DAKAR RALLY (January 3rd-January 18th, 2009)
MITSUBISHI'S JOAN 'NANI' ROMA AND LUCAS CRUZ SENRA FINISHES 10th OVERALL AND WINS A SPECIAL STAGE IN NEW 'RACING LANCER'
· Mitsubishi team looks ahead to positive future with new technology
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart decided to enter four new 'Racing Lancers' in the 2009 Dakar Rally, because of global environmental issues, and made a significant switch to diesel-engined technology for its future cross-country rallying program with valuable partners, Repsol, Valeo and BFGoodrich.
Mitsubishi is at the forefront of automotive technology and Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz Senra (both Spain) managed to bring the new car to the finish of the world's most difficult off-road rally in 10th position, setting a fastest stage time along the way with the new car.
The stage success occurred on the 12th special between La Rioja and Córdoba, but they lost a potential sixth position in the overall standings when they incurred additional time penalties before the finish, which dropped them down the leader board.
The event got off to a disappointing start with the loss of Hiroshi Masuoka (Japan) and Pascal Maimon (France) on the opening special stage between Buenos Aires and Santa Rosa de la Pampa. An engine pulley bolt failure reduced Mitsubishi's challenge to three cars.
The cars showed potential from the outset, but an illness for co-driver Gilles Picard (France) forced Luc Alphand (France) to retire the second car after a series of tricky sand dunes and swamp-like tracks on the run north through western Argentina.
Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret (both France) had been the fastest of the 'Racing Lancer' crews through the early stages and Peterhansel was running well on the last stage before the event crossed the Andes into Chile. But he was forced to stop with a small fire early in the stage and then he was sidelined with engine-related problems later in the special.
It meant that Mitsubishi were now totally dependent on Roma and Senra reaching the finish in Buenos Aires. The pair had reached the rest day in Valparaiso in fourth position in the overall standings and maintained their place with a similar stage finish.
Navigation problems cost them precious time on the special between La Serena and Copiapó in Chile and they reached the finish in seventh place, although overheating worries forced them to slow towards the end.
The daunting Copiapó loop stage through the Atacama desert was shortened significantly on safety grounds, but Roma managed to set the fifth fastest time to maintain fourth overall after the ventilator fan had been repaired the previous evening at the bivouac.
Dakar Rally officials took the decision to cancel the 11th special stage between Copiapó and Fiambalá because of the threat of fog and Roma reached Argentina in fourth overall.
But the short stage between Fiambalá and La Rioja was much harder than many had anticipated and Roma stopped in some sand dunes after 165km with an electrical wiring problem. Event officials actually halted the stage at the 175km point and Roma was able to reach La Rioja with assistance from the race truck. The car was repaired overnight, but he continued with a two-hour penalty and the threat of further penalties to follow.
The initial penalty had dropped the surviving 'Racing Lancer' to sixth position, but it failed to stop Roma surging through the field from a start position of 21 to record a first stage win for Mitsubishi in this year's Dakar Rally on the special between La Rioja and Córdoba.
The jubilation of Roma's first stage win in the Dakar Rally for the Mitsubishi team and the first for the 'Racing Lancer' was dampened somewhat by the news that race officials had imposed a further 10 hours' of time penalties on teams that had missed the final section of the 12th stage and Roma duly slipped to 10th overall.
He set the fourth quickest time on the final stage into Buenos Aires, but was unable to improve on 10th position overall, when teams reached the ceremonial finish at La Rural in Buenos Aires on Sunday.
What they said?
Osamu Nakayama, President / MMSP SAS"I knew the difficulty and severity of the Dakar this time and one small problem could easily make a big change to the results this time. We must analyze every small problem and resolve for the future. The Dakar gave us the technical innovation and how we must make our new production cars.
"Fortunately, over the last two days, 'Nani' showed the potential with a good performance. BMW and Volkswagen spent more than five years to get a good result and we did something in a short space of time. Next time we would like to win, of course.
"During this Dakar, everywhere we passed, we saw many people shouting Mitsubishi, Mitsubishi. Certainly we can find many future customers within these spectators. We must show them our brand and our competitiveness in the market place. That is why we want to achieve a better result next time.
"Our motor sport activity will show the results of our technology and Japanese manufacturing at Mitsubishi Motors to the rest of the world. Our mission is to show Japanese automotive manufacturing through our motor sport activities."
Dominique Serieys, Team Director / Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart "We have certainly learned some things about life on this rally. It was a very tough Dakar Rally and we must accept the result even though I am not happy with our position at the end. It is not so nice for 'Nani' to be 10th, but we must remember it has taken some of our rivals many years to be competitive and we are on a good level already. The retirement of our three cars was not linked to the new technology and I feel that we are already in a good way and that is positive for the future.
"We will be ready for the next time, but I must congratulate our rivals, particularly Volkswagen and Robbie Gordon, for their performances here. Also, the organization did a great job to put on this event in South America. It was a strong race and we liked it. I am sure that next year will be a better and stronger event to keep up the Dakar tradition."
FINAL OVERALL CLASSIFICATION1. Giniel DE VILLIERS (VOLKSWAGEN RACE TOUAREG - T1.2)- 48:10:57 (**:**)2. Mark MILLER (VOLKSWAGEN RACE TOUAREG - T1.2)- 48:19:56 (+8:59)3. Robby GORDON (HUMMER H3 - OP1)- 49:57:12 (+1:46:15)4. Ivar Erik TOLLEFSEN (NISSAN NAVARA - T1.1)- 54:15:31 (+6:04:34)5. Krzysztof HOLOWCZYC (NISSAN NAVARA - T1.1)- 54:48:46 (+6:37:49)6. Dieter DEPPING (VOLKSWAGEN RACE TOUAREG - T1.2)- 56:54:26 (+8:43:29)7. Miroslav ZAPLETAL (MITSUBISHI L200 - T1.1)- 59:14:05 (+11:03:08)8. Leonid NOVITSKIY (BMW X3 CC - T1.2)- 61:26:10 (+13:15:13)9. Guerlain CHICHERIT (BMW X3 CC - T1.2)- 63:00:46 (+14:49:49)10. Joan ROMA (MITSUBISHI RACING LANCER - T1.2)- 65:38:43 (+17:27:46)