2009 Dakar Preview - Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team
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.
Event Overview 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.
Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart 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), Stéphane 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, which would be the eight successive win since 2001.
THE NEW MITSUBISHI RACING LANCER The motor sport department of Mitsubishi Motors and MMSP both contributed to the development of the Racing Lancer which complies with the Group T1 regulations of the FIA (motor sport's international governing body: Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) introduced in 2002. The firm's latest cross-country rally car, which has been designed to take onboard the new super production regulations when they come into force in 2010, has benefited extensively from the experience acquired with the Pajero / Montero Evolution.
Development and Evolution The development of the turbo-diesel engine began in April 2006 before it was grafted into a Pajero / Montero Evolution for testing purposes in June 2007. Development of the body started in August 2007 and the first Racing Lancer was completed in June 2008. This car was put through its paces during one-week test sessions in Spain and Morocco, as well as over typical cross-country rally terrain in France. Based on the data collected during these tests, further sessions were organized in Morocco at the end of August / early September plus another two weeks in October prior to the Racing Lancer's debut on the sixth round of the FIA Cross-Country Baja International Cup, the Baja Portalegre (October 30-November 2).
Chassis, Styling, Transmission and Diesel Power The Racing Lancer is based on a new multi-tubular steel frame. The team has taken particular care to minimize weight, while the additional space freed up by the longer wheelbase - a decision based on the regulations due to come into force in 2010 - has enabled the gas tank to be positioned lower in the car and has consequently brought down the centre of gravity. Handling has also been improved thanks to the new location of the spare tyres which ensures enhanced control of the moment of inertia.
Mitsubishi Motors' design department was responsible for the body styling which uses carbon panels based on the design of the Lancer Sportback. The design was finalized after validation of the new car's aerodynamic performance in a wind tunnel.
The powerful 3-litre V6 diesel engine features a two-stage turbocharger which positions a small and large turbine configuration on each side of engine, working with both the small and large turbine according to engine speed and load.
Peak torque is 66.3kgfm (650Nm), while maximum power currently stands at 280PS (206kW), although this figure is expected to increase as development work continues. The cooling system of the intercooler is positioned at the rear of the car and is fed by the characteristic roof-mounted air scoop.
The V6 engine is fed through a manual Ricardo five-speed sequential gearbox engineered to cope with the high torque delivered by the powerplant. The Racing Lancer's permanent four-wheel drive transmission features the same self-locking differential as that used for the Pajero / Montero Evolution.
Both the front and rear suspension systems feature extensively revised geometry and are both based on a double wishbone layout with coil springs, anti-roll bars and uprated BOS dampers which can be adjusted through a broader range. The car runs on BFGoodrich's new low-energy cross-country rally tyres and OZ aluminium alloy wheels. The vented 16-inch brake discs are coupled with six-piston Brembo calipers.
MITSUBISHI RACING LANCER SPECIFICATION:
|FRONT / REAR TRACK||1,750mm / 1,750mm|
|ENGINE||Turbo-diesel V6, 24 valves with dry-sump lubrication|
|FUEL SYSTEM||Common-rail high pressure injection|
|MAXIMUM OUTPUT||206kw (280 PS), 650Nm (66.3 kgfm)|
|FUEL TANK CAPACITY||460L|
|TRANSMISSION||Five-speed ‘Ricardo'-type sequential shift manual gearbox|
|4WD SYSTEM||Permanent mechanical centre diff lock|
|FRONT DIFFERENTIAL||‘Ricardo' self-locking|
|REAR DIFFERENTIAL||‘Ricardo' self-locking|
|FRONT||Independent, double wishbones, coil springs|
|REAR||Independent, double wishbones, coil springs and anti-roll bar system|
|DAMPERS||Fully-adjustable BOS dampers|
|TRAVEL||250mm front and rear|
|STEERING||Power-assisted rack and pinion|
|BRAKES||‘BREMBO' front and rear Ventilated discs with 6-piston calipers|
|OTHERS||Aeronautic steel multi-tubular frame, honeycomb body floor and carbon fibre body|
TEAM SUPPORT CAR: PAJERO / MONTERO SPORT Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart will have 15 support vehicles on the event, namely seven trucks, five Pajero / Monteros, one Outlander and two Pajero / Montero Sport.
The 2009 Dakar marks the Pajero / Montero Sport's debut on this event. The model is powered by a 3.2 litre diesel engine featuring common-rail direct injection. Both cars have also been equipped with additional safety equipment, including a roll cage, as well as OMP bucket seats, BOS dampers, BFGoodrich tyres, a spare 120-litre fuel tank and various guards to provide extra protection in the extreme conditions.
