Dakar: Mitsubishi pre-event shakedown

Mitsubishi Motors has achieved five consecutive victories on the renowned Dakar Rally and aims to take home its record 10th overall win in the Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution as it makes final adjustments before the start. The motor sport...

Mitsubishi Motors has achieved five consecutive victories on the renowned Dakar Rally and aims to take home its record 10th overall win in the Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution as it makes final adjustments before the start.

The motor sport division of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, MMSP, is poised to start the famous Dakar Rally on January 1, 2005. MMSP brought the team Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studio Pajero Evolution and the L200 Pick-up to Le Creusot off road course for the shakedown of its racing machines from December 20th to 21st.

The hilly and diverse Le Creusot off road stage is located approximately 100 km north west from MMSP SAS, the Mitsubishi cross-country rally development facility situated in Pont de Vaux, near Mâcon, in the center of France. The place is a familiar location for testing of the Dakar's Pajero and the almost five kilometer track, surrounded by hilly landscapes, includes some tough up and down sections. Mitsubishi again utilized this varied road for its shakedown. On this hard-packed rock-strewn terrain, even experienced drivers like Masuoka and Peterhansel must be extremely careful. Since the altitude of the area is high, and because of the season, there are dangerous patches of frozen mud and even the possibility of snowfalls.

The five machines of Team Mitsubishi Repsol ATS Studio in top form

Although the test was carried out under prime weather conditions on December 20th, the area experienced its coldest day before winter. Temperatures dropped to a freezing minus 5 degrees as the team prepared its vehicles. Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka, France's Stéphane Peterhansel and fellow countryman Luc Alphand, a new member to the Mitsubishi team, made adjustments to their newly developed Pajero Evolutions on the first day.

On the second day, Spain's Joan Roma got behind the wheel of the Pajero Evolution and Germany's Andrea Mayer took the controls of his L200 Pick-Up. The vehicles' development and the suspension settings have been thoroughly tested during Mitsubishi's previous runs in Morocco and events preceding the Paris Dakar. In particular, the valuable tests carried out in October on the 2004 UAE Desert Challenge provided significant results. The main purpose of the shakedown test is to validate the settings and this was accomplished without major problems.

Masuoka, who completed about 20 runs, was smiling with confidence: "All is according to schedule. I'm in top condition", he said. In Morocco he managed to put in considerable driving time and with that experience he made his own adjustments to the suspension and seems completely confident in his work. As a result of his achievement in the tough UAE event, he seems to have mentally gained considerable confidence. Meanwhile, Peterhansel's expression was serious as he energetically tested the perimeter and made a thorough check of his suspension settings. He was completely committed in making the final verification on his machine. In addition, Luc Alphand compared the MPR10, which he tested in Morocco, to the new Pajero Evolution MPR11. The Frenchman was quite pleased with the performance of his machine. The drivers displayed some aggressive driving, plowing through the puddles of water throughout the mountainous course. All three drivers agree that the power and response of the engine is phenomenal.

Joan Roma seemed confident and enthusiastic on the first day of testing. Back in November he trained behind the wheel of a Pajero on the Qatar Baja Rally. From the second day, he climbed aboard the Pajero Evolution and showed he had got used to driving the powerful machine. The Spaniard seems quite optimistic of gaining a top finishing spot on this year's Dakar. Roma took victory in the 2 wheel category of the 2004 Dakar and says he is both mentally and physically up to the task of winning in the 4 wheel drive category.

As in 2004, female driver Andrea Mayer will provide support for the Pajero Evolutions in the awesome L200 fitted with a V6 4 liter engine. Mayer showed off her skill on the UAE event and seems to have completely mastered the Super Production Car category. She says she's quite confident in her second attempt in the works team.

The five vehicles of the Team "Mitsubishi Repsol ATS Studio" completed the 2-day shakedown without a hitch. The team will make all the checks and necessary adjustments before taking off for the Christmas holidays. The official inspection procedures of the 2005 Dakar will begin on December 30th in Barcelona, Spain.

There is high hopes for Japan's Masuoka to gain his third victory in the classic event. After completing the tests. "The new Pajero Evolution was tested in Morocco and in the UAE but the shakedown seems to have reaffirmed the potential", he added with enthusiasm. "Not only is the engine very powerful at low revs but on high revs as well. The response has also improved considerably. Another important point is the tire air pressure adjustment which will be valuable through the desert dunes. I coordinate the air pressure adjustment with power of the engine. Also, we were able to get together in the Bretagne area for some physical training we needed. Team work is also in top form. I think I will be able to challenge the Dakar this year without the unneeded pressure because I won the UAE event. The tires will again play a vital role in the event and it's going to be very tough. However, I am both mentally and physically in the best condition of my career".

If Stéphane Peterhansel wins, it will mark his second successive victory following his triumph in the 2004 event. "We have carried out enough tests and I am going to face the challenge with confidence", he commented after completing the tests. Hiroshi and Luc are both teammates but they are also my top rivals. But also, this gives us a better chance of beating the rival teams. It would be best if I am the driver to achieve the fifth consecutive victory, though!" Meanwhile, former downhill ski champion Luc Alphand, who will be driving the Pajero Evolution for the first time this year, was smiling enthusiastically: "I am in a fantastic mood", he said. Both the team and car are just wonderful. I was only able to compete in two Bajas in 2004 so I'm a little nervous and feel some pressure".

Team Director Dominique Serieys concluded: "We have come a long distance since Morocco and the driver line-up and vehicles have been perfect. All I have been doing is preparing "to win". Shakedown went very smoothly and all we do now is wait for the start. But Africa is Africa; we don't know what will happen. We must not lose sight and simply do our best".

-mitsubishi-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Andrea Mayer