STEPHANE PETERHANSEL TAKES VICTORY IN PORTUGAL FOR TEAM REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART TEAM
Leg 5 (Sunday, September 14, 2008), Portimao (Portugal) - Portimao (Portugal): Road section: 15kmSS6: 68km (shortened to 37km because of a forest fire) Road section: 1km Total distance: 84km
Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team's Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (France) profited from the shortened final stage of the inaugural PAX Rally to clinch a dramatic win yesterday afternoon in Portimao, Portugal. The French crew were fastest on two of the five-day event's six stages and stole victory from the grasp of former WRC champion Carlos Sainz by a margin of 16 seconds after almost 800km of against-the-clock action.
There was further cause for celebration in the Mitsubishi camp thanks to Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (France) who came third to round off the Dakar Series event and mark the Montero/Pajero Evolution's last competitive outing with a double podium.
A time-consuming roll on Saturday afternoon put team-mates Joan 'Nani' Roma/Lucas Cruz (Spain) out of contention for a top finish, but the Spanish pair's run was rewarded with sixth place overall.
After more than 10 hours of competitive driving through central and southern Portugal since Wednesday morning's start, Peterhansel and Sainz were split by just 31 seconds - in the Spaniard's favour - going into this morning's stage. When the first half of this test was neutralised because of a nearby forest fire, it looked practically certain that the Frenchman would have to settle for second place, but Sainz went on to make a mistake after the re-start and the Mitsubishi driver pounced on the opportunity to steal first place in a breathtaking finale!
"I know it's a cliché, but an event is never over until the finish line has been crossed, and today's result has shown yet again that nobody should never forget that," beamed Peterhansel after the rally. "Although Carlos made an error, we were in a position to profit from it because we refused to give up trying. We pushed hard all the way and tried to keep the pressure on him as much as possible... It's obviously nice to have won, but I am actually happier with the fact that this victory is an ideal way to mark the end of the career of the Pajero/Montero Evolution. It's been a super car to drive over the years and I owe it so much. This is the best possible way to say thank you for all that!"
"It hasn't been an easy week," added Peterhansel's co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret. "The conditions were very slippery throughout, especially when we were running first on the road. It was vital to stay totally concentrated from start to finish and not make any mistakes"Osamu Nakayama (Japan), the President of MMSP SAS, was also pleased to see the Pajero/Montero Evolution take its score to 20 cross-country rally wins since its maiden appearance on the 2002 UAE Desert Challenge, a record which includes five straight Dakar wins between 2003 and 2007: "It's the perfect way to send this great car into retirement and hand over to the brand new 'Racing Lancer' which is due to makes its official debut in October," he said. "I am very pleased to have included this rally in our programme. It was very well organised and gave Stéphane, Luc and Nani a chance to showcase their ability and commitment with the 2009 Dakar fast approaching. That was the aim of coming here and everyone has fulfilled their mission to the letter."
Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard (France) join Peterhansel in the top-three after hitting the ground running on Day 1 (Wednesday) to give Mitsubishi an early lead following the opening stage in the mountains near Castelo Branco, northeast of Lisbon. The second leg saw the French crew maintain their advantage from the threat of Carlos Sainz and the two drivers completed Thursday's action exactly level at the top of the provisional leaderboard. The switch to sandier terrain on Friday enabled the former WRC champion to go clear in front, while Peterhansel eased into second spot, but Alphand successfully defended his footing on the podium all the way to the finish, helped on his way by an assertive second quickest time on Saturday's SS5.
"This is a great result for the whole team, and Stéphane did a fantastic job," acknowledged the French driver. "The pace was incredibly fast all week and I am pleased with my performance. We didn't make any mistakes, our Pajero/Montero Evolution ran like clockwork and our reward is a podium finish and three top-three times from six, including victory on Wednesday's stage. I would like to say a big thank you to everyone in the team. They have done a remarkable job."
Despite an eloquent second fastest time on SS2 (Thursday), Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz (Spain) were forced to settle for sixth place following a roll on Saturday afternoon. Their car was undamaged but the incident saw the Spanish pair drop almost 10 minutes which ended their challenge for fourth place. "We pushed as hard as we could all week and I am quite pleased with our performance, although I would obviously have preferred to finish higher up the order," remarked Roma after the finish in Portimao. "We end the event strongly but this is above all a great result for the team and a tremendous morale booster as we put the finishing touches to our preparations for January's Dakar"
The final event on Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team's 2008 competition programme takes the squad back to Portugal for the Baja Portalegre (Thursday, October 30 - Sunday, November 2). The sixth round of the FIA Cross-Country Baja International Cup will mark the debut of the brand new diesel-powered 'Racing Lancer' which is due to spearhead Mitsubishi's assault on the 2009 Dakar in South America. A single car has been entered for Stéphane Peterhansel and his co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret.
"We've won today, and I couldn't have wished for a better way to say 'adieu' to the Montero/Pajero Evolution which has enjoyed an exceptional career," concluded Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Dominique Serieys (France). "I think the main lesson to come out of this rally is the fact that our drivers are as mentally and physically strong as ever, and clearly extremely competitive, too. The priority for us now is to use the coming weeks and months to prepare thoroughly for the 2009 Dakar, and our programme includes an important test session with the new Racing Lancer in October before the Baja Portalegre."
SS6 CLASSIFICATION1. Nasser AL-ATTYAH (BMW X3 CC)- 32:26 (+**:**:**.*)2. Giniel DE VILLIERS (VW RACE TOUAREG 2)- 32:43 (+0:17)3. Luc ALPHAND (MITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION)- 33:03 (+0:37)4. Joan ROMA (MITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION)- 33:26 (+1:00)5. Guerlain CHICHERIT (BMW X3 CC)- 33:41 (+1:15)6. Stephane PETERHANSEL (MITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION)- 33:44 (+1:18)7. Carlos SAINZ (VW RACE TOUAREG 2)- 34:31 (+2:05)8. Filipe CAMPOS (BMW X3 CC)- 35:07 (+2:41)9. Miroslav ZAPLETAL (MITSUBISHI L200)- 35:11 (+2:45)10. Leonid NOVITSKIY (BMW X3 CC)- 35:33 (+3:07)
FINAL CLASSIFICATION1. Stephane PETERHANSEL (MITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION)- 10:54:14 (+**:**:**.*)2. Carlos SAINZ (VW RACE TOUAREG 2)- 10:54:30 (+0:16)3. Luc ALPHAND (MITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION)- 10:55:35 (+1:21)4. Giniel DE VILLIERS (VW RACE TOUAREG 2)- 10:56:56 (+2:42)5. Nasser AL-ATTYAH (BMW X3 CC)- 10:59:55 (+5:41)6. Joan ROMA (MITSUBISHI PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION)- 11:06:14 (+12:00)7. Filipe CAMPOS (BMW X3 CC)- 11:14:28 (+20:14)8. Guerlain CHICHERIT (BMW X3 CC)- 11:54:27 (+1:00:13)9. Miroslav ZAPLETAL (MITSUBISHI L200)- 11:56:05 (+1:01:51)10. Maurizio TRAGLIO (NISSAN PATHFINDER R50)- 12:34:18 (+1:40:04)
*All classifications subject to confirmation