MITSUBISHI MOTORS Team wins for the ninth time, taking a fourth consecutive overall victory
The MITSUBISHI MOTORS team made major improvements to the PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION Super Production Specification (MPR10) to take part in the 26th edition of the event. First, the engine displacement was increased from 3.5L to 4.0L. The maximum power of 270PS was unchanged with a restrictor diameter of 32 mm, while the maximum torque was significantly enhanced from 36 kg-m to 43 kg-m. The chassis also featured a system that hydraulically linked the front and rear anti-roll bars to improve stability and lessen body roll. In addition to this, the radiator shape and size were modified, as well as the layout of the air duct and piping. Cooling performance was also boosted using a mesh type front grill. In addition to improving the cooling performance of the shock absorbers by reviewing the spring rate, while the diameter of the brake rotors was increased for greater rigidity and fade resistance. The team consisted of four cars for Masuoka, Peterhansel and Biasion who participated in PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTIONs, while Mayer drove the Super Production specification PAJERO/MONTERO.
For its 26th running, the event was finishing in Dakar and Clermont-Ferrand in central France had been chosen as the start venue. The event traversed seven countries: France, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal. The rest day was scheduled at Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, and the desert of Mauritania was still the main setting for the race, with both the first and the second half visiting Tidjikja, Mauritania. The total mileage was 11,153 km, with a somewhat low ratio of competitive stages (SS), which amounted to 4,625 km.
The MITSUBISHI MOTORS team was expected to engage in a battle with multiple opponents such as the Schlesser Buggy, Nissan, Volkswagen and BMW, but when the stages in Africa began, the MITSUBISHI MOTORS showed considerable potential. The PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION driven by Peterhansel was the best performer in the early stages. Masuoka completed the last SS in Morocco to take over the lead though with a slight advantage. However, Masuoka lost one gear due to a small shifting mistake during a SS section in the Mauritanian dunes, consequently losing one hour and thirty minutes. After that, two stages were cancelled for safety reasons. Despite catching up, Masuoka completed the first half of the rally 1 hour and 4 minutes adrift of the lead. The third place went to the Schlesser Buggy, but the 2 hours and 22 minutes gap to leader Peterhansel was already considerable.
Peterhansel entered the second half, maintaining a steady pace without taking any undue risks. Masuoka followed close behind and claimed another fastest SS time, but was unable to make up the time lost. Masuoka kept second position with 49 minutes and 24 seconds separating him from first place. Stéphane Peterhansel, who won an unprecedented six times in the motorcycle category, took a long-awaited first victory in the four-wheel category. He became only the second man to have won both the car and motorcycle categories of the Dakar Rally after Hubert Auriol. The MITSUBISHI MOTORS team clinched its ninth and fourth consecutive overall victory, the icing on the cake being the 1-2 finish of the PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTIONs. In the first half, Biasion rolled his car and retired, but Mayer contributed to the team effort, driving her Super Production specification PAJERO/MONTERO to a fifth overall finish.