MITSUBISHI MOTORS and Volkswagen go head-to-head
MITSUBISHI MOTORS extends consecutive wins record to 6, claiming its 11th overall victory
MITSUBISHI MOTORS continued the adventure with a further improved version (MPR12) of the PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION Super Production Specification, and participated in the 28th event with four vehicles. Two-time Dakar winner Hiroshi Masuoka (2002 and 2003) and Stéphane Peterhansel, who also claimed two consecutive victories (2004 and 2005), were again part of the team. The other two vehicles were driven by Alphand and Roma, both experienced Dakar competitors. The durability of the PAJERO/MONTEROs was improved by reviewing the shape of the engine pistons, connecting rods and crankshafts, while optimizing the intake and exhaust pipe length and cam timing to improve torque characteristics in the low and medium speed ranges. In addition to this, the differential had a two-step gear reduction mechanism to reduce the load, and the durability of the drive system was improved together with the torque limiter that adjusts the variable capacity. Details such as revising the layout of the suspension and improving the shock absorption capacity of the shock absorbers were carefully verified.
For the 28th event, Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, was chosen as the starting venue for the first time in the history of the Dakar Rally. After the start, two special stages were held in Portugal, after which the participants headed to the port town of Málaga in southern Spain and then to Africa by ferry. Similar to previous years, the route led southward through Morocco to Western Sahara and Mauritania. Five stages were scheduled in Mauritania in the sand dunes and in mountainous areas. The mid-event rest day was in Nouakchott. The latter half took the competitors from Mauritania to Guinea, going south through Mali, then northwestward to Dakar, Senegal, the rally covering a total distance of 9,043 km, of which 4,813 km were competitive stages (SS).
Aiming for its first victory, the Volkswagen factory team fielded former WRC champion Carlos Sainz of Spain in addition to experienced Dakar competitors Saby, Kleinschmidt and Giniel de Villiers. The diesel turbo engine fitted on the Volkswagen Touareg produced considerable torque. In Portugal, the Volkswagens took on the stages with all their might. In contrast, the MITSUBISHI MOTORS team did not take any risks in the early stages, but as soon as the rally entered in Africa, Roma rose to the top, for the first time since he switched from two to four wheels. Masuoka, who was second only by a small margin, suffered a crash because of a misunderstanding with his co-driver and was forced into retirement. Subsequently, the Volkswagen forces took the lead, but as the difficulty of the course increased in the desert sections of Mauritania, the PAJERO/MONTERO EVOLUTION displayed its true potential. In the Zouérat-Atar dune stage, Peterhansel set the fastest SS time and completed the first half in second place behind leader Alphand, securing a provisional 1-2 result. Peterhansel took the lead in the second half, but two days before arriving in Dakar, he hit a tree on the side of the track in Guinea, damaging his suspension. After getting it fixed, he resumed the race, but dropped out of contention for the win. As a result, Alphand, who had taken the lead, focused on shaking off his pursuer de Villiers, in the only Volkswagen remaining in contention for the top prize. His efforts paid off as he took the victory with a margin of 17 minutes and 53 seconds. For his second participation in the car category, Roma finished third, followed by Peterhansel, who managed to recover at the end of the rally to take fourth. The MITSUBISHI MOTORS team extended its record of consecutive wins to six and achieved its 11th victory in total.