The team's fleet in South America also includes the similarly-prepared Outlander which had been scheduled to serve as support vehicle on the 2008 Dakar. The Outlander features 'green plastic' for the inner door panel trimming and driver's seat upholstery. The mission of the support vehicles is to provide technical back-up for the competing cars and to carry spares, tools and equipment.
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."
Luc ALPHAND: "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."
Hiroshi MASUOKA: ''The Racing Lancer's 3-litre turbo-diesel V6 was developed at Mitsubishi Motors' Okazaki research centre 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."
Stéphane PETERHANSEL: "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."
INTERVIEW WITH THIERRY VIARDOT (Technical Director, MMSP): MMSP'S Technical Director is Thierry VIARDOT (France). The Frenchman is based at the MMSP SAS headquarters at Pont-de-Vaux in France and has worked in close liaison with Japanese engineers at MMC's Okazaki R&D Centre in Japan throughout the development of the brand new Mitsubishi Racing Lancer.
VIARDOT and his team, which includes engineer Maxime FELTER, Mathieu PARENT, Damien RENOUD, have worked hard to make the new Racing Lancer a potential Dakar winner. He talks here about the newcomer's main strengths and about the technical challenge of Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team faces in Argentina and Chile during the first two weeks of January 2009.
What are the strengths of the Racing Lancer's new 3-litre turbocharged V6 diesel engine, transmission and suspension etc? Thierry VIARDOT: "The new V6 is more powerful by some 25 horsepower compared with last year's petrol engine. It delivers much more torque, too: i.e. 650Nm compared with 412Nm previously, so that's a big step forward in terms of performance. With the exception of soft sand, we have reduced fuel consumption in most situations, too, so that's another very important step forward.
The Racing Lancer's transmission is new because of the switch to diesel power. However, our experience has enabled us to develop what we believe to be a reliable package which also complies with the new regulations which aim to make transmissions both similar and more economical from 2010 to the Dakar for the very first time with diesel power. As I say, we have focused on reliability for the moment given the performance characteristics of our new V6 and we feel quite confident in this area.
One of our priorities during the Racing Lancer's design was to develop and improve the overall suspension package. We initially worked on a laboratory car to work through a variety of geometry options in an attempt to find the best compromise. We then worked hard on fine-tuning the damping performance to ensure an efficient, comfortable ride. Thanks to the large amount of running we have covered, I believe we have achieved major strides forward to deliver a first class package."
What are the features of the Racing Lancer's cockpit? TV: "You only have to look inside the racing Lancer to see that its cockpit is roomier, which is something the crews appreciate because it marks a significant improvement in terms of comfort and visibility. This, in fact, is another requirement of the regulations which are due to come into effect in 2010. They state minimum dimensions for safety reasons. It's not an ideal solution for the car's aerodynamics, but we believed it was important to introduce all the new changes, new car, new engine, new suspension, new cockpit, etc - this year at the same time to gain experience on all fronts, rather than stagger their introduction."
How much testing have you done with the new Racing Lancer? TV: "Our programme with the new car in 2008 featured three major tests in Morocco, as well as development work at several venues across Europe throughout the year. In total, the Racing Lancer has covered some 17,000km. This work centred on engine endurance and performance across the biggest possible range of conditions, including at altitude. We also sought to enhance damping and handling, a domain in which you can always progress. We are particularly pleased with the progress we have made on this front regarding the trade off between balance and ride comfort. There are also a number of components which we have carried over from the Montero / Pajero Evolution, such as the wheel bearings, hub carriers, brakes, cardans, etc, which have proved their worth over the years."
On paper, the 2009 Dakar in South America appears to offer two main technical challenges: the altitudes you reach in the Andes Mountains and the variety of terrains you face. How have you prepared for these? TV: "The route effectively takes crews to altitudes of around 3,000 metres on stages. The setting the engine began on the bench at special test facilities in Japan before validating those findings with the drivers. This took us to altitudes of close to 3,000 metres in the Sierra Nevada near Grenada in Spain and in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. "
INTERVIEW WITH DAVID SERIEYS (Logistics Manager, MMSP): MMSP's Logistics Manager, David Serieys, is in charge of the long list of logistical and organizational tasks that are crucial to the success of the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart team on the Dakar.
