Car race - The Mitsubishi fortress under siege What if time had come? The uninterrupted series of victories conquered on the Dakar ever since 2001 has eased the Mitsubishi drivers to the rank of Dakar 'unbeatables' at the moment of considering a...
Car race - The Mitsubishi fortress under siege
What if time had come? The uninterrupted series of victories conquered on the Dakar ever since 2001 has eased the Mitsubishi drivers to the rank of Dakar 'unbeatables' at the moment of considering a prognosis. Everyone however knows that in sports eternity does not exist. The year 2008 could indeed mean the end of a series for the Japanese constructor that witnesses more rivals closing in year after year. The list of assets that the 'diamond' brand has is still impressive enough to worry the rivals. The "dream team" lined up by Dominique Serieys with the likes of Roma, Masuoka, Alphand and Peterhansel sums up experience, performance and spirit of sacrifice if needed. The MPR 13 Pajero, almost unchanged this season, has shown on the previous editions guarantees of reliability that one can expect from such a high level vehicle. After 25 years of experience on the event, the existing structure is by far the best prepared of all.
Who could therefore trouble 'Peter' and his friends' serenity in their defence of the title? The most obvious menace comes from Volkswagen that has already covered a part of the long road that takes the first Diesel 4X4 to victory on a Dakar. The last step to climb will have to be managed by Carlos Sainz and Giniel De Villiers, the two leaders of the German squad who failed in their quest in 2007 but still seriously worried the favourites. For the first time since 1999, Mitsubishi was behind at the rest day and failed to clinch the slightest stage during the rally. The former WRC champion from Spain even ended the race with 6 stage successes to add to his record, while the South-African seemed comfortably positioned in the lead before being betrayed by a mechanical upset. It was in the heart of Mauritania that both Race Touareg cars lost all hopes of overall glory last year. Will the ongoing progress managed during the season in terms of reliability allow them to reach Dakar in winning fashion? To do so they will have to add performance to consistency.
While the "Blues" of Volkswagen seem to be the most visible challengers, the battle isn't limited at a Japan-Germany duel. Jean-Louis Schlesser who was delighted to get another taste of the final podium in 2007 after capturing two specials will make no compromise in his attacking strategy. The drivers of the BMW X-Raid team also intend to trouble the hierarchy in the fight for glory. As a warning, Nasser Al Attiyah beat all the top men when winning the first four stages of the Dubai Desert Challenge. The driver from Qatar is among the contenders but will have to take good care of his X 3 that failed to be reliable enough to finish first overall in the UAE. Finally, unpredictable Robby Gordon behind the steering wheel of his big Hummer has the firm intention to be among the winners. Wait and see.