Mitsubishi Motors Corporation together with the entry of 3 Pajero Prototypes and 1 Space Runner Prototype, Mitsubishi will enter a lorry in the Camion Class (T4). The Mitsubishi Truck "FR" 4WD-RS will assist the various private Mitsubishi entries of the T1 and T2 class.
The Mitsubishi Truck "FR" was originally developed as an emergency response vehicle. The Mitsubishi Truck division has been a leader in the field of trucks and are well aware of the diverse and grueling terrain of Africa utilized the FR415J truck chassis as a basis for its 1996 Granada-Dakar entry.
Since Mitsubishi's entry in the Dakar in 1983, they have won the event in the T1, T2 and T3 categories numerous times and the support trucks have played an important role in ensuring that the rally cars reach their goal. But not only do they play a supporting role, the powerful trucks are as much competition vehicles as the T1s or T2s and are officially entered in the Camion Class. Without the strong support of the powerful trucks, the teams may not survive the almost 7,600 kilometers of tortuous terrain.
"It's a new experience for us, and we will try to get the best possible result in the T4 category," indicated Karl Ille. This year, his responsibilities encompass the official Mitsubishi teams in T2 and T4, as well as the support operations offered top private teams in harness with the team's faithful supporters, Michelin and Facom.
The Mitsubishi Truck "FR" is one of 4 support vehicles, the other 3 being the reliable Mercedes trucks used in previous events. The 4 trucks will give assistance to 12 T1 Pajeros and 4 T2 Pajeros and 1 Space Runner.
Team Management :
MITSUBISHI TRUCK "FR"
Team Manager : 1 Engineer : 2 Coordinator : 2 Mechanic : 13
Gilbert Versino :
Driver : Gilbert VERSINO Co-driver : Christian LACOURT Navigator : Anthony MARTINEAU
For many years Gilbert Versino has been a driver for Sonauto and a specialist in the Camion Class of vehicles. In 1993 he won the Paris-Dakar 3rd in the T4 class (13th overall) and in 1995 he took his T4 to 4th in class (30th overall).
Length : 7,420 mm Width : 2,490 mm Height : 3,580 mm Wheelbase : 4,290 mm Weight : 14,000 kg Body : Kevlar + Carbon Fiber Engine : Mitsubishi 8 DC9T2 V8 diesel engine with inter-cooler Capacity : 16,031 cc Bore/Stroke : 135.0x140.0 mm Maximum power : 440 PS / 2,200 rpm Maximum torque : 160 kg/m / 1,400 rpm Transmission : Full-time 4WD 10 speed Suspension : Long taper-leaf suspension Tyre size : 1.400R20 Brake (front & rear) : Air-over Hydraulic disc brakes
MITSUBISHI AIMS FOR
ANOTHER T1 AND T2 VICTORY
As in recent years, Team Mitsubishi Sonauto Ralliart will have two cars at the start of the 1996 Granada-Dakar, with the aim of taking a further success in this category for improved production cars- but who will have the honour to follow Hiroshi Masuoka and Pornsawan Siriwattanakul "Ake" on the winners' list? Since Mitsubishi's entry in the Dakar in 1983, T1s have won the event 5 times and the T2 7 times.
Two different Mitsubishis in T2...
A Mitsubishi Pajero has been entrusted to Sakchai Hanttakul, Thailand's Rally Champion who is getting his first taste of a cross-country event; he will be partnered by his fellow countryman Tull Suwaranat who, in contrast, knows the trans-African marathon well. He was Pornsawan's team-mate last January and thus earned a superb T2 victory in a Mitsubishi Pajero.
The car is therefore little changed since the last running of the event, aside from the front suspension. It has been revised following a lengthy series of tests thanks to Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Bruno Masmarra, on the Paris-Moscow-Beijing Rally last August. The tests were rounded off by a splendid victory of course!
The other official car is a Mitsubishi Space Runner, for which such a long and difficult event will be a real motorsport baptism of fire. However, Jean-Pierre Fontenay has already tried one on the 1995 Rally of Tunisia and many improvements have been made since this first event, notably a front suspension modification.
Japanese driver Yokokawa and co-driver Kurata - Team Lotas - will be charged with guiding the car to the Senegalese capital. His experience of the Dakar (gained on two wheels!) will be invaluable. In any case, he was the first to sample the Space Runner- even if it was only a press car- on the 1995 Granada-Dakar.
Top-class 'customers' Mitsubishi's aim is thus to score a third consecutive T2 victory at Dakar. If it's thanks to a privateer, why not? Sonauto Ralliart is once more running its service back-up for customers using the firm's T1 and T2, who include Patrick Tambay and Rene Metge, who form one of the most prestigious teams in this 18th running of the Dakar.
Paired with the Paris-Beijing organiser (Metge has also been the Clerk of the Course of the Dakar, after winning the event three times), the former F1 driver is driving a long wheelbase Pajero T2 with the naturally aspirated 3.5 litre engine normally found in the T1 class for standard vehicles.
Apart from Tambay in T2, several drivers have entered Mitsubishi's in T1, benefiting from the firm's support, as Karl Ille, the Team Manager of Team Mitsubishi Sonauto Ralliart emphasises: "In the T1 category, we're leaving it to our customers to defend our colours, but we're giving them important logistical help and full mechanical service support at the bivouacs."
Frenchmen Jean-Pierre Strugo and Lh™tellerie, two Italian drivers Andretta and Germanetti, Spanish Prietto and the Portuguese Loose Surface Champion Souza, are prominent amongst the lucky crews who will benefit from this support, which has become a successful feature in recent years.
Copyright 1995 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.