The MITSUBISHI MOTORS team fielded three vehicles for the eighth running of the event. The 1986 model PAJERO/MONTERO Prototypes aimed for a second consecutive win. Three drivers were chosen: Andrew Cowan, Patrick Zanilori and Hubert Rigal. In addition, more than 60 private teams competed in the event with PAJERO/MONTEROs. Among them were three Japanese drivers, including Kenjiro Shinozuka, a driver appointed by MITSUBISHI MOTORS, who took on the Dakar Rally for the first time. On the 1986 model, the resin body shell was renewed to improve aerodynamic performance. On the chassis, the wheel base was extended further, and the front suspension utilized a double-wishbone independent system, adding a shock absorber to each wheel and significantly improving stability control and ride comfort. The 2.6L 4G54 gasoline turbo engine delivered a maximum power of 230PS but did not change significantly. At that time, the torque capacity of the transmission, which was using reinforced parts from mass-produced vehicles, was one of the obstacles that prevented an increase in power.
The eighth event ran for 22 days starting in front of the Palace of Versailles and ending at Lac Rose in Senegal for a total distance of 12,679 km, the longest ever in the history of the Dakar Rally, including 6,685 km of competitive stages (SS). It spread across six countries - France, Algeria, Niger, Mali, Guinea, and Senegal - but it was more memorable for the tragic accident that claimed the life of the event’s organizer Thierry Sabine. Aiming for another victory, the MITSUBISHI MOTORS team kept the pace high, posting the fastest time in two special stages in the early phases of the race. Zaniroli maintained his lead, but trouble then caused him to step back. Cowan was also delayed due to a radiator issue, while teammate Rigal climbed up the leaderboard. Halfway through the rally, the three PAJERO/MONTEROS were chasing overall leaders René Metge and Jack Ickx in the Porsche 959s and continued to set fastest SS times. However, during the second half of the event, a helicopter monitoring the course with event organizer Sabine as well as four people accompanying him on board crashed a few kilometers from Gourma Raous. Sabine had previously emphatically stated that the competition should continue even under such tragic circumstances. As for the MITSUBISHI MOTORS team, unfortunate developments occurred in their quest for the lead, mainly the resulting SS cancellations. Despite setting 12 fastest times on a total of 23 special stages, it was not enough to outmatch its rivals. Rigal climbed on the third step of the podium while Cowan and Zaniroli were classified fifth and seventh, respectively.
In the production non-modified car class, the PAJERO/MONTERO achieved a fourth consecutive win from its first participation. Kenjiro Shinozuka, who participated in the diesel class, finished ninth in the Marathon class, ranking 46th overall at his first attempt. Although Yosuke Natsuki made it to the finish in Dakar, he was officially deemed to not have completed the course for he had exceeded the maximum lateness permitted by the rules. Back in 1986, the penalty for that was disqualification. A driver was excluded if the total time penalty applied for each section exceeded a certain level. That year, the top Japanese driver was Yoshimasa Sugawara who ranked 33rd overall and fifth in the production unmodified diesel class. Sugawara reached the finish for the first time in his fourth year of participation.