Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi aims to lift the recent gloom that has enveloped the country’s motorsport industry by clinching an eighth successive Dakar Rally title next month.
The grueling two-week race, which gets underway on Saturday, has been switched from Africa to the relative stability of Argentina and Chile after this year’s race was canceled because of security fears.
It was the first cancelation in the history of the race and was sparked by the murder of four French tourists in Mauritania.
Mitsubishi have won the last seven races, with French driver Stephane Peterhansel winning in 2004, 2005 and last year, while compatriot and former skiing ace Luc Alphand took the 2006 title.
Japan’s Hiroshi Masuoka, the winner in 2002 and 2003, also returns with Spain’s Joan Roma, a former champion in the motorcycle event, making up Mitsubishi’s four-car assault.
All four drivers, as well as the co-pilots, underwent a series of tough, physical fitness tests in France before flying out to Buenos Aires, where the race will start.
“The physical training sessions in the mountains and at the seaside went very well. Everything was OK with the tarmac test and the shakedown on gravel. It was perfect,” 50-year-old Masuoka said.
“We have a new place for the Dakar, a new world, with a new engine and a new car. This is very exciting for me,” he said. “I will be taking part in my 21st Dakar Rally and will be hoping to win for the third time. If that is not possible, I would be very happy if Mitsubishi continued the winning run.”
There will be added interest in Mitsubishi’s campaign in South America after the global financial crisis dealt a series of bodyblows to motorsport in Japan, with Honda quitting Formula One and Subaru and Suzuki pulling out of the world rally championship.
However, 43-year-old Peterhansel, who has also been a six-time winner in the motorcycle section, is concentrating on conquering the new challenges.
“For me the move to South America doesn’t mean that the event loses any of its character,” the French driver said. “I still think that it will be a very difficult race, with dunes and hard stages. Maybe in the past I have managed to take advantage of the sand dunes in Mauritania, but I still feel that this will be a close and exciting race.”
Mitsubishi’s main challenge will once again come from Volkswagen, whose four-car bid will be spearheaded by former double world rally champion Carlos Sainz — no stranger to South America after winning the Rally of Argentina three times in 1992, 2002 and 2004.
NIGHT OF FIRSTS: In the first official game at the Tapei Dome on Sunday, not only did Taiwan notch a win over South Korea, they also recorded the stadium’s first hit and RBI The Philippines yesterday dominated Thailand 14-4 at the Taipei Dome in the opening game of Group B on the second day of the Asian Baseball Championship, while Palestine pipped Hong Kong 3-1 in Taichung in Group A. World No. 35 the Philippines put themselves on the board early, racking up two runs in the first inning, followed by two in the third, one each in the fourth and fifth, and three in the sixth. Thailand, ranked 43rd in the world, did not get on the board until the top of the seventh inning, when they tried to stage a comeback, putting up
TROUNCED: Taiwan beat Palestine in six innnings on day three of the Asia Baseball Championship, while it took just five innings for Japan to defeat Thailand Taiwan yesterday beat Palestine 19-0 at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium on the third day of the Asian Baseball Championship. The Group A game was over in six innings after a 6:03pm start. Taiwan went on the offensive from the first inning, scoring three runs, but the real damage was done in the third inning, when they scored seven. The Palestine players are all studying or working in the US. In another duel between two unevenly matched teams, Japan thrashed Thailand 16-0 in their late Group B game at the Taipei Dome. They won in five innings thanks to the mercy rule, which states
NATIONS LEAGUE: England crushed Scotland 6-0, but their Olympic hopes were ruined when the Netherlands beat them on goal difference with a 4-0 win against Belgium Germany and the Netherlands on Tuesday booked their places at the UEFA Women’s Nations League finals , where they are also to fight for spots at next year’s Paris Games, but there was heartbreak for England whose hopes of competing in the Olympics were dashed, despite beating Scotland 6-0. Germany drew 0-0 in Wales, but secured their passage thanks to Iceland’s 1-0 win over Denmark. The Netherlands needed a 95th-minute goal from Damaris Egurrola to see them to a 4-0 win over Belgium which meant they edged England on goal difference in Group A1 after the FIFA Women’s World Cup runners-up hammered
SANTOS RELEGATED: Pele’s former team finished with a loss that prompted fans to attempt to invade the pitch, forcing the players to run for the locker rooms One of the most exciting seasons of the Brazilian league ended on Wednesday with the most stable team of the year defending their title and the club that was home to Pele relegated for the first time. Palmeiras drew 1-1 against Cruzeiro to be crowned Brazilian champions for the 12th time. Endrick, 18, scored his 11th goal of the season to give Palmeiras an early lead and Nikao equalized in the 80th minute at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte. Santos’ relegation following a 2-1 home loss to Fortaleza was another setback for the club at the stadium where Pele’s funeral took place