Mitsubishi’s factory team stopped joining the WRC starting in 2005, and also stopped joining the Rallye Dakar starting in 2010, but now they are coming back.
They will once again be joining as a factory team in the upcoming crossover rally, the Baja Portalegre 500, which will be held in Portugal on October 2015. Unlike the rally and rally raid, wherein the races are divided into the liaison (movement) and SS (special stage) sections, they have to continuously race approximately 500km with just a 20-minute service en route, while driving at high speed from a gravel course to very rough road surface conditions with extreme ups and downs. It will be a very tough race.
They chose the Outlander PHEV as the machine to be used in that race. As a side note, the Outlander PHEV participated in the Asia Cross Country Rally through Two&Four Motorsports from 2013 to 2014. It also took part in the Australasian Safari held in Australia with the help of Team Mitsubishi Ralliart in 2014. They were able to race in three events, and they’ve developed techniques.
For the upcoming Baja Portalegre 500, Hiroshi Masuoka of Mitsubishi Motors, who had two successive championships at the Dakar Rally in 2002 to 2003, will be the driver as well as the team manager. They conducted a shakedown at the dirt course at Ikenotaira Wonder Land in Aichi Prefecture before the rally.
The testing was done publicly, and I was able to interview Mr. Masuoka.
—-: Is it your first time to ride this class of Outlander PHEV?
Masuoka: I already rode this in Okazaki, but it’s my first time to ride it on a dirt course.
—-: What is your first impression of it?
Masuoka: Its S-AWC is effective, and riding in it feels good. The car offers tight and steady performance when turning in.
—-: Does the car’s livery make you feel excited?
Masuoka: This design is very Mitsubishi-like. I think it has become a symbolic design for Mitsubishi. I will do my best in Portugal to convey the enjoyment from this car’s environmental and running performance.
—-: How do you feel about the dirt course?
Masuoka: It does not have extreme torque changes because of the motor so it is very easy to drive. Like what I said awhile ago, the cornering was easy because of the S-AWC. Since there is no gear shift, it is good that I can concentrate on steering when driving. I can drive without worrying about its power band as well, so I can always drive it with a good response. It also guarantees effectiveness during acceleration itself.
—-: What kind of course do they have in the Baja Portalegre 500?
Masuoka: It’s a course where you can easily drive at a high speed. However, we have to run 500km without stopping, with only a 20-minute maintenance period, so we have to carefully think about this matter. The engine rotation is set a little bit higher, and even if I can do agressive charging for its battery, I cannot use its regenerative brake when the battery reaches 100%.
I have to control it perfectly.
—-: You will be making a comeback in motorsports as a factory team this time. What are your thoughts about it?
Masuoka: The president calls it a “factory team.” I am very happy about this. It is important to continue as a factory team, but in order to continue, we have to make great results.
—-: To make progress. In other words, you have to evolve, right?
Masuoka did not say yes or no, but he just smiled.
(Translated by Claire Marie Sausora)