PAJERO)- 5:41.0 (+0:33.0)

16. Francesc Termens (MITSUBISHI MONTERO)- 5:41.9 (+0:33.9)

17. Rui Sousa (BMW X5)- 5:46.4 (+0:38.4)

18. Luis Climent (TOYOTA PROTO)- 5:47.2 (+0:39.2)

19. Jose Hernandez (MITSUBISHI MONTERO)- 5:47.6 (+0:39.6)

20. Fernando Hernandez (MITSUBISHI MONTERO)- 5:48.1 (+0:40.1)