With four diesel-Turbo Racing Lancers
Mitsubishi Motors Corporation and its motor sport unit, the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart team, in association with its partners Repsol, Valeo and BFGoodrich, has entered four new turbo-diesel 'Racing Lancers' for the 2009 Dakar Rally.
The event will start from the Argentine capital Buenos Aires on Saturday, January 3, before striking south to the South Atlantic resort of Puerto Madrine. The route will then head west over the dusty trails up and over the Andes Mountains.
Competitors will benefit from a rest day in the historic Chilean Pacific port of Valparaiso on Saturday January 10, with competitive action resuming the following day. The second half of the event will take them north to the Atacama Desert, then back across the Andes and into Argentina again. After a stopover in Argentina's second-biggest city, Cordoba, the rally will end with the official finish in Buenos Aires on Sunday, January 18.
The total length of the 2009 Dakar is 9,574km, including 5,652km divided into 14 special stages. The latter range in length from 215km to 666km, with four tests that exceed 500km. Competitors also face altitudes of more than 3,000 meters as they cross the Andes Mountains.
The Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart team is poised to kick off its first full season using turbocharged diesel power with a four-car entry on the 2009 Dakar. The team's bid will be spearheaded by its latest cross-country rally car, the new Racing Lancer.
The four-car driver line-up is the same as that which has represented the team on this annual cross-country rally since 2005, namely Luc Alphand / Gilles Picard (France), Hiroshi Masuoka / Pascal Maimon (Japan / France), Stephane Peterhansel / Jean Paul Cottret (France), and Joan 'Nani' Roma / Lucas Cruz (Spain).
The 31st Dakar Rally will see the event switch to fresh territory in South America where Mitsubishi's foursome will be looking to secure not only the firm's first-ever victory with a diesel powered car, but also the company's 13th success on this event, - including a run of seven successive wins since 2001.
Dominique SERIEYES (Team Director)
"We have a long unbeaten run on the Dakar to defend and we go to South America with the objective of winning. For the first time, we will be fielding four brand new cars and we have done all we can to ensure that nothing has been left to chance. The Racing Lancer won its maiden event 'out of the box' against a strong entry on October's Baja Portalegre 500 in Portugal. That was obviously encouraging, but the 2009 Dakar will be a very different sort of challenge.
"That said, we will have one of the most experienced crew line-ups and that could prove invaluable on such a long event where a group attitude and an overall team strategy are vital. Our four drivers are as quick, committed and determined as ever. They are also fit and strong physically, and I'm convinced that will play an important role because I can see this year's Dakar being very tough indeed."
Osamu NAKAYAMA (Team Principal and MMSP President)
"We go to South America with every intention of claiming our eighth straight Dakar win. Mitsubishi hasn't been defeated on this unique event since 2001 and everyone in the team is extremely keen to continue that unbeaten record. We all want to get the competition career of the new Racing Lancer off to the most successful start possible, too.
"The Dakar will be Mitsubishi's first major motor sport event using diesel power, so it is clearly a very important milestone for us. I know I will be able to count on a particularly strong and experienced line-up of drivers and co-drivers, as well as on the untiring efforts of the teams at Mitsubishi Motors and MMSP who have produced the most competitive package to try to win the Dakar for a record 13th time."
"Despite the switch to South America, I am sure we will find all the classic ingredients that have forged the Dakar's reputation over the years. I am convinced the 2009 event will be a tough challenge in sporting terms, but also a real human adventure.
"The new Mitsubishi Racing Lancer will be a big asset for us. We spent much of 2008 working on producing a nicely balanced package. Reliability was another priority and I think there is a great deal more to come from this car, but it already responds well. The diesel engine is very strong, too, and its chassis is extremely efficient. Its longer wheelbase should make it even more comfortable to drive on the faster portions.
"We will try to be as consistent as possible. The pace promises to be extremely quick from start to finish and the route includes some very long stages which will call for total concentration. The stages are also likely to be tough physically. The terrain and the conditions will be very different from what we are accustomed to in Africa, but nobody should underestimate the difficulty we face.”
''The Racing Lancer's 3-liter turbo-diesel V6 was developed at Mitsubishi Motors' Okazaki research center in Japan, and I was involved as development driver from an early stage. This engine has plenty of torque and the way it accelerates is amazing. At the same time, it is remarkably fuel-efficient. We can therefore carry less fuel and that, in turn, means less weight.
"The move from Africa to South America obviously marks a big change and the atmosphere promises to be very different from that of Dakars of the past. We will be competing with a new car on unfamiliar territory but I feel I can challenge for victory. I will try to profit as much as possible from the experience I have built up of the event since my first entry in 1987. If we succeed in not making any mistakes and steering clear of trouble, a top result will follow as a matter of course…"
"I am curious to see what Argentina and Chile hold in store for us. I've visited both countries before - in 2005, for the Por Las Pampas Rally. That was very long event and quite difficult, but it was good training because it means we have an approximate idea of what to expect on this year's Dakar.
"I was given the honour of driving the new Racing Lancer on its debut on Portugal's Baja Portalegre 500 which we won. That result was both reassuring and highly encouraging. We also covered a great deal of ground testing the Racing Lancer in 2008 without suffering any serious technical problems, so we seem to have the reliability. The new diesel engine is more powerful and delivers more torque, too, of course, and we have also made excellent progress with the new chassis and suspension. In this domain, I have to say that the Racing Lancer is one of the best packages I have ever had the privilege to drive during my time with Mitsubishi. It is very comfortable and particularly efficient over bumpy terrain and jumps."
Joan 'Nani' ROMA
"The 2009 Dakar is sure to be an extremely close and exciting event. Lucas and I face strong opposition, and that includes our own team-mates. That said, I have always felt a strong sense of team spirit at Mitsubishi. All four of us will be targeting victory, but we also know that we are above all there to win for Mitsubishi, and that calls for a selfless group approach. The team deserves nothing less, especially given the incredible job everyone has put to develop the new Racing Lancer in Japan and France. I believe our car will be both reliable and competitive.
"Although I've already won the Dakar as a biker, I'm the only member of the team who has yet to win it on four wheels, so that's something I would like to put right this time round! I think physical fitness will play a key role, especially since there are several very long stages of 500km and 600km in length which follow on from each other in quick succession, not to mention the heat, the sand and the altitude. But the team has always placed a great deal of emphasis on training.”