Dakar: Mitsubishi preview

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation and Mitsubishi Motorsport, the company's motorsport subsidiary, successfully completed its final preparations for the 2006 Dakar Rally. The shakedown test, which was held on the 19th of December, 2005. Mitsubishi will...

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation and Mitsubishi Motorsport, the company's motorsport subsidiary, successfully completed its final preparations for the 2006 Dakar Rally. The shakedown test, which was held on the 19th of December, 2005. Mitsubishi will be bidding for its sixth consecutive win and 11th overall victory in this legendary event, which starts from Lisbon, Portugal, on New Year's Eve.

The shakedown venue, 100 kilometers from the team's base in Pont de Vaux, is often used by the team for various test and development work and this test session ensured the crews were totally happy prior to taking a few days rest over the Christmas break. The five kilometer off-road stage provided a challenging mix of conditions, with rollercoaster jumps, bumps and exposed rocks, all-too ready to catch out the unwary. Sub-zero temperatures and light snow-fall added to the challenge for Peterhansel, Masuoka, Alphand and Roma, who each completed a trouble-free 100 kilometers behind the wheel of the Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution.

The 2006 Dakar-specification Pajero / Montero Evolution has already undergone thorough testing, with the suspension set-up confirmed in Morocco, and a competition outing in November's UAE Desert Challenge, where Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret won for the team ahead of one of the most daunting events in the motorsport calendar.

Peterhansel put the car through its paces on the test and the defending champion is focused on a third victory with Mitsubishi. "The car has run more than 15,000 kilometers since the beginning of the year and is fully tested," said the Frenchman. "That fact makes me confident for Dakar 2006. Nevertheless, the overall win is still open to everyone. In order to outperform rivals who have a similar performance potential to us, we will have to be perfect as a team. In other words, drivers, co-drivers and mechanics will amalgamate with one another. I am confident that we will show you the perfect game!"

Team-mate Luc Alphand took a more conservative approach to his final preparations, but the former World Downhill ski champion, who contributed to the team's one-two finish in the 2005 event, is fully determined to put in another top performance. "The car is now extremely good," he said. "Our number one target is a win for Mitsubishi. We will have to help one another. But, as you know, there will be only one winner. In that sense, I feel a bit of pressure."

Ahead of only his second outing in the Dakar on four wheels, Joan 'Nani' Roma was also satisfied with the team's preparations as they make ready to transport the cars to Lisbon, Portugal, for scrutineering between December 28-30. "This will be a completely different race from the previous one, as I now have a year's experience driving the Mitsubishi," said the 2004 Bike winner. "I am committed to a podium finish but I know it will not be easy."

Adding to his team-mates' comments, former victor Hiroshi Masuoka said: "The car felt perfect! Every year I thought we could not have done more to the car, so it is an astonishing fact that it has been significantly improved again. I am quite surprised at the technology reserve that Mitsubishi has."

Masuoka, who has amassed two victories in the event (2002/2003) - a major achievement for a Japanese driver - added: "I am convinced that the work of the co- driver will be vitally important since the use of the GPS is limited this year. Teaming with Pascal Maimon, with whom I won the Dakar for the first time in 2002, will be good. I believe that our rivals will be fast but I have more than a fair chance to win for the third time."

Dominique Serieys, Team Director of Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart, said: "Mitsubishi Motors has confirmed its withdrawal from the World Rally Championship, but we will never stop. We have already commenced preparations for the 2007 Dakar. The opposition will be tough but we believe no one can be a match for us. We have so much experience and are a really close team, like one big family. Wait and see what happens on January 15..."

Isao Torii, President of Mitsubishi Motorsport, is also strongly determined. "I always feel relaxed and convinced whenever I am with the team, seeing how they perform," he said after the test. "We have to make the best use of the limited resources available for us while the company is eager for revival. Motivation is extremely high because every one of the team members is determined to perform perfectly for their colleagues. Now we are ready!"

The 2006 Dakar Rally gets underway on December 31 and takes the crews and support teams from Lisbon, through southern Iberia into North and West Africa before reaching their destination in Dakar, Senegal, on January 15, 2006.

-mmc-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Hiroshi Masuoka , Jean-Paul Cottret , Pascal Maimon