Mitsubishi is certainly the motor manufacturer most loyal to the "Paris- Dakar", the famous trans-Africa marathon created by Thierry Sabine-who left us one day in January 1986 in Mali, betrayed by a sandstorm...
Now that it starts in Granada, neither Algeria, Libya or the Tenere desert can now be included in the route, but despite the fact that Hubert Auriol has had to re-route the rally; despite the fact that main adversary Citroen is stronger than ever, nothing can turn Team Mitsubishi Sonauto Ralliart from its goal of scoring a victory on January 14th in Senegal.
Four Mitsubishi 4WD Prototypes
In order to attain its objective, Mitsubishi has thrown its force into battle with confidence- three Pajero T3 prototypes with their usual crews: Bruno Saby/Dominique Serieys, Kenjiro Shinozuka/Henri Magne and Jean-Pierre Fontenay/Bruno Musmarra. Only the fourth Mitsubishi 4WD Prototype is a RVR Space Runner bodywork; it will be driven by Hiroshi Masuoka, partnered by Andreas Schulz.
New regulations and pre-event tests
"It has been necessary to adapt the car to the new regulations," commented Team Director Ullrich Brehmer. "And the drivers to adapt themselves to the new power of the engine, over 20% less than they had before- it is not to be ignored!" The new regulation imposes a restriction of 34 mm on the turbo which has necessitated many changes.
This loss of power-which has as a consequence a lessening of top speed as well as slower acceleration-has naturally lead to a decrease in weight for the Pajero, achieved without affecting its strength or safety of its crew.
Finally, to give itself the best preparation for the conditions of the Granada-Dakar, Team Mitsubishi Ralliart spent time in two countries for extensive testing; in Tunisia for two weeks in September, then in Dubai in November for 12 days. The last scheduled testing for the Pajeros will be in France in mid- December.
The route dictates strategy
Dakar '96 will be decided in its second half which starts after the rest day on 7th January, reckons Ullrich Brehmer: "The route which was announced is extremely difficult, more so than in '95 with notably five days in Mauritania... nonetheless the first part must be treated with respect; it is like a 'Mini Atlas' whereas the second will be tougher with big stretches of sand, big tests of navigation, big parts of Sahel and at the end big obstacles for the crews and cars to overcome!" In fact, the sequence of five stages between Bir Armane in Mauritania and Tambacounda to Senegal- passing through Tichit, Kiffa, Kayes and Labe, will constitute the biggest test of bravery in the event.
Another difficulty-not so obvious but an enormous problem to overcome, awaits all competitors.
Until Zouerate, their heavy service trucks are able to follow a special liaison route and consequently are able to arrive ahead of their teams. But after Zouerate there is no alternative but for them to follow the event itinerary with all its obstacles to overcome and they will consequently be arriving very late at night halts.
The strategy of the race will be to work through the known difficulties, nurse the cars through the first part, as well as through the marathon stages, to arrive back in Zouerate on the ninth and then make sure of avoiding all the traps waiting in the sand and the laterite tracks, and that's without taking into consideration the possibility of bad weather conditions which, in Guinea, for example, could totally disrupt the running of the race.
A well-balanced driving team
In its quest for victory, Mitsubishi holds a number of aces, most notably four drivers with complementary qualities: Bruno Saby is very mature and his experience of Africa makes him one of the favourites for victory; Jean-Pierre Fontenay is a thoughtful man but one who also knows how to go very quickly and will be totally free to attack. As for Kenjiro Shinozuka, according to Ullrich Brehmer: "He will drive the race as he judges it. He is a driver who does an event in his own way, an atypical driver who attacks or consolidates when you least expect it! But he also has plenty of experience." And finally there is the 'little newcomer', Hiroshi Masuoka, who knows the terrain well, and has already won in T2 for Mitsubishi; but the Japanese driver, who finds himself driving a prototype T3 will certainly be under a lot of pressure because he has set his heart on a podium finish in Dakar.
If there is a form of motorsport in which the co-driver plays an important role, it's without doubt cross- country rallying. Correct reading-sometimes interpretation-of the roadbook is essential, certainly, but nothing can replace good navigational skills. Finding the way across a string of dunes is often far from obvious, even if on-board navigational equipment has improved greatly in recent years...That's why each of the Team Mitsubishi drivers has a top co-driver, to form a complete, dynamic, high- performance team- and one that can function for a fortnight on an exhausting event. Bruno Saby is paired with Dominique Serieys, Kenjiro Shinozuka with Henri Magne, Jean-Pierre Fontenay with Bruno Masmarra and Hiroshi Masuoka with Andrea Schulz. It is more than a team; one could practically describe it as a 'marriage', as trust, experience and a good understanding are so important in this field.
