Friday 31 January 2003
Reception Announcing the Overall Victory for
Team ENEOS Mitsubishi Ralliart on the 2003 Dakar Rally
From the left
Yukimichi Kitane : President & Executive Director of Ralliart Inc.,
Takao Suzuki : Executive Vice President &
Representative Director of Nippon Oil Co. Ltd.,
Team ENEOS Mitsubishi Ralliart
A. Schultz, H. Masuoka, J-P. Fontenay, G. Picard
Ulrich W. Walker : Executive Vice President of Mitsubishi Motors Co. Ltd.,
Rolf Eckrod : C. E. O of Mitsubishi Motors Co. Ltd.,
( Photo : 30. 01. 2003)

On Thursday, January 30th, 2003 Mitsubishi Motors Corporation and Ralliart Inc. held a reception in Tokyo in honor of Team ENEOS Mitsubishi Ralliart's 2nd consecutive victory on the 2003 Dakar Rally. Overall winner Hiroshi Masuoka and 2nd placed J-P Fontenay and his co-driver G. Picard both of France attended the event. Takao Suzuki, Executive Vice President and Representative Director of Nippon Oil Co. Ltd., which acted as one of the main sponsors were also present at the reception together with various other sponsors and members of the media. A festive Dakar Rally atmosphere filled the reception area as the competitors appeared on stage in their distinctive red racing suits. They were presented with a bouquet of flowers followed by a speech by Mitsubishi Motors C.E.O. Rolf Eckrod and President & Executive Director of Ralliart Inc., Mr. Kitane. Takao Suzuki, of Nippon Oil Co. Ltd., then took to the stage, raised his glass of champagne and emphatically toasted the victors.

This spectacular victory marks the 2nd consecutive triumph for veteran Japanese off-road driver Hiroshi Masuoka and th efirst time a Japanese driver achieved this feat. He stood next to the winning Pajero Evolution / Montero Evolution and answered the reporter's questions; "This year's rally was an extremely high-speed event. As I mentioned before the start, both Peterhansel's and my car were basically identical and put out the same speed. Therefore, we both knew that the first one to slip-up was the one who would lose. The 6 flats I sustained during the first half of the event was a real shock and if Fontenay hadn't provided me with the 2 spares I probably never would have achieved this victory. On the second half, I remained patient and kept up a steady pace. In the end I was able to win, because of Peterhansel's unfortunate mishap. I learned a lot from Mr. Peterhansel who, as you know won the Dakar on a motorcycle 6 times. I was proud to be on the same team as Peterhansel. Although it was a little different from last year, I hope to aim for my third overall victory. Thank you for all your support," said a grateful Masuoka.

Team ENEOSMitsubishi Ralliart
H. Masuoka
( Photo : 30. 01. 2003 )

Masuoka's 8-time co-driver since 1994, Andreas Schultz said, "The more Masuoka participates in these type of events the better he gets. I hope he continues to achieve outstanding results."

J-P Fontenay, who took 2nd overall, commented on his giving his spares to Masuoka; "The first time I gave him my tire I had no qualms but the 2nd time I began to worry. The 3rd time, I knew my spare would be gone and I had no intention of giving it away." Smiling at Masuoka standing nearby Fontenay added, "I was glad however, when Masuoka adjusted the tire pressure to suit the terrain and eventually reached the goal.

Fontenay's co-driver G. Picard commented with a bit of humor, "Obviously, in any event I have to continue to read the pace notes but as the rally continues the driver's mood begins to change. His temper flares as the going gets tough and although he shouts at me I try to stay calm and answer patiently, it's of course my job to that."

Mitsubishis dominated the top 4 positions in one of the toughest events in the world, the Dakar Rally. On top of this impressive achievement, 5 Mitsubishis landed in the top 10, again proving the overwhelming power of the Mitsubishis. This victory marks Mitsubishi's 8th overall victory on the classic Dakar since first challenging the event in 1983 and its 3rd consecutive triumph. As for Masuoka, he now goes down in Dakar history as the first Japanese driver to achieve 2 straight victories.

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