4th-19th January 1997

Mitsubishi goes for victory in Dakar!


Mitsubishi Motors, the motor manufacturer most loyal to the "Dakar", wants to rediscover the road to victory on January 19th in Senegal. That's why Mitsubishi will enter several Mitsubishi Pajeros and the new Mitsubishi Challenger/Montero Sport in the category of the improved cross-country cars, and two Mitsubishi trucks FR415 4WD-RS in the homologated mass production trucks.

There is a keen sense of anticipation at the return to this great African classic of the three crews who have flown the Mitsubishi flag with such success: they are, naturally, Kenjiro Shinozuka/Henri Magne who will drive a Pajero of Team Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart, Bruno Saby/Dominique Serieys, Team PIAA Mitsubishi Ralliart, and Jean-Pierre Fontenay/Bruno Musmarra, Team Off Road Express Mitsubishi Ralliart.

"This rally will be decided on the quality of the car, but far more on the quality of service than in past years," emphasises Team Manager Ullirich Brehmer, "It's going to be very hard. Success will depend on top-class work from the drivers, the co-drivers, the mechanics, the truck crews (who are going to arrive very late at the bivouacs) - everyone will have to give their best to ensure success. (The three Pajeros will have a total of 6 service trucks - three 4x4s and three 6x6s.) As the rally crews are going to have to work on the cars themselves, the drivers and co-drivers have been assisting in the preparation and construction of cars, learning each step of the process. We've taken particular care on this point. Each driver has had plenty of mileage in the new car, each one has exactly the same equipment and therefore each has the same chance of winning."

4th-19th January 1997

Shinozuka : "The "Dakar", a nightmare for the engineers!"

"I have competed in the World Rally Championship (WRC) events such as the Safari Rally, held in Kenya, a number of times. Compared to such WRC events, the Dakar is a rally that has to be actually challenged. For example, there is adequate data available and our engineers can predict what sort of terrain to expect, but the Dakar is run through unpredictable territory. It's really a nightmare for engineers! This year the regulations have changed and we will enter a T2 (improved cross-country cars) Pajero according to the new regulations. We tested the Pajero in the deserts of Morocco and found that it was very adaptable to such terrain. I hope to be among the top runners of this year's Dakar in this new Pajero."

Bruno Saby - in good spirits

"All the tests, at Ales, Chateau-Lastours and in Morocco, then the event in Dubai, showed that the car is perfectly good, interesting, well balanced and very reliable. We're competitive again, the car is reliable and it's fun to drive. Everything is set for me to start cool and confident. It's true that the result in Dubai built us up to 110%! Doing such a difficult and testing event, especially after a long break from competing, was very beneficial for the team, for Dominique and for me. It helped Team Mitsubishi re-discover its team spirit - something everyone else has always admired. That victory was a great moment and I want another one! "

Jean-Pierre Fontenay: "I want to believe it!"

"The objective is to win for Mitsubishi, but I would very much like it to be my victory! Saby, 'Shino' and I will start equal and anyone who has a problem will help the others. It's been our approach for several years and I think it's the best. I want to win this Dakar, knowing at the same time that if I win, Mitsubishi will win too! Bruno and I are in good shape, I like the event, the car is superb, I'm confident, I want to believe it can happen...and I believe it will! I was surprised by the new Mitsubishi Pajero T2 's performance, right from the first tests. I really enjoy driving a car like this! It's good to drive and of solid construction. The 3.5-litre V6 engine is flexible, smooth and pleasant - you can drop to very low revs and there is always torque to cross dunes. Another strong point is that this car allows us to use tyres that are well adapted to sand: the Michelin RA2s which we've got give good performance in a range of conditions.

Hiroshi Masuoka : "...I will aim for the top position"

"I think the 1997 Dakar-Agades-Dakar will be the 1st of the new "Dakar." I also think the entry of the Mitsubishi Challenger/Montero in the T2 category is very important. Last year, I entered with the RVR (Space Runner) prototype, but I missed the chance of an overall win at the last minute. In the past I won the T2 class twice and I hope to win first overall this year. The T2 Challenger/Montero Sport has been tested domestically and we found it to have very good handling and plenty of power. I am sure it will prove its worth in Africa. Our rivals will certainly battle with the Mitsubishis, but I will aim for the top position. I hope all my fans in Japan will support me."

