Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports [MMSP] has unveiled the driving line-up for its return to the World Rally Championship next season, revealing a trio of drivers who will share the second car alongside WRC veteran Gilles Panizzi.

Frenchman Panizzi, co-driven by brother Herve, will drive the first Mitsubishi Lancer WRC on all 16 events in the championship. The other three drivers - Finland's Kristian Sohlberg, Spain's Daniel Sola Vila and Italy's Gianluigi 'Gigi' Galli - will share the second entry, and will also drive a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 in other rounds to gain further worldwide rally experience.

Panizzi will renew a successful working relationship with MMSP's technical director Mario Fornaris, with whom he worked earlier in his career. The 38-year old tarmac expert took tenth place overall in this year's WRC drivers' championship, despite only being entered in ten events. He began rallying in 1988 and has taken seven WRC wins in 53 events.

"I am delighted to be working with Gilles and Herve again next year," Fornaris said, "Gilles has shown time and again a competitive spirit and a determination to succeed. He is a very talented driver and his impressive victory in Spain recently is proof of his ability.

"This is a challenge for both of us. We both have an excellent working relationship, and Gilles has a special way of feeding information about a car to engineers. We are both looking forward to working together again and pushing forward with this new and exciting opportunity."

Finnish driver Sohlberg, who began rallying in 1997, represented Mitsubishi Motors in this year's Rally Deutschland and finished 14th overall. The 25-year old teams up with fellow Finn, Kaj Lindstr?m - formerly co-driver to four-times WRC champion Tommi M?kinen who retires at the end of this season.

Galli, meanwhile, will be co-driven by Guido d'Amore. The 30-year old Galli began rallying in 1994 and won the 2000 Italian Rally Championship Cup for drivers of GpN cars. He has contested the FIA Cup for Production Cars on four occasions, finishing sixth overall in 1998. His WRC partnership with d'Amore began in the 1998 Sanremo Rally.

Sola joins forces with Alex Romani Balcells for his graduation to the top flight, having first competed together in the 2002 Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava and tackled selected rounds of the championship over the past year and a bit. The 28-year old Spaniard took fifth in the 2003 FIA Cup for Production Cars and took a class victory on this season's Rally Deutschland. Sola's WRC career began with the 1997 Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava and has peaked so far with the 2002 FIA Junior World Rally Championship title.

"I am delighted to welcome Gilles and our young drivers to the new WRC team," said Sven Quandt, head of motorsports at MMSP GmbH, "The 'youngsters' will share our second car as our philosophy is to promote young drivers for the future. Our main focus is to develop drivers from the Group N category to compete at the highest WRC level. Galli, Sola and Sohlberg are all talented young men with great potential."

 

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