Mitsubishi Motors announces 2004 Dakar line-up

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC), one of the most successful manufacturers in the history of the Dakar Rally, has secured a formidable line-up for its assault on the 2004 event. Four official Mitsubishi Pajeros* will take the start of this legendary event as Mitsubishi bids for its fourth consecutive Dakar Rally victory.

Double Dakar Rally winner Hiroshi Masuoka will spearhead the assault and the Japanese star will be joined by Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel, who has won the event six times on motorcycles, and double World Rally Champion 'Miki' Biasion, all driving Pajero Evolutions. Rising German Andrea Mayer will form part of the official team, in a Pajero.

"I hope we can repeat the 2003 year's result, when we were first, second and third, but it will be much more difficult in the upcoming rally", predicted Sven Quandt, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports (MMSP). "The Dubai results have instilled us with confidence that the Pajero is reliable over a longer distance endurance event in preparation for the Dakar".

Mitsubishi's command of the Dakar Rally is impressive and, since its first entry into the Paris-Dakar Rally back in 1983, the Japanese manufacturer has won no fewer than eight times. Its strength not only lies in the expertise of drivers, moreover, Cross-Country rallying requires unprecedented navigational skills which could well be Andrea Mayer's trump card. Alongside the young German woman is fellow countryman Andreas Schultz who has also claimed two victories in this legendary event. Schultz took his maiden win with former Mitsubishi driver Jutta Kleinschmidt back in 2001, and also guided Masuoka to his second win in 2003. His role with Mayer will be pivotal to her success. His navigational experience and ability to judge the conditions are of considerable advantage to the German lady-driver.

The Mitsubishi Motors team will also have the invaluable assistance of Jean-Pierre Fontenay, one of its former Dakar drivers. While the Frenchman has retired from competition, he will act as the team's official test driver, drawing on his vast knowledge to assist in the set-up of the cars for this grueling event.

"We have a professional team and very experienced drivers", added Quandt "Hiroshi and Stéphane have a lot of experience and the whole team is working well together. Now that 'Miki' has driven the Pajero Evolution in Dubai, the Dakar Rally will be his second competitive outing. We know that he is a very constant, very reliable driver. Andrea Mayer will drive the fourth car, chiefly as a back-up for the other three. After her positive result in Dubai we expect that Andrea will enjoy a challenging drive during the Dakar with the factory team".

The 2004 Dakar Rally starts in France on January 1 and takes the crews south to North Africa before finishing on January 18 in the Senegalese capital of Dakar.