Mitsubishi Pajero’s dominance in Dakar Rally

Mitsubishi Pajero’s dominance in Dakar Rally

The Dakar Rally is world’s toughest rally event where drivers and their cars go to their limits in the process of covering 7,000 kilometres in space of 14 days. Usually, when a family have a long trip then, the average distance is 500kms which includes reaching the destination and coming back.
In Dakar Rally, every car covers an average distance of 500 km in a single day and this continues till the team reaches the finish line and last year, the rally was held in Saudi Arabia with a total distance of 7,900 km.

First Generation Pajero
(Photo Credit: Pinterest).

The Dakar Rally was started in 1978 and three years later, Mitsubishi made their debut in the Dakar Rally and the