The team in full
A total of 76 people make up the Mitsubishi Ralliart Team for the 1996 Granada-Dakar Rally, with the support of its active and faithful sponsors and technical backers, PIAA, Mitsubishi Oil, Off-Road Express, Car Plaza, Michelin.
Ullrich Brehmer, Thierry Viardot and Bernard Maingret are in charge of the technical and tactical structure. The team prepared for this great adventure of modern times comprises storesmen, tyre specialists, engineers, technicians, mechanics for cars and lorries, some travelling by aeroplane, some in nine Mercedes lorries (four 4x4 and five 6x6) carefully prepared to transport tools, tyres and innumerable spares.
|Driver :||Bruno SABY (F)|
|Co-driver :||Dominique SERIEYS (F)|
|Driver :||Kenjiro SHINOZUKA (J)|
|Co-driver :||Henri MAGNE (F)|
|Driver :||Jean Pierre FONTENAY (F)|
|Co-driver :||Bruno MUSMARRA (F)|
|Driver :||Hiroshi MASUOKA (J)|
|Co-driver :||Andreas SCHULZ (D)|
Running from 30th December to the 14th January 1996, for Team Mitsubishi Ralliart and Michelin, the next Granada-Dakar Rally will be a new stage in a great adventure that has already been running for several years.
Over the roads and tracks of the World Championship and the Asian-Pacific Championship, through the deserts of Africa and Asia, a close and long-lasting relationship has been forged between the Japanese manufacturer and the French tyre company.
It was in this spirit that intensive tests were carried out in Tunisia in September by Bruno Saby, Jean- Pierre Fontenay and Kenjiro Shinozuka as part of the Pajero's preparations for the daunting stages which await them next January in the journey through Africa.
During a fortnight's testing, chassis, suspension and tyres were heavily tested but, unfortunately the tests were carried out in difficult conditions which did not reflect the challenges the crews will face during the event.
The Michelin products used by Mitsubishi during the 1995 Granada-Dakar have been chosen again after being tested by Bruno Saby in Dubai last November and the size and tread patterns will be identical for 1996; RM1 and RM5 in 18-800x18 for the front, RM32 and GR32 in 21-80x16 at the back.
The RM model will be used over terrain that is hard and rough, above all in the North of Morocco, the South of the Sahel, and in Saharan Africa- while the GR model will be used where sand predominates, particularly in the South of Morocco, Mauritania and Mali. It's worth remembering that in cross-country rallies, the tyres are not equipped with the ATS puncture-proof system.
Amongst their vast luggage the Michelin technicians will also be taking a new product which will only be available in limited quantities. It will use an improved pattern RM, designed for the back end of the Mitsubishi Pajero, in 21-80x16 format. The Dakar '96 will be a test of the subsequent worth of this tyre, designed to take into account the loss of power-a consequence of rule changes in cross-country rallies- and better grip.
"It's reasonable to suppose that this loss of power will make fewer demands on tyres," reflected a spokesman for Michelin's competitions department, "they will use fewer, but at the same time, the driving style of the drivers is going to certainly change, the bends will be taken much harder and faster to compensate for the lack of horsepower with the inevitable sliding of the rear end which means that the tyres will continue to suffer as before! But we will know a bit more about the driving style the drivers will adopt-and the tyres-after the first days of the event,,,"
As far as the support trucks are concerned, the unpredictable difficulties which they will meet requires practically doubling the number of tyres necessary for the equipping of the four Pajeros in order to compensate for the loss of one of these valiant 'St. Bernards'. They will also run on Michelins-1.400 x20 XS, products already proven for these assistance vehicles in order to prepare for the future...
Finally, the Mitsubishi Pajero T1 and T2 team-assisted entries will run on Michelin 700x16 XSP. A team of Michelin fitters will be directly attached to Team Mitsubishi Sonauto Ralliart during the event, as well as a technician charged with controlling the tyre-changing operations, to monitor the tyres' performance and to check the relevant wear and tear and pressure.
Copyright 1995 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.