Mitsubishi complete African test
- 22nd September 2006, 11:21am
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart has now completed a pair of two-week shakedown and development tests of its new Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution in North Africa, in readiness for the Japanese manufacturer's defence of its Dakar title for what the team hopes will culminate in a seventh successive victory in January 2007.
The revised car, codenamed the MPR13, will be shown to the public on the Mitsubishi stand at next week's Paris Motor Show and will make its competition debut in November's UAE Desert Challenge, the final round of the 2006 FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup.
The Pont-de-Vaux-based team has also announced that the Spaniard Lucas Cruz Senra will be the replacement co-driver for Spaniard Joan ‘Nani' Roma. Senra, who has over six years' co-driving experience in Cross-Country rallying and the FIA World Rally Championship, will fill the gaping void left by the tragic loss of the experienced Henri Magne during June's Orpi Rally of Morocco.
The development program for the MPR13 has been jointly undertaken by staff at Okazaki R&D and Design in Japan and engineers at MMSP SAS (Company for Mitsubishi Motors Motorsport activities) headquarters at Pont-de-Vaux. Initial computer-based studies began in May 2005 and the MPR13 was tested for the first time in Morocco during the first two-week test in June.
The team completed the second two-week test at Erfoud in Morocco last Sunday (September 17th), where team drivers Stéphane Peterhansel, Luc Alphand were joined by Roma and Hiroshi Masuoka.
Peterhansel and Roma carried out testing during the first week, with Alphand and Masuoka taking over for second-week duties. Co-drivers Jean-Paul Cottret and Pascal Maimon were present for both weeks of the test and were joined by newcomer Lucas Cruz Senra and Alphand's co-driver Gilles Picard for one week apiece. MMSP's President Isao Torii also attended the test at the mid-point.
"We have now completed two crucial African tests with the revised car and everything has been extremely encouraging," said MMSP's Team Director Dominique Serieys. "We carried out 6,000 km of testing over the last two weeks and a total of 11,000 km over the two tests and everything has gone according to plan. Our rivals have also been making progress, but I am looking forward to showing the new car to the public at the Paris Motor Show and am confident that the new MPR13 is a car capable of giving Mitsubishi another victory in the Dakar Rally in January."
The new car features a revised cooling system, new air ducting and a repositioned radiator assembly. Weight distribution has been improved through the re-positioning of the fuel tank and spare wheel holders and the MPR13 has a lower centre of gravity. Driver and co-driver in-cockpit comfort has been improved and there have been improvements in both leg and head room.
There are subtle changes to the exterior design - with an improved front approach angle - and technical staff have worked to improve brake cooling. There are improvements to suspension geometry, suspension settings and MPR13 benefits from a new transmission casing to fit in the new chassis dimensions.
"I completed one week of the test this time and I was so impressed with the improvements that the team has made to the car, especially the suspension and the centre of gravity," said Peterhansel. "I carried out a long test, including some work in the dunes. The new car is stable and corners very well. It rides safely in all situations and I am completely satisfied that we have made big improvements on last year's car. We suffered a little from understeer in the MPR12, but this car is much better."
Spaniard Roma was also upbeat about the new car: "I carried out several thousand kilometres of testing with Stéphane in some good and bad weather conditions," said Roma. "The new car is much better for me. I am tall and there is more space inside the cabin for my legs and head. It is more comfortable.
"It has a lower centre of gravity and that makes it handle more like a World Rally Car. To be competitive in the dunes, on the tracks and in the camel grass, you need to have a compromise and I feel that the MPR13 is the ideal balanced car. It is lower and easier to drive. I will test again in the dunes after the UAE Desert Challenge and continue my own physical preparations on a daily basis in the build up to the Dakar.
"I will never be able to replace Henri and his vast experience, but I have a good feeling about my partnership with Lucas. We speak the same language and I am sure that we will have a successful working relationship."
"MPR13 has been a joint effort between Okazaki R&D in Japan and our staff at Pont-de-Vaux, with the valuable input from key suppliers such as Repsol, BF Goodrich and Valeo," said MMSP's Technical Director Thierry Viardot. "We will continue to fine-tune the car and make some small improvements over the coming weeks, based upon the feedback from the latest Morocco test."
The new Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution MPR13 will be shown on the Mitsubishi Motors Corporation's (MMC) stand in Hall 3 at the Paris Motor Show, starting on Friday, September 29th.
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