TEAM REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART PREPARES FOR PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION'SSWANSONG IN PORTUGAL
The petrol-powered Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution - which has built upa uniquely successful record in the world of cross-country rallying - will begin its final competitive outing today (Wednesday) when the 2008 PAXRally kicks off in Lisbon, Portugal.
It will be an emotional occasion for Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team and its three-driver line-up who have notched up no fewer than 19 wins between them.
The current MPR13 version will pass the baton later in the year to the brandnew diesel-engined 'Racing Lancer' which is due to make its debut on October's Baja Portugal in the hands of Stéphane Peterhansel (France).
Before then, however, Peterhansel and his co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret(France), plus team-mates Juan 'Nani' Roma/Lucas Cruz (Spain) and LucAlphand/Gilles Picard (France) will attempt to profit from the second eventof the newly-created Dakar Series to end the current car's career on a high note.
"This rally is essentially an opportunity for the drivers and the team tostay match fit as our 2008 programme draws to an end and the count down tothe 2009 Dakar begins," notes Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team DirectorDominique Serieys (France).
"Apart from the fact that this is the Pajero/Montero Evolution's final event and we would like to mark theoccasion with a top result, there is no pressure on the drivers to bringback development information. They will therefore have a free hand to pushas hard as they like, even though we are fully aware that they face somevery stiff competition this week." The PAX Rally marks the team's second visit to Portugal this seasonfollowing Luc Alphand's victory earlier in the year on the RaliTransiberico, an event which also saw Nani Roma collect the first stage winsfor the diesel-powered Pajero/Montero Evolution MPR14 interim car.
"I led the Transiberico for a short while before hitting mechanical troublein May, so I will be out for revenge this time," warns Nani Roma. "Thatsaid, you only need to look at the entry list to realise that it won't beeasy against our rivals', but we will keep up the fight all the way to the finish. I've competed in Portugal often enough now to have a good feelingfor the terrain and I love the stages. I can't wait to get started"
Luc Alphand is equally fired up by the prospect of an exciting battle over the next few days: "The rally begins with the longest stage of the week, soit will be vital to hit the ground running and find a strong, quick pacestraight away. A good rhythm calls for confidence in your car and the three
of us know the Pajero/Montero Evolution by heart. I am clearly familiar withthe terrain and that's obviously a bonus, but then most of the front-runnershave been here several times before.
The entry list reads like a who's whoof cross-country rallying, so I think we're in for a tremendous rally." Like his team-mates, Stéphane Peterhansel is delighted to be back in
Portugal and he, too, led the Transiberico early on. "Portugal is idealterritory for cross-country rallying," he observes, "and much of the routewill be familiar, although the exact stages are kept secret until justbefore the start.
Those to the north tend to be rocky, but the terrain willbecome sandier as we head south towards the Algarve region where the Dakarprologue was held two years ago. It's going to be a technically challengingevent, but very enjoyable, too. The weather for the Transiberico washorrible, so let's hope today's sunny conditions hold all week."
Competitive action begins today (Wednesday) and will take crews northeastfrom the Portuguese capital to Castelo Branco via a 223km stage which coverssimilar terrain to that seen on the Rali Transiberico.
The route will then bring competitors south to Sunday afternoon's finish in Portimao on theAlgarve coast after a total distance of 1,583km, including 829km dividedinto six stages (one per day, plus two on Friday).