4th-19th January 1997

Mitsubishi offers international participants support

It has become a tradition of every Dakar that Mitsubishi Motors provides a support operation for its customers in the T1 (mass-production cross-country cars) and T2 categories through Sonauto Ralliart. It will be even more extensive for the '97 version, inasmuch as several Mitsubishi importers are closely involved in the operation. These include Spain, Thailand, Holland and Portugal. However, privateers from Brazil, Austria, France and Belgium will also benefit from the support of Team Mitsubishi Sonauto Ralliart. The Japanese manufacturer will put all his chances on his side to score a victory in T2 and in T1. Karl Ille, director of Sonauto Ralliart, is in charge of the team, taking control of pre-event preparation as well as running it on the ground.

Preparation and testing
The big change this time will be the "Challenger/Montero Sport," a new Mitsubishi only released in Japan last July. This vehicle shares its main running gear, including the 3.5-litre V6 engine and the suspension, with the Pajero. It has been prepared to T2 specification for the Japanese driver, Hiroshi Masuoka, partnered by Andreas Schulz, Team Car Plaza Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart.

"On the other hand, our trucks (which were also prepared in the Sonauto workshops) were tested twice at Chateau-Lastours to finalise suspension settings and they also underwent endurance tests for a week in Japan.", Karl Ille adds.

The two Mitsubishi trucks FR 415 4WD-RS are entered for the following crews : Versino-Lacourt-Versino and Grajon-Imai-Martineau.

Review of the troops
To support those participants, Team Mitsubishi Sonauto Ralliart is sending five trucks - three 6x6s and two 4x4s. Another 6x6 will act as a "Saint Bernard" backing up the pair of FR415 4WD-RS support trucks taking part in the event.

All told, the team will include a minimum of 100 people - management, car and truck competitors, mechanics. This considerable force will be directed by Karl Ille.

Main aim: return to Dakar!
Karl Ille defines different objectives for Team Mitsubishi Sonauto Ralliart in each category: "In the first place, to get the Challenger/Montero Sport, which is a completely new vehicle, to the finish, as well-placed as possible in T2. However, we also want to keep the 'Marathon' class title that we won last year, and we are therefore relying a good deal on Miguel Prieto and Carlos Souza, who are both entered in Pajero T1s. In T2, I shall willingly leave victory to my colleagues in the official Mitsubishi Team, and we will try to get our cars into as good a position as possible! But I repeat, we want to see the Challenger/Montero Sport in a good position in this class at the finish in Dakar. As for our two FR415 trucks, I hope that they reach the finish and in good positions.

Among the crews who will be supported by Team Mitsubishi Sonauto Ralliart, some of them are supported by national importers :

Prieto/MasMitsubishi SpainPajero T1
Souza/ReyMitsubishi PortugalPajero T1
Pornsawan/TullMitsubishi ThailandPajero T2

Miguel Prieto : In 1996, 11th overall, 2nd in T1 in the Granada-Dakar.

Carlos Souza : in 1994, National Vice Champion-Pajero T2 ; in 1995, National Champion-Pajero T1-3,5 l V6; in 1996 3rd in T1 in the Granada Dakar.

Pornsawan Siriwattanakul : Thai Rally Champion from 1992 to 1996.

BrazilKolberg/MesquitaPajero T1 SWB (Short wheel base)
PortugalLima /RobaloPajero T1 SWB
AustriaRoser/Pajero T1 SWB
BelgiumDhont/KaketPajero T1 SWB
JapanTomokawa/AsadaPajero T1 SWB
Noshiro/GhaemPajero T2 LWB (Long wheel base)
FranceLhotellerie/LeheronPajero T1 SWB
De Roissard/DucouthumanyPajero T1 SWB
Cassegrain/CassegrainPajero T1LWB
Smulivici/VechotL200 diesel T2
Strugo/CatarelliPajero T3 SWB
Bertry/GuerrinPajero T2

4th-19th January 1997

The Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Support Truck

Mitsubishi enters two FR415 4WD-RS support trucks. Two Mitsubishi mechanics, chosen from 47 Mitsubishi FUSO dealerships will participate in the rally.

