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Transiberico: Mitsubishi holds first and fourth after opening stage.

Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team drivers Joan ‘Nani’ Roma and Luc Alphand held first and fourth positions after the opening timed super special stage of the Vodafone Transiberico Rally, round three of the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, Friday. Spaniard Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne tackled the stage behind team mate Alphand and South African Giniel de Villiers and set the fastest time of the day to edge into an 4.5-second lead after the opening leg of the event.

"I was surprised to discover that I had won the stage today," said a delighted Roma. "I have this problem that I never know when I have driven really fast or not. I know when I feel good and make no mistakes, but when the track is narrow and slow, like today, it is not easy to judge your pace.

"Last year Mitsubishi had an advantage on this type of rally, but each of our rivals have upped their level over the last months and all the top drivers are now very closely matched. That means speeds have increased and we are driving at a higher level. When you make mistakes at this level, the team pays in cash! Mitsubishi and Volkswagen discovered that in Tunisia. We must make sure that we are fast, but also driving at a safe level."

Frenchman Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard headed the 87-car international entry into today’s stage across military land, near Mafra, north of Estoril, and set the fourth fastest time of 6m 56s in a second Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution.

"Today was just a matter of getting back into the car after the accident in Tunisia and getting the confidence back," said Alphand. "I am quite happy to be fourth. I did not want to lead the way tomorrow. We opened the stage today and it is never easy being the first car on to the track when you sweep the road.

"This event will be totally different to when we won in Portalegre last year. It will be very difficult to pass on some of the stages we will face over the next three days and everyone wanted a good starting position for Saturday. Rain and mud will not be a factor here, as it was last October, but dust could be a major problem if you find yourself behind a slower car. I am pleased to be behind Giniel on Saturday. We have a similar pace."

Recent Rally of Portugal winner and local national champion Armindo Araújo teamed up with regular MMSP team co-driver Pascal Maimon to tackle the event in a Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up, built and run on the event by Mitsubishi Motors Portugal. The pair set the second fastest time behind Roma to hold a fine second position after the opening timed special stage.

Tomorrow (Saturday), the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart team will tackle the longest competitive leg of the rally, 517.64 timed kilometers, comprising two runs through a 258.82 km selective section between Mora and Evora. Road liaison sections will take teams from Estoril to Mora and on to the overnight halt in Evora, while servicing will be centralised in Mora.

Positions at end of leg 1

01 I Roma/Magne I E/AND I Mitsubishi Pajero Evo I 00:06:42
02 I Araújo/Maimon I P/F I Mitsubishi L200 Strakar I 00:06:47
03 I De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz I ZA/D I VW Race Touareg I 00:06:51
04 I Alphand/Picard I F/F I Mitsubishi Pajero Evo I 00:06:56
05 I Ramos/Jesus I P/P I Toyota RAV-4 I 00:06:57
06 I Kahle/Schulz I D/D I VW Race Touareg I 00:06:58
07 I Costa/Lima I P/P I Toyota Landcruiser I 00:07:00
08 I Grancha/Tavares I P/P I Mitsubishi Pajero I 00:07:02
09 I Blasquez/Cruz I E/E I Nissan Navara I 00:07:07
10 I Campos/Baptista I P/P I Renault Mégane I 00:07:08

2006/05/14 I 20:50 CET I Editor:

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