Mitsubishi Motors A Glorious Cross-Country Heritage | Part Three

For the Millennium running of the Dakar, the TSO arranged a difficult route from Dakar to Cairo. Shinozuka, Fontenay, Kleinschmidt and Prieto were joined by the Brazilian Klever Kolberg. Team members won the majority of the stages, but a serious dune accident in Libya sidelined both Shinozuka and Portugal's Carlos Sousa. Fontenay finished third overall. The team also completed a hat-trick of FIA World Cup titles.

Fontenay, Shinozuka, Kleinschmidt, Masuoka, Sousa and Prieto tackled the 2001 event for the Mitsubishi Motors team. The rally developed into a battle between Mitsubishi, Nissan and Schlesser. Kleinschmidt became the first woman ever to win the Dakar, after team mate Masuoka lost time in Senegal and slipped to second place. Sousa and Fontenay were fifth and sixth. It was a sixth outright win for Mitsubishi.

The 2002 event began at Arras in Northern France and Mitsubishi Motors entered Pajeros/Monteros for Fontenay, Shinozuka, Kleinschmidt, Masuoka, Sousa and Alphand. Mitsubishi won nine of the 15 stages and took a second consecutive victory, courtesy of Masuoka's maiden success. The Japanese marque completed a rout of the top 10, with Pajeros/Monteros filling nine of the top 10 places. Kleinschmidt and Shinozuka were second and third.

The 2003 event began at Marseilles and finished in Egypt at Sharm El Sheikh. Mitsubishi Motors had given the new Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution a winning debut in the 2002 UAE Desert Challenge and fielded a pair of Evolutions for Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel and Masuoka and two traditional Pajeros/Monteros for Fontenay and the Italian Miki Biasion.

Peterhansel charged into what appeared to be an unassailable lead, only to hit trouble on the penultimate stage in Egypt and hand a second successive win to Masuoka and an eighth overall and third successive win for the team. Fontenay and Peterhansel eventually completed the podium places.

The Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution was further developed and the newly-formed Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Team (MMSP) went on to win the UAE Desert Challenge for a second successive season in October. Mitsubishi Portugal and Carlos Sousa clinched the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies title, giving the Japanese marque four FIA World Cup titles in seven years.

Peterhansel made up for the previous years' disappointment by clinching a comfortable maiden victory in a car in the 2004 Dakar Rally to give the new four-litre V6 Pajero/Montero Evolution a second successive win and Mitsubishi's ninth in total. He also became only the second driver behind Hubert Auriol to win the event on both two and four wheels.

Team mate Masuoka finished second overall and Germany's Andrea Mayer completed her support role with co-driver Andreas Schulz in fifth position in a Pajero/Montero. Italian team mates Mike Biasion and Tiziano Siviero retired after an accident in Morocco. The event began in Clermont-Ferrand for the first time and finished at Lac Rose, near Dakar.

In a bid to take a record-breaking 10th Dakar victory, the Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team will enter five cars in the 2005 Telefonica Dakar Rally, which starts in Barcelona for the first time and finishes in Dakar on January 16th, 2005. Peterhansel and Masuoka will be joined by Spaniard Joan Roma and Frenchman Luc Alphand in a quartet of further revised Pajero/Montero Evolutions, while Mayer drives a Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up.

Published 8 December 2004 Melanie Carter

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