This year Mitsubishi will enter two Mitsubishi FR415 4WD-RS support trucks (T4: homologated mass production trucks). These trucks will assist the various Mitsubishi private teams contesting the event. They will be driven by Versino-Lacourt-Versino and Grajon-Imai-Martineau.

The support trucks will be powered by a 16,031cc, V8 turbo-intercooler diesel engine. This powerful engine puts out 440bhp. The T4 class support trucks will consist of 3 personnel; driver, co-driver (2nd driver) and a navigator. One of the trucks will be co-driven by Masaaki Imai. He is one of the top rally drivers in Japan, entering various rally events in a Galant VR-4 and the Lancer Evolutions. In preparation for this event, Masaaki Imai has trained in the technique of driving the trucks and has honed his skill as a mechanic.

Also, two Mitsubishi FR415 4WD-RS assistant truck mechanics (Air-mechanics) were chosen from 47 FUSO dealerships from across Japan. Mitsubishi FUSO is the Truck and Bus Division of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation. They are Yoshima Hattori (27 years old) and Tomoaki Kanemitsu (27 years old).

In order to choose the mechanics, a training session was held on October 6th and 7th at the Tochigi Research Centre, to select the most qualified mechanics for the job.

Has Dakar returned to its roots?

A 100% African route, a huge Dakar-Agades-Dakar loop that crosses Senegal, Mauritania, Mali and Niger is the outline of the most famous cross-country rally of all. It is a return to the roots of the event, dreamt up by the fertile imagination of Thierry Sabine 19 years ago.

In turning to the "all-Africa" option, Hubert Auriol and his team at TSO certainly haven't taken the easy way out, least of all for competitors! There will be no dead time for them, no prologue to get into their stride...They will go straight into the real thing from the start in Dakar!

An all-African route
Forget then the starts from the Place de la Concorde or the Trocadero, at a chilly dawn on January 1st. The triumphant passage through France in rain or snow has gone and muddy prologues have also come to an end. There will be no more starting zones in Granada, thronged with thousands of enthusiastic Spaniards. Powerful, comforting images such as these belong only to the memory!

In considering this Dakar-Agades-Dakar loop, the appeal of Algeria or Libya - and to a lesser extent, Morocco and Guinea - has also been overlooked. They stand out from the old maps, marked with the most famous place names from the Dakar: Tamanrasset, the Great Erg of the Tenere, Bilma, Dirkou...Perhaps next year, for the 20th anniversary.

While waiting for that box of tricks, one can console oneself with a very promising 1997 version which returns to other places redolent of the event's history: amongst these are Mauritania, which has figured in practically every event, where one thinks above all of Timbuktu, as well as Gao in Mali and Niger. The Air Massif, the Temet Pass, Agades, the famous "Crab-Pincer" - that gateway to the Tenere that isn't always easy to open, and the no less celebrated Tenere Tree - which is in fact nothing more than a hideous array of metal tubes covered in stickers after the real tree, which had patiently put its roots down to a depth of 40 metres, was put to death by a mad lorry.

If the Tenere Tree is an altered symbol, the little town of Agades is still part of the Dakar legend. Don't say that "When the rally goes to Agades, the wind raises a sandstorm". It has certainly blown a bit since the first event in 1978-79 and sometimes very strongly, between 1983 and 1991. Then it died down, for the rally no longer went past the famous minaret of dried earth...This was much to the annoyance of the traders, who used to do their accounts on their one day of rest each year! The return of the event to the Niger town is thus eagerly awaited...

It was the rebellion of the Touaregs of Mali and Niger, amongst other reasons, that led TSO to turn to safer countries and to content itself for several years with a loop from France or Spain to Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal, with an occasional visit to western Mali. It was a slightly frustrating route and one soon got tired of it.

Auriol's concern to re-shape and re-invigorate the event has thus been warmly welcomed, even if the Touaregs' rebellion hasn't finished.

