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.
Chinese pair Liang Wenbo and Li Hang on Tuesday received lifetime bans from snooker for match-fixing after a “heart-breaking” corruption scandal rocked the sport. In total, 10 Chinese players were handed bans of varying lengths by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA). Lu Ning, Zhao Xintong, Yan Bingtao, Chen Zifan, Zhang Jiankang, Bai Langning, Zhao Jianbo and Chang Bingyu were the other players suspended. Yan, the 2021 Masters champion, has been banned until December 2027 after his initial seven-and-a-half-year suspension was reduced following his early admissions and guilty plea. Former UK Championship winner Zhao Xintong is to serve a 20-month suspension, reduced
Iga Swiatek on Saturday said it would be “disrespectful” to her vanquished opponents to talk about her propensity for winning bagel sets after thrashing Wang Xinyu without losing a game at the French Open. The world No. 1 won 6-0, 6-0 in just 51 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier to reach the last 16. Across 57 matches in 17 Grand Slam appearances in her young career, Swiatek has already won 19 sets to love. Yet she knows how it feels to be on the wrong end of a bagel, having lost three sets at majors 6-0 herself, although all of those came across
Although basketball fans in Taiwan are looking forward to seeing Dwight Howard play next season, the former NBA superstar said that could be “difficult” due to the pay cut the Taoyuan Leopards have proposed in contract negotiations. TVBS on Wednesday reported that the eight-time NBA All-Star and the Leopards, the franchise he played for in the T1 League last season, have reached an impasse over salary, which reduces the chance local fans would get to see the star next season. “I was offered a contract which was 65 percent less than they gave me the first time I came to Taiwan, and
SEMI-FINAL SHOWDOWN: Djokovic said that he is looking forward to facing off against Alcaraz after the Spaniard beat Tsitsipas, saying it should be his biggest challenge so far Beatriz Haddad Maia yesterday became the first Brazilian woman to make a Grand Slam semi-final in 55 years after beating Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur at Roland Garros. World No. 14 Haddad Maia came through against seventh-ranked Jabeur 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1. The 27-year-old left-hander follows in the footsteps of seven-time major winner Maria Bueno who was the last Brazilian woman in the semi-finals of a major at the US Open 55 years ago. Bueno, who passed away in 2018, made the last four in Paris in 1966 before the advent of the Open era. “Ons is not easy to play against, you have to be