Keeping it on the road to Dakar success. It is little wonder Mitsubishi Motors drivers have claimed outright victory in seven Dakar Rallies, such is the strength of the all-conquering Pajero / Montero Evolution and the skill of the crews in ...
Keeping it on the road to Dakar success.
It is little wonder Mitsubishi Motors drivers have claimed outright victory in seven Dakar Rallies, such is the strength of the all-conquering Pajero / Montero Evolution and the skill of the crews in negotiating some of the most hostile and remote environments in the world. However, success would also not be possible without the back up of 54 mechanics, engineers and management personnel and a logistical operation that supports one of the largest teams entered in this year's Telefónica Dakar Rally.
In its bid for an eighth outright victory in the 25th anniversary event, Mitsubishi Motors is fielding a pair of Pajero / Montero Evolutions and two classic Pajero / Monteros, requiring precision planning, mechanical support and logistics. Director of Logistics, Jean-Francois Dézé ("Jeff"), oversees the myriad of plans required to support the 62-strong team under the management of Team Director Dominique Serieys.
"Jeff and the team started to work on this year's Dakar around April last year", commented Serieys. "Before June we had booked and confirmed the major hotels in Europe and Egypt and any hotels we could arrange en route in Africa".
Aside from the movement of equipment and personnel through Europe prior to the start, and from the finish in Sharm El Sheikh, hotels are arranged for the entire team in Marseilles, Narbonne, Tozeur, Siwa and Sharm El Sheikh. Additional 'hotel' rooms are also booked for the drivers, co-drivers and team management in remote areas around the various overnight bivouac locations.
"The team consists of eight drivers and co-drivers, four Pajero / Monteros with four mechanics and engineers in each, the crews for the assistance and racing trucks, management, two PR personnel and our own doctor/physio", said Serieys.
"By the end of the test session in Morocco we had finalised all the mechanics and service personnel, and the majority of plans had been completed by the Paris Motor Show in September", added Dézé. "The Dubai Rally was an excellent shakedown with the whole team in place. The last item on the agenda was the ordering and delivery of hundreds of spare parts needed for the event, including 380 tyres for the competition cars, all of which will be used".
While Serieys admits a reduction of tyres, in particular, is possible, he is not prepared to leave anything to chance. "When the crews are inflating and deflating tyres several times a day in the dunes, it is sure to weaken the sidewalls. There may be nothing wrong with the tyre when you look at it, but we discovered last year that you might get a flat the following day, which is significant. With so much at stake it's not worth taking the risk, so we change tyres after each stage".
Inevitably, the outside perception focuses on the mechanical side of the operation, however the personal equipment required in keeping the team on the road, comfortable and happy for nearly three weeks is also significant. Each member of the Mitsubishi Motors Team is kitted with a tent, small inflatable mattress and an extensive range of team wear, including jackets, T-shirts, trousers, shorts, sports shoes, socks, desert glasses, bags and even woolly hats for the cold nights spent under the stars. With temperatures in the middle of North Africa's winter fluctuating between 20 and a mere three degrees Celsius in a 24-hour period, no detail can be left to chance.
The Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), organisers of the Dakar Rally, estimates that the 2003 Telefónica Dakar Rally will attract 330 hours of television broadcast in 160 countries by 56 channels. The official fuel supplier calculates that two million litres of fuel will be consumed by the 162 bikes, 130 cars and 51 trucks entered in the rally, along with the 147 assistance vehicles, 17 airplanes, nine helicopters, 10 trucks and 32 organisation cars.
The enormity of the Dakar Rally cannot be underestimated...