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Baja Portalegre: Victory for Peterhansel and new Racing Lancer.

A polished performance from Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (France) and everyone at Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart on this weekend's Baja Portalegre 500 has taken the brand new Racing Lancer to its first victory, straight from the box. Mitsubishi's latest cross-country rally car, which will take over from the successful Pajero/Montero Evolution on next January's Dakar, ran perfectly reliably throughout the three-day Portuguese event to win by the margin of 4 minutes 3 seconds after 515.16km of stages.

What counted possibly more than the final result, however, is the fact that the team was able to profit from the final round of the 2008 FIA Cup for Cross-Country Bajas to validate recent development work on the new car in the specific conditions of the fast, twisty mountain tracks near Portalegre.

The Racing Lancer also covered some 5,000km in southern Morocco shortly before the start of this weekend's competition and Team Director Dominique Serieys (France) is particularly pleased with the outcome of this solid, long-term groundwork: "Today's result rounds off another successful season for Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart which ends 2008 with three wins and two second places to its name. Everyone has done a tremendous job ths year. That includes the stafat MMSP, the people at MMC who look after the engines and, of course, our four crews. It was Stéphane who took the spoils today, but Nani Roma (Spain), Luc Alphand (France) and Hiroshi Masuoka (Japan) have all played vital roles, too."

This weekend saw Stéphane Peterhansel and his co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret recover from a harmless spin on Friday's super-special and a puncture on Saturday morning's SS2 to pull more than four minutes clear at the top of the leaderboard by the end of Day 2. A quick, yet safe pace then enabled the French pair to come through this morning's drier but equally tricky 110km stage to kick off the Racing Lancer's competition career on a high note. "After more than a year of hard work to make the Racing Lancer as competitive as it is today, it is a fitting reward for everyone in the team to have kicked off the new car's scorecard with a victory here in Portugal," observed the French driver. "It was an honour for me to be chosen by Mitsubishi to give the Racing Lancer its first outing, and it's nice to have succeeded in paying back that confidence with a win."

Having steered the petrol-powered Pajero/Montero Evolution MPR13 to victory on September's PAX Rally, which visited the same part of Portugal as this weekend's Baja, Stéphane Peterhansel is ideally qualified to compare the performance of the Racing Lancer with that of its predecessor. "I was especially impressed by two things over the past three days," he reported. "The first concerns the engine: the new 3-litre V6 marks a big improvement in all areas, but it is especially strong out of the slower turns. You can feel the torque and acceleration of the turbo-diesel powerplant pull you through the corner and give you the speed for the next straight? The car's other main strength is its chassis. An event like the Portuguese Baja calls for a specific configuration and we essentially defined a basic set-up for the weekend by extrapolating from what we learned in Morocco. Those settings worked extremely well, and I was pleasantly surprised by the ability of the suspension to soak up the terrain, as well as by the front-end's directional precision."

"Although this event was short, the conditions turned out to be quite varied, and that was obviously positive for our mission here in Portugal," added co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret. "The terrain was essentially twisty, but quite fast and very delicate, too, so we were able to establish some good benchmarks. We also succeeded in keeping to the initial game-plan to win with a big enough margin to cover a possible puncture on the final day."

Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart will remain in Portugal after the Baja Portalegre 500 for a little further testing before spending time in Spain, for engine calibration work at high altitude. With the 2009 Dakar fast approaching, the car which contested this weekend's event will continue to be used for testing duty, while the official shakedown of the four cars currently under construction for the rally itself will take place in France (Le Creusot), on December 15, before their transport to South America by plane five days later.

Final Overall Classification Top 10:

01) Peterhansel/Cottret (F/F) I Mitsubishi Lancer I 06:11:48 I 00:00:00
02) Campos/Baptista (P/P) I X-raid BMW X3CC I 06:15:51 I 00:04:03
03) Barbosa/Ramalho (P/P) I 06:22:25 I 00:10:37
04) Van Deijne/Van Deijne (NL/NL) I 06:35:50 I 00:24:02
05) Grancha/Primaz (P/P) I Nissan Navara I 06:37:06 I 00:25:18
06) Leal dos Santos/Luz (P/P) I BMW X5RR I 06:38:39 I 00:26:51
07) Zapletal/Ourednicek (CZ/CZ) I 06:40:44 I 00:28:56
08) Ramos/Vitor (P/P) I 06:47:52 I 00:36:04
09) Gameiro/Dominguez (P/P) I Nissan Navara I 06:53:22 I 00:41:34
10) Sousa/Silva (P/P) I Isuzu D-Max I 06:58:23 I 00:46:30

2008/11/03 | 12:01 CET | Editor: MR/HS/MMSP

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