What effect has the switch from Africa to South America had on your responsibilities and your approach to the logistical side of the participation in the 2009 Dakar? DS: "My responsibilities haven't changed at all. They still cover the entire logistics operation for the team. This involves precise planning of the team movements, accommodation, fuel supply, freight movement, and the logistical organization of our team before, during and after each stage of the Dakar. The move to Argentina and Chile for the 2009 Dakar hasn't fundamentally changed my approach to this year's event compared with previous editions held in Africa. No two events are identical and it is always necessary to start from a clean sheet of paper."
"It is true that we have built up, over the years, a thorough understanding of the requirements in Africa, and that the organizing of the Dakar in South America will be new to many competitors. However, MMSP is very experienced and benefits from having taken part in the several of the Por Las Pampas Rallies over the recent years. A great deal about January's event is consequently already familiar to us."
In general terms, has the move made your job more complicated? DS: "Some aspects of my job will be a little more complex, but others will, in fact, be easier. For example, the shipment of all our equipment and support vehicles out to South America is reasonably straightforward thanks to the ship booked by ASO which will carry almost everything from the French port of Le Havre to the Argentinean port of Buenos Aires. Airfreight will therefore only be required on two occasions: The first when we send the four competing Racing Lancers, after their shakedown in France on December 15th, and the second for the shipment of parts and equipment which will be sent in a container in time for the rest day in Valparaiso, Chile."
"We have also enjoyed excellent hands-on contributions from Mitsubishi's local representatives; namely the Argentinean importer, Alfa Car, and the MMC Chile head office. I began by establishing a detailed brief of our requirements and they have been working through that list both thoroughly and extremely professionally. They know what is required as they both have run cars on cross country rallies including the Por Las Pampas. I have full confidence in them and rely on their help. "
What is the plan for returning the equipment from Buenos Aires to the team's base in France at the end of the event? DS: "The team plans to run a co-driving day in Buenos Aires just after the finish, and then everything will be loaded onto the ship booked by ASO. It's all quite simple. There are no plans to have anything air freighted back from Argentina. "
How many people will the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team have out on the 2009 Dakar? DS: "For the 2009 Dakar, our team will consist of 64 people, plus four additional staff whose job will essentially be to provide extra help at the start, during the rest day in Valparaiso, and at the finish. This is more or less the same figure as last year, except there will be a higher number of people on the event for the duration, and fewer who will only come out at certain times of the race. We increased the technical staff on the full Dakar as the Racing Lancer is a brand new car, featuring new technology. It's therefore preferable to have more hands available to work on the cars between the stages. The team is made up of thirteen mechanics, five stores staff, four body panel specialists, four electricians, five technicians, three logistics staff, one osteopath, the 18 drivers and mechanics who crew the different service vehicles, three team management personnel, and the eight drivers and co-drivers."
How long have you spent working on the logistics for the 2009 Dakar? DS: "The decision to organize the 2009 Dakar in South America was confirmed in February, not long after the cancellation of the 2008 event. That left us some 10 months to adapt to the new situation. Our work stepped up when ASO released more detailed information in May concerning the start and finish locations, and the venue for the rest day. That said, this has been a very busy year for our team, with a comprehensive 2008 calendar of Cross Country Rallies and Bajas, plus an intensive test programme with the Racing Lancer."
How does the team travel during the Dakar? DS: "The entire team travels from stage to stage in a fleet of 15 support vehicles. These include five 6x6 trucks (one for logistics-related equipment, and four carrying spares) and eight lightweight vehicles, plus two 6x6 T4 rapid service trucks which will follow the same route as the competitors. This year, we have increased the number of lightweight support vehicles from six to eight (five Pajero / Monteros, one Outlander and two Pajero / Montero Sport) in order to carry the additional team personnel, with four people travelling in each vehicle.
How do you arrange fuel shipments to each bivouac? DS: "Our main sponsor, Repsol, has supplied us with fuel for the event and is responsible for its delivery to Buenos Aires, and to the rest day, in Valparaiso. It's then our task to make sure that this fuel arrives in time for each bivouac thanks to two trucks which will leapfrog each other in Argentina. A single truck is foreseen in Chile where we spend less time."
Are you a one-man logistics operation or do you have support? DS: "Preparing all the camping equipment and the larger MMSP tents and equipment for the bivouac - including extra clothing and parts, etc. - is a big job. Thankfully, I have the invaluable help of Philippe TOMAS and Pascal MILLET, who are in charge of transporting the team's clothing, equipment, and light catering materials. Their role is very important and consists of preparing everything we will need at each bivouac and making sure all the equipment is available for the team members. "