RACING NEWS

Four Mitsubishi Pajero Evolutions have been entered for the 2008 Dakar Rally

Four Mitsubishi Pajero Evolutions have been entered for the 2008 Dakar Rally image

Text: / Photos: | posted December 14, 2007 00:00

Looking to mark the 30th edition of the African event by securing Mitsubishi's 13th success

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) and its motorsport unit Mitsubishi Motor Sport (MMSP) will enter a field of four cars for the 2008 Dakar Rally* which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary. Next year's event will start from Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, on January 5 and will arrive in the Senegal capital, Dakar, on January 20 after passing via Spain, Morocco and Mauritania. The total route length is 9,273km, including 5,736km in competitive special stages and the toughest challenge promises to be the dunes that competitors will find in Mauritania.

The Mitsubishi squad is led by Hiroshi Masuoka (Japan) who won the event consecutively in 2002 and 2003. The Japanese veteran will be joined in the team's strong driver line-up by Stéphane Peterhansel (France), who has nine previous Dakar wins on two and four wheels to his name and winner of the 2007 rally, and Luc Alphand (France), who has obtained excellent results on the event since 2005, including an outright win in 2006. Joan 'Nani' Roma (Spain), winner of the motorbike category in 2004 and who is making excellent progress on four wheels, rounds off the team's talented foursome. The Pajero/Montero Evolution will feature ongoing improvements, as well as changes made mandatory by the latest regulations, and will make a key contribution to Mitsubishi's bid to secure its 13th Dakar win from 26 starts, and its eighth consecutive success.

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) is fully committed to building on its longstanding success on the Dakar Rally which it contested 26 times without interruption since its debut on the fifth edition in 1983. This time round, MMC will be targeting its 13th Dakar win, a result that would take its current run of success to eight consecutive victories. For the 2008 event, the total route has been extended to 9,273km, while the total competitive distance (stages) has also been upped to 5,736km. Both these totals represent an increase of more than 1,000km compared with the 2007 rally, and the additional stage mileage in the notorious Mauritanian desert promises to make next January's event even tougher and more challenging than ever. A further difficulty lies in the format of the two marathon stages during which overnight servicing is not permitted. The latest technical regulations dictate the switch to a 31mm diameter air restrictor, which is 1mm smaller than the air restrictor used in 2007. The 2008 event will also require competitors to use a five-speed gearbox instead of the former six-speed 'box. These changes have been introduced with a view to curbing dynamic performance, although the latest specification Pajero/Montero Evolution has improved in terms of handling and rough-road performance thanks to the significant work that has gone into the suspension and drive train. The 2008 car is ideally prepared to take on what could well prove to be one of the toughest Dakars in years.

Hiroshi Masuoka took consecutive Dakar wins in 2002 and 2003 and has contested the event on no fewer than 21 occasions. The Japanese veteran is confident that a third win is on the cards thanks to his experience and skill over dunes and desert terrain. Despite being sidelined in 2005 and 2006, Masuoka overcame a number of punctures and clutch problems to finish a strong 5th overall on the 2007 event. The two-time Dakar winner participated in the team's intensive three-week simulation test in Morocco in July and played an active part in the fitness training programs organized by the team during 2007 to build its drivers' physical and mental strength in readiness for the 2008 Dakar.

Stéphane Peterhansel joined Mitsubishi after collecting a record-breaking sixth Dakar win on two wheels. The Frenchman has since added three further wins to his name in the car category (2004, 2005 and 2007). His victory on November's UAE Desert Challenge, the final round of the 2007 FIA Cross-country Rally World Cup, shows that he has lost none of his natural speed and served as an ideal way to prepare his bid for a 10th Dakar win.

Former Downhill Skiing Champion Luc Alphand celebrated his first outing on the Dakar with Mitsubishi by finishing second overall event to secure an emphatic one-two finish for the team. The following year saw him outperform his more experienced team-mate, Peterhansel, to claim his maiden Dakar victory. Last year, he once again finished 2nd overall in the wake of his French team-mate and the ex-skiing star is likely to be a front-runner once again on the 2008 event.

Joan 'Nani' Roma stands out as another successful convert from two wheels to four following his incorporation in the factory Mitsubishi line-up in 2005. Underlining his talent and justifying the team's confidence in his ability, he finished on the Dakar podium (3rd) at only his second attempt. Problems prevented the Spaniard finishing any higher than 13th overall on the 2007 event, but he went on to take 2nd on the Rally Transiberico, the opening round of the 2007 FIA Cross-country World Cup, and he has all the makings of becoming one of the sport's stars of the future!

Team Director Dominique Sérieys is convinced that the 2008 Dakar will be a success: "The 30th Dakar has all the makings of being a huge challenge, especially the Mauritanian stages. That said, Mitsubishi has plenty of advantages in its favor thanks to the combination of the Pajero/Montero Evolution's reliability, durability and overall dynamic package and the experience and skill of our crews. Our recent win on the UAE Desert Challenge says a great deal about our capacity to take all the dunes and desert conditions in our stride. We face strong competition but we will have exactly the same driver and co-driver line-up as last year and I believe this consistency will be one of our strengths. We will be targeting our 13th win and our eighth consecutive success, but it won't be easy. Even so, we are convinced that our year-long preparation program has a very good chance of bearing fruit."