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Transiberico: Mitsubishi enters Alphand and Roma in Portugal.

The Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team will be bidding to continue its unbeaten start to the 2006 season, when the French pairing of Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard team up with Spaniard Joan ‘Nani’ Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne to tackle the Transiberico Rally on May 12th-15th, 2006. Both crews will drive MPR12 versions of Mitsubishi’s Pajero/Montero Evolution on this third round of the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup. Alphand and Picard were fighting for the lead in the recent Rally of Tunisia, when they made an uncharacteristic mistake and Alphand rolled the car into retirement. But the defending Dakar Rally champions are determined to return to winning ways in Europe after taking victories in Dakar and South America this season.

"This event will not be easy, but it offers me an excellent opportunity to get back into winning ways after the setback in Tunisia," said Alphand, the joint leader of this year’s FIA Cross-Country Rally Drivers’ Championship with Mitsubishi team mate Stéphane Peterhansel. "I am looking forward to competing here. I won the Baja Spain a few years ago and Gilles and I won the Baja Portalegre in Portugal last October, so we have a proven record on this type of terrain."

Roma and Magne last competed for Mitsubishi to take second overall in the Patagonia-Atacama Rally back in March, but they have a good track record together in a relatively short space of time and won last summer’s Baja Spain - their first win as a partnership for the Mitsubishi team - over similar special stages to those they will face in the Transiberico Rally.

They are both brimming with confidence and relishing the prospect of taking a second win together so close to home. Roma is determined to maintain his progress on four-wheels since switching from a triumphant career on a motorcycle, while Magne is one of the most experienced co-drivers in cross-country rallying and won the Baja Vodafone Portugal in 2003 and 2004 and finished third back in 2001.

‘We have made a very good winning start to this season and I have every confidence that we can win again on the Transiberico Rally," said MMSP’s Team Director Dominique Serieys. "We proved in Tunisia that we still have the competitive edge over our rivals, but everyone is improving all the time and we need to continue our momentum this season if we are to be successful on the Dakar Rally in 2007."

The new-look Transiberico Rally ran for the first time in 2005 and is organised by Club Aventura. Like its predecessor, the Baja Vodafone Portugal, the event uses remote rural farm tracks, forests, several river crossings and hilly terrain in Portugal and a new route in Spain.

Mitsubishi has been the most successful manufacturer in recent seasons on the Baja Portugal, with Lisbon’s Carlos Sousa taking victory for the Japanese manufacturer on five occasions between 1999 and 2004. Last year’s inaugural Transiberico Rally was won by Filipe Campos in a Nissan.

This year’s new-look Transiberico Rally will be held in Portugal and Spain and consists of 1,200 km of special stages in a 2,000 km route. After scrutineering and documentation at the Estoril race circuit, near Lisbon, on Thursday, May 11th, teams will tackle a timed ‘super special’ stage at Mafra, 30 km from the circuit, on Friday, May 12th.

Leg two - the first of three further punishing legs in Portugal and Spain - will begin on Saturday, May 13th, after a 140 km road liaison section between Estoril and Mora. The leg will be made up of two runs through a 250 km special stage. Both specials will be split by a refuelling, servicing and a regrouping halt. Following the second stage an 80 km liaison will take teams to the overnight halt in Evora.

Leg three, on Sunday, May 14th, runs between Evora and the Spanish heritage city of Cåceres and will also offer a pair of 200 km special stages after a 130 km road liaison into Spain. The fourth and final leg on Monday, May 15th begins with a 130 km road section back into Portugal and includes two special stages near the town of Castelo Branco. A 250 km road section will take teams back to Estoril on Monday evening.

2006/05/14 I 22:50 CET I Editor:

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