Although route information has been drip-fed, one can imagine that the '97 Dakar will be 50% in the Sahel and 50% desert.

The rules of the game have changed...
The main talking point at the moment is of course the rule changes for cross-country rallies, but the Dakar organisers have decreed certain conditions for their own event besides, with the avowed intention of reducing the part played by ultra-high technology, which is considered too cumbersome, as it relies too much on the mechanics' skills and navigational instruments.

However, these changes don't really concern the T1 category. The production class vehicles are close to standard, near identical to what we knew before, barring a few details. The principal changes apply to the powerful and ultra-sophisticated factory prototypes - the famous T3s that have been banned from the event altogether - and to the T2s, which may no longer have independent suspension.

Limitations on the use of GPS (the organisers will provide a reduced number of way points for each leg) doesn't constitute a true restraint, because after initially deciding to ban all forms of digital or satellite assistance, the event organisers have changed their minds on this question...There is just one major change compared to last year: the route will only be given to competitors at the end of the previous leg. This measure will give co-drivers less time to prepare their maps and notes for the following day's competition. It's worth noting as well that the organisers won't provide maps of each leg, but only an outline. One can thus expect to find out which crews are concerned about navigation.


T2 : Improved cross-country cars

Photo 1996 UAE Desert Challenge

Technical specifications

Length4,030 mm
Width1,885 mm
Wheelbase2,420 mm
Weight1,700 kg
EngineType 6G74. V6 DOHC 24-valve
Displacement3,496 cc
Bore/Stroke93.0 x 85.8 mm
Maximum torque34 m/kg at 3000 rpm
Maximum power270 bhp
Transmissionmanual 5-speed gearbox
Suspensionfront : double wishbone with coil springs
rear : 4-link, rigid axle with coil springs
Brakesventilated discs + 4-pot caliper
TyresMichelin 16/78-16
Fuel capacity400 litres
Maximum speed195 km/h

MITSUBISHI Challenger/Montero Sport T2

T2 : Improved cross-country cars category

Photo 1996 UAE Desert Challenge

Technical specifications

Length4,530 mm
Width1,875 mm
Wheelbase2,725 mm
Weight1,900 kg
EngineType 6G74. V6 DOHC 24-valve
Displacement3,496 cc
Bore/Stroke93.0 x 85.8 mm
Maximum torque33 m/kg at 3000 rpm
Maximum power250 bhp
Transmissionmanual 5-speed gearbox
Suspensionfront : double wishbone with torsion bar springs
rear : 3-link, rigid axle with coil springs
Brakesventilated discs + 4-pot caliper
TyresMichelin 16/78-16
Fuel capacity350 litres
Maximum speed180 km/h


T4 : Homologated mass production trucks

Photo test run in Japan

Technical specifications

Length7,420 mm
Width2,490 mm
Wheelbase4,290 mm
Weight14,000 kg
EngineType 8DC9T2. V8 turbo-charged diesel with intercooler
Displacement16,031 cc
Bore/Stroke135.0 x 140.0 mm
Maximum torque160 m/kg
Maximum power440 bhp
Transmissionmanual 10-speed gearbox
Suspensionfront / rear: leaf suspension, rigid axle
Brakes air-over hydraulic ventilated disc brakes + 4-pot caliper
TyresMichelin 14.00R20
Fuel capacity1,300 litres
Maximum speed135 km/h


T1 : Mass production cross-country cars

Technical specifications

LWB (Long Wheel Base)SWB (Short Wheel base)
Length4,725 mm4,145 mm
Width1,785 mm1,785 mm
Wheelbase2,725 mm2,420 mm
Weight1,900 kg1,800 kg
EngineType 6G74. V6 DOHC 24-valve
Displacement3,496 cc
Bore/Stroke93.0 x 85.8 mm
Maximum torque30 m/kg at 3000 rpm
Maximum power208 bhp
Transmissionmanual, transmission, 5-speed high/low with centre differential
Suspensionfront : double wishbone independent with torsion bar
rear : rigid axle with coil springs
Brakesfront : ventilated disc brakes
rear : solid disc brakes
TyresMichelin RA2 (16/78x16)
Fuel capacity400 litres
Maximum speed170 km/h

Michelin plays the all-rounder for Mitsubishi

The undisputed leader in making tyres for off-road rallies, Michelin will once more enter the next Dakar alongside Mitsubishi. Close co-operation between the two companies over many years has produced numerous successes, in the World Rally Championship and events in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the deserts of Africa and Asia.

On January 4, 1997, the Japanese constructor and the French manufacturer begin another adventure together, with victory as their aim. The adventure began at the end of September with a testing campaign in the Erfoud region in the far south of Morocco. On that occasion, Bruno Saby, Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Kenjiro Shinozuka tested two suggested sizes: 16- or 18-inch diameters...In the end, the 16-inch solution was retained and the Michelin tyres that will equip the various cars of Team Mitsubishi Sonauto Ralliart will be RA2s in a 16/78x16 size. This tyre, a direct development of the RA1 that equipped numerous private teams in the last Dakar, has been improved to allow it to run at low pressures, as sand is expected to be king in the '97 Dakar...

The RA2 is an all-rounder, well adapted to T2 cars, and it will therefore be just as suitable for the dunes of the Tenere as the hard, destructive laterite tracks that crews will encounter in the Sahel. Using one type of tyre is one of the consequences of the ban on the powerful T3 prototypes, which needed different tread patterns to cope with different surfaces in optimum conditions. It's easy to understand that a "one-tyre solution" has several advantages, notably in terms of cost and transportation.

The new-look '97 Dakar will thus act as a kind of proving ground for the RA2 and many lessons will result from this first major outing that can be applied to future development. But remember that after the tests in September and October in Morocco, this tyre was then used with success in Dubai on the Desert Challenge, never mind the experience gained with the RA1, its direct ancestor, on the Dakar and the Atlas in 1996...In entering its new all-rounder, the French manufacturer is by no means stepping into the unknown!

"The disappearance of the T3s will result in a much more open contest between the T2s," reasons Aime Chatard, one of Michelin's motorsport chiefs. "We will therefore have to wait for the first few legs to make out a pecking order. Another consequence of the rule change is that the diameter of the wheels is now free, having been limited to 800mm.

"But to return to reality, we are confident that our products are perfectly suited to 1996 T1s and T2s. However, the 1997 vehicles will inevitably have subjected to a 'power- and torque-boosting course' ."The RA2 will run at very low pressures - less than one bar in sand - but at appropriate speeds."

A Michelin technician will be attached to Team Mitsubishi Sonauto Ralliart during the event, as well as a tyre fitter who will also work for the customer teams. Transporting the tyres (around 500 in total) will be handled by the teams' service crews.

Michelin is also equipping the FR415 trucks entered for the event by Mitsubishi: a good 50 tyres in a 1400x20 XZL size will be needed to equip these two huge trucks! Just as adaptable as the RA2, this tyre has recently undergone intensive tests - for pressure and wear - on the rocky tracks of Chateau-Lastours. They were particularly conclusive tests on specialised terrain.


1983Paris-Dakar1st Marathon
1st Group II
1st team
1984Paris-Dakar1st Marathon
1st Group IV
1st Group II
1985Paris-Dakar1st & 2nd overall
1st Marathon
1st Group IV
1st Group II
1986Paris-Dakar1st Marathon
1st Group II
1988Paris-Dakar1st, 2nd and 3rd Group II
1989Paris-Dakar1st Group II
1st Private entry
1990Paris-Dakar1st Group II
1991Paris-Dakar2nd, 3rd and 4th overall
1992Paris-Sirte-Cape Town1st, 2nd and 3rd overall
1993Paris-Dakar1st, 4th, 5th and 12th overall - 1st T2
FIA World Cup 93Manufacturers : 2nd T3 and 1st T2
Drivers : 3rd, 6th, 8th and 11th
1994Paris-Dakar-Paris4th overall - 1st T2
FIA World Cup 941st with Pajero T1
(FIA Marathon Trophy)
1995Paris-Dakar2nd, 3rd and 4th overall - 1st T2
1996Granada-Dakar3rd, 6th, 7th and 10th overall - 1st T1


Copyright 1996 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.