Repsol drivers in Dakar 2006: Hiroshi Masuoka
What made you want to take part in the Dakar Rally?
I first participated in the Dakar Rally 18 years ago. Racing cars was my interest and I was lucky to get a breakthrough. My first race was in 1987. Since then I have taken part every year. It is a very difficult race and every day is so different. Each race is around 10,000 kms without any roads and something exciting happens every day. The excitement for me is driving for 16 days to challenge the race.
Is the desert your friend or your enemy?
It is my life and my friend. The desert is also my teacher. Every day I learn something new and that makes it such a challenge.
You are a long way away from Japan on the Dakar. How do you feel about this?
Africa is maybe my second home. I spend many weeks racing and testing each year. Language is different. Each country has different cultures and scenery and all the time I try and do my best and appreciate the views and the people I meet.
What is your impression of the new car?
The new car is very strong and very fast and I think it is the best car of its kind in the world. I am very happy to be in this team and working on the Dakar. I have a lot of confidence with the Pajero Evolution. Every year the team improves the performance and the speed. Now I feel that I can win the Dakar Rally for the third time. Last year was unlucky for me. It was a big mistake with the suspension settings in the soft sand and then we had a problem with the engine. This time it feels good. We drove 10,000 kms with the new engine in the desert in Morocco without any problems.
How do you communicate in the car with your co-driver?
It was funny when I drove with Andreas Schulz. I learned some words in "Bavarian", which is a special dialect from the south of Germany. Sometimes we laughed in the car. Now I have a French co-driver again and we can understand each other. I understand a little French, but if it's necessary we look into each other's eyes and we have hands to show the direction!
The food during the Dakar is very special. Do you like it?
I like the food and have no real problems. But I have my own Japanese noodle soup with me, to keep my stomach happy. After the stage is finished, I eat my noodle soup and the "world" is okay for me again.
You are the Mitsubishi and Dakar ambassador in Japan. What's your main job when you are not driving or testing?
I did a lot of advertising work for Mitsubishi Motors in the past. On behalf of the company I join important meetings, like dealer conventions or things like that. It's part of my life to represent Mitsubishi's motorsport culture and heritage in Japan.
How do you maintain your fitness?
I have my own fitness program to follow in Japan and I join the team's fitness program in Europe. This intensifies a couple of months before we start the Dakar. I am going to intensify my fitness program.
How often do you travel between Japan and Europe in a normal year?
Oh. I don't know exactly. Many times, for fitness training, rallies, team meetings and individual programs. Very often.