For a champion, professional athlete, staying at the top the game takes a lot of perseverance, skill and determination. When it comes to automobiles, the same principle applies to any top selling car, as continuous improvement of the product is key to staying at the top of the sales charts and ahead of the competition.

Mitsubishi Motors took these principles to heart in upgrading their top selling model, the Montero Sport SUV, and chose to welcome it the best way they know how... the Ralliart way.

When we arrived at the Clark International Speedway, we were greeted by the latest variants of the Montero Sport. Called the GLS-V and GTV, the new Montero Sport gets a thorough upgrade, with a new engine equipped with a variable geometry turbocharger, bumping up the power and the way it's delivered.

Event organizers, headed by George Apacible and Pepon Marave, built a makeshift course comprised of the Clark International Speedway's tarmac and the infield's dirt, giving media participants a full appreciation of the new Montero Sport's abilities both on and off road.

The event, dubbed the Mitsubishi Montero Sport Challenge: Masuoka Edition, was divided into two parts: a timed rallycross course and the acceleration/braking course. In the acceleration test, participants were to take off at full throttle, carve through a short slalom course arranged on the main straight, and apply full braking to come to a full stop within a designated area.

The timed rallycross began with a full throttle run along the back stretch of the Clark International Speedway, then proceeded to enter the twisty dirt portions of the infield section, and finished off on the back chicane. The course was designed to showcase the new Montero Sport's abilities on any road surface, a rallying heritage that stretches throughout many decades of winning experience in the World Rally Championships and the Paris-Dakar Rally.

With a proud rallying heritage to look up to, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines invited renowned rally driver, Mr. Hiroshi Masuoka, to participate in the event. Masuoka-san, who won the Paris-Dakar Rally back-to-back in 2002 and 2003 driving the Mitsubishi Pajero, gave participants a taste of his driving style through the course. His time, 1 minute and 12 seconds, served as the benchmark for which the media participants were to try and get close to, or even beat.

Needless to say, we were all excited about the new heart of the Montero. When my turn came up, my foot was firmly planted on the throttle, launching the 7-seat SUV off the line. The way the power is delivered has most definitely improved, giving a constant pull at any gear. Braking into the first turn, the Montero squats for all the brakes are worth, prepping the car for the sharp hairpin into the dirt section. It's quite unusual for one of the softest sprung SUVs on the market to try to take on a tight, twisty dirt course, and takes quite a bit of bravery to push hard. But it does it with confidence, and the new engine pulls it out of the turns with ease; sometimes with a little bit of opposite lock.

After finishing my lap, I clocked in at 1 minute, 20 seconds, a full 8 seconds behind Masuoka-san's time of 1 minute 12 seconds from the previous day. Of course, I never expected to get close anyway, but it gives a full account of how good the new Montero is, and just how quick the 2 time Dakar rally champion is.

It's common for most manufacturers to just add a few bonus features here and there and re-brand a current model as "new". Not Mitsubishi. With the new Montero Sport GLS-V and GTV, Mitsubishi gave it much more than that, bringing out the Ralli from under the Art.