Dakar: Mitsubishi preview

Mitsubishi aims for ninth Dakar title The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Team, on behalf of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, is aiming for a record-breaking ninth victory and fourth consecutive win in the 2004 Telefónica Dakar Rally, which...

Mitsubishi aims for ninth Dakar title

The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Team, on behalf of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, is aiming for a record-breaking ninth victory and fourth consecutive win in the 2004 Telefónica Dakar Rally, which begins on New Year's Day.

The event starts in Clermond-Ferrand in France and takes the crews over a mammoth route through Europe and North Africa, finishing in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, on January 18, 2004. Mitsubishi Motors has entered a four-car team in this legendary event, its assault spearheaded by a trio of Pajero/Montero Evolutions and one Pajero/Montero.

The Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution made its competitive debut in the 2002 UAE Desert Challenge, winning out of the box in the hands of Stéphane Peterhansel. It then went on to win the 2003 Dakar Rally at its first attempt, Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka taking honors for the team. Since then, the FIA Super Production car has been fitted with a new four liter engine and has undergone further development and, in the team's last competitive outing and shakedown test for the Dakar, Stéphane Peterhansel once again guided the Pajero/Montero Evolution to victory in the 2003 UAE Desert Challenge.

Mitsubishi Motors first entered the Dakar in 1983 and has been one of the most successful manufacturers in the history of the event. In 2003, it clinched its third consecutive victory with the first version of the Pajero/Montero Evolution which was launched in concept form at the 59th Frankfurt Motor Show in 2001 and then in competition form at the Paris Motor Show the following year.

MITSUBISHI MOTORS MOTOR SPORTS TEAM DIRECTOR EYES POTENTIAL DAKAR VICTORY

MMSP Team Director Dominique Serieys is all too aware of the challenge posed by the Dakar, but the Frenchman, who won the event as a Mitsubishi co-driver to Bruno Saby in 1993, is quietly confident the team can defend its winning streak.

"We decided to withdraw from the FIA World Cup after the Rally of Tunisia in April 2003 to concentrate on developing the Pajero/Montero Evolution", he said. "The team carried out a major test session in Morocco in July where we tested several new components, including a more powerful four-liter engine".

"All the cars were reliable and there were marked improvements in our performance. This gives us all great confidence for The Dakar, but we all realize that it is a long and very difficult race and our competition is getting tougher each year. The 2004 Dakar returns to a more traditional format with some long and difficult stages. It will not be easy, but we have the cars and the team to win again. That is the obvious goal".

"I feel that we have a very good team. Stéphane has shown time and again that he is one of the fastest cross country rally drivers in the world. After three disappointments early in 2003, it was great for his confidence for him to win in Dubai in October. Hiroshi has proved that he has the pace and the determination to win and with "Miki" and Andrea we have two very competent drivers to complete the line-up. Andrea will act as a support driver for the other three to strengthen our chances of winning".

MITSUBISHI'S DAKAR PEDIGREE

Mitsubishi is the most successful car manufacturer in the history of the Dakar Rally and has taken eight wins to date. The team is unbeaten since 2001, having taken victory in the last three years, and has filled all three podium places on four occasions - 1992, 1997, 1998 and 2002.

The Dakar was conceived in 1978 as the brainchild of the late Frenchman Thierry Sabine, and Mitsubishi entered for the first time five years later. But the Japanese marque had to wait until 1985 to take the first of its eight wins, courtesy of Frenchman Patrick Zaniroli and co-driver Jean da Silva.

It was not until the grueling Paris-Cape Town event in 1992 that Mitsubishi won again. In the only Dakar ever to cross Africa from north to south, Frenchman Hubert Auriol led a momentous team 1-2-3 over the podium in South Africa.

Frenchman Bruno Saby and co-driver Dominique Serieys repeated the win the following year in their Pajero/Montero. Four years later, Mitsubishi victory number four fell to Japan's Kenjiro Shinozuka in his Pajero/Montero and French team-mate Jean-Pierre Fontenay reiterated the victorious feat 12 months later.

Mitsubishi had to wait until 2001 to take its sixth win on the Dakar, when Germany's Jutta Kleinschmidt hit the front near the end to become the first woman in the event's history to win outright.

Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka made up for his disappointment the previous year - when he threw away a potential victory within sight of the finish - by taking Mitsubishi's seventh Dakar win in 2002 in his Pajero/Montero. Kleinschmidt, Shinozuka and Fontenay provided yet another domination of the podium places for Mitsubishi.

Despite the fact that he trailed team-mate Stéphane Peterhansel for much of the 2003 Dakar, Hiroshi Masuoka repeated his success last January to take a second successive win and give Mitsubishi an eighth title. Masuoka's team mates Fontenay and Peterhansel filled the podium places.

EIGHT CUSTOMER CARS WILL BE BACKED UP BY MITSUBISHI MOTORS AND RALLIART

Mitsubishi Motors and Ralliart will provide support for eight customer cars in the forthcoming 2004 Telefónica Dakar Rally. With the exception of a Mitsubishi L200 Strada for former T2 Dakar winner and Thai national rally champion Pornsawan Siriwattanakul, seven international drivers enter the event in Mitsubishi Pajeros/Monteros.

All eight cars are entered in the T2 class. Al-Attiyah, Housieaux and Komornicki will be fielding petrol engined, six-speed sequential transmission versions and the remaining five are fitted with diesel engines and five-speed, dog-type manual transmission systems. All eight cars have been built by Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports customer operation, based at Trebur in Germany, under the supervision of Brice Fabry. Ralliart personnel, engineers and mechanics will carry out the logistics and service.

China's Luo Ding, Brazil's Klever Kolberg, Spain's José-Luis Monterde, Poland's Lukasz Komornicki, Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Belgium's Patrick Snijers and France's Dominique Housieaux complete the driver line-up.

Luo Ding will tackle the Dakar Rally in a Team Mitsubishi Ralliart China Pajero/Montero. It will be his second assault at the rally, having retired last year at the mid-way point in a privately run car. Ding has recently undergone training in China with Mitsubishi's test driver Jean-Pierre Fontenay. Pornsawan Siriwattanakul drives the sole Mitsubishi L200 Strada and is the second team representative from the Far East.

Klever Kolberg and Roldan Lourival are one of the most experienced crew in the customer's team. It is his 15th Dakar (8 times with a bike and 5th with a car).

Spanish team mates José-Luis Monterde and Rafael Tornabell have participated in The Dakar on several occasions and finished sixth overall in the 2003 Rally of Tunisia and seventh in Morocco. The pair was 10th overall in the 2003 Telefónica Dakar Rally in a Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero.

Poland's Lukasz Komornicki and co-driver Rafal Marton are one of the most experienced privateer teams in The Dakar and competed in select rounds of this year's FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies on their way to fifth overall in the FIA Drivers' World Cup. Komornicki finished fourth overall in the 2003 Rally of Tunisia and fifth in Morocco.

Frenchman Dominique Housieaux is an experienced competitor and tackled the recent UAE Desert Challenge in the Middle East. He was the outright winner of the 2002 Egypt Rally.

Nasser Al-Attiyah is the newly-crowned FIA Middle East Rally Champion after taking outright special stage victories in Qatar, Jordan and Cyprus this season. He also won two smaller rallies in Oman and Lebanon and is planning to tackle the Dakar for the first time in January, in addition to a planned assault at select rounds of the 2004 World Rally Championship.

Patrick Snijers is a very experienced driver and is a former European Rally and multiple Belgian Rally Champion. Snijers has driven for the BMW, Peugeot and Toyota factory teams in special stage rallying and has taken victories in many European events. The Dakar will be his first cross country rally.

-mitsubishi-

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