The Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 made a highly-successful debut in the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship and, in the hands of French tarmac experts Gilles and Herve Panizzi, claimed third position - the Lancer WRCs best-ever result and the team's first podium placing since the 2001 Safari Rally.

Team newcomers Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen also fulfilled the team's objective of reaching the finish of one of the toughest events in the championship and they too claimed points for themselves and Mitsubishi by finishing seventh in their first tarmac rally in three years.

"Yesterday I said what a great day for Mitsubishi Motors," said Isao Torii, president of Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports. "Today I can say what a great weekend for us! It is our first podium since 2001. We took a break in 2003, and 2004 was a learning year focused on development. Our three year WRC strategy shows that our plan worked and it is payback for working with passion and patience.

"A podium place at the beginning of the season shows the potential and gives us the necessary confidence and motivation for the future. Both drivers finished with a clever strategy; Gilles performed very well with his great experience, and Harri was cool enough not to take risks and equalled his best tarmac result."

Today's closing 116.08 competitive kilometres took the crews directly north of Monaco for two identical loops of three stages, including the classic run over the famous Col de Turini where spectators are drawn in their thousands.

The Panizzi brothers once again made their mark in what is viewed as one of the most treacherous and unpredictable rounds of the series. They set third, fifth and another third fastest time in the opening three stages and while others around them fell by the wayside, the French Lancer WRC05 crew climbed onto the provisional podium in third position. They maintained a consistent pace in the closing three stages to register their best-ever result in their home round of the series.

"For me, I said before that it was important for my team; they needed this success and now they and everyone else can see that Mitsubishi is back," said a delighted Gilles in Monaco this afternoon. "Today we have arrived! This result is very important for everyone's confidence and I feel good that the mechanics and engineers have something to be very proud about. I have driven good cars here in the past, but I have never achieved such a result. To finish third, at home, and more importantly on the most famous event in the championship is incredible. Monte-Carlo is Monte-Carlo; I feel fantastic!"

Team-mates Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen maintained their seventh position, the Finnish duo having gained vital competition experience behind the wheel of the Lancer WRC05. They claimed points in both championships and equalled their best result on tarmac in the process - Spain 2002.

"To have two cars at the finish, both in the points and Gilles and Herve on the podium is fantastic," said Harri. "It has been a long time since I drove on tarmac but it has gone quite well for us. I am now looking forward to Sweden with more confidence. We have a good set-up and hopefully there will be good winter conditions where we can fight."

Adding to the drivers' comments, technical director Mario Fornaris said: "One year ago we came here with a lot of concerns and it was a nice surprise to finish. This year, we finished on the podium after a fantastic rally. It is the best reward to the team members and I want to thank everyone."

The second round of the FIA World Rally Championship takes the crews north to the Swedish Rally [February 10-13] and a totally different challenge on snow. Rovanpera and Pietil?inen - who won the event in 2001 - will again spearhead Mitsubishi's assault and be joined by Italian's 'Gigi' Galli and Guido D'Amore in the second Lancer WRC05.

 

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