31st DAKAR RALLY - 3 - 18 January, 2009
REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART TEAM COMPLETE DETAILED 2009 DAKAR RALLY PREPARATIONS
· Team carries out final shakedown at Le Creusot on Monday · Key crew members raring to go after French training sessions
PONT-DE-VAUX (France): The Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team have completed a final shakedown and a varied preparation program for the 2009 Dakar Rally, which starts in Buenos Aires on Saturday, January 3rd and finishes in the Argentine capital on Sunday, January 18th.
The Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart team has been set up by the Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in association with partners Repsol, Valeo and BF Goodrich.
Key team members took part in a final shakedown in frosty and bright conditions at Le Creusot in France today (Monday). This was the culmination of several weeks of training for the world's toughest off-road rally and took place in the presence of around 180 journalists from all over Europe.
Mitsubishi will field an unchanged team line-up in four new turbo-diesel 'Racing Lancers', with drivers Luc Alphand, Stéphane, Hiroshi Masuoka, Peterhansel, and, Joan 'Nani' Roma and being joined by their respective co-drivers Gilles Picard, Pascal Maimon, Jean-Paul Cottret and Lucas Cruz Senra in South America.
In the last four weeks, team members have taken part in physical training sessions and crucial tests to ensure that nothing is left to chance in the build up to what the Japanese manufacturer hopes will be a record-breaking eighth successive victory in the Dakar, which heads to South America for the first time.
Key team personnel took part in a five-day physical training session at Douarnenez, in the Finistère department of Brittany on France's Atlantic north-western coast, between November 10th-14th.
This was followed by a second session at Prémanon in the Jura mountains on December 8th-12th to ensure that Mitsubishi's all-important and renowned team spirit is working to its optimum and drivers and co-drivers are fully-prepared, both mentally and physically, and focused in readiness for January's punishing schedule of motor sport competition.
The second physical training session was followed by a one-day shakedown at the Bourg-en-Bresse circuit, north-east of Lyon, on Saturday, December 13th and the second session at Le Creusot, in the Saône-et-Loire department of the Bourgogne region, today (Monday).
The team's new Racing Lancers will leave by 'plane to Buenos Aires on Friday, December 19th, but the race trucks and team support vehicles are currently aboard the Grand Benelux, which set sail from Le Havre in northern France on Monday, December 1st and is reported to be passed the Bay of Biscay in the Atlantic Ocean and well en route for the Argentinean port of Zarata, near Buenos Aires.
Team personnel will spend Christmas with their families before the drivers and co-drivers fly out to South America on Saturday, December 27th to begin final preparations before the start of the 31st Dakar Rally on Saturday, January 3rd. The remainder of the 64-strong team will depart on Monday, December 29th.
What they said?
Dominique Serieys, team director"Everything has gone well with the physical training and the shakedowns. The purpose of the shakedown is to make sure that we are completely ready for the first special stage in South America. We have a new car for the Dakar, but we have enough experience to have left nothing to chance in our preparations.
"Our crews spent a week simulating higher altitudes to help them adjust quickly to any changes we will face. They will go to Argentina one week before the start to avoid the effects of any jet-lag and also to get used to the warmer summer temperatures."
Thierry Viardot, technical director:"The first shakedown on Saturday was useful for us to make any last minute changes to the electronics and to calibrate such things as the co-drivers' display units. We used a tarmac surface, where the cars were clean, and we could make any adjustments without them getting covered in mud. The four cars are identical and today's shakedown was a last chance to test out several components and give ourselves two days to make any changes before the cars leave for South America."
Luc Alphand"Both the shakedown tests were great. It's nice to get into a car, where everything is new and working well. We had no problems at all. I only drove for around five or six kilometres this morning, but I still have a good feeling about this car. The first thing you notice is the different noise, but it is powerful, has good torque and feels superb to drive.
"I suppose, with my skiing background, I should be least affected by the altitude and I was least affected in the simulation tests. I spent the last two nights at 3,000 meters and felt okay."
Hiroshi Masuoka"The physical training sessions in the mountains and at the seaside went very well. Everything was okay with the tarmac test and the shakedown on gravel. It was perfect. We have a new place for the Dakar, a new world, with a new engine and a new car. This is very exciting for me. I will be taking part in my 21st Dakar Rally and will be hoping to win for the third time. If that is not possible, I would be very happy if Mitsubishi continued the winning run."
Stéphane Peterhansel"We have enjoyed two quite different training sessions. The first was very nice in Brittany. We were able to use the mountain bikes in the mornings and then try our hand at sailing for the first time in the afternoons. This was good fun. Then, we went to the Jura mountains, near Geneva, and carried out some cross-country skiing. The course was not so high, maybe only around 1000 meters, but we slept in special simulated bedrooms with less oxygen, which was similar to living at about 2,500 meters.
"The two shakedowns were different, but useful. The tarmac one was used for checking all the data, things like air pressure and gas pressures. On the off-road course today we were able to check the shock absorbers and make any final changes.
"For me the move to South America does not mean that the event loses any of its character. I still think that it will be a very difficult race, with dunes and hard stages. Maybe in the past I have managed to take advantage of the sand dunes in Mauritania, but I still feel that this will be a close and exciting race."
Joan 'Nani' Roma"I have been very happy with the physical training and the two small shakedowns. In Prémanon we were able to ski each day and try and adjust to living at high altitude. We were simulating staying at around 2,500 meters to try and get a feeling for what it will be like on the higher stages in South America.
"We did some gym work and some stretching as well and this followed our first training session last month, where we rode on the bike and did some water sports, like sailing. I have also been working on my own training program with a personal trainer. I feel in great condition and will spend a few days at 2,500 meters in the south of Spain in the Sierra Nevada to make sure that I am ready for the race.
"We had two small shakedowns with the race cars over the last three days to make any last minute changes. The first at Bourg-en-Bresse was on the tarmac. It was useful for the engineers and also for us to get a feel for the cars. Today (Monday) was a little quicker. There was a small jump, but there were around 240 VIPs, sponsors, media and friends here, so it had a more relaxed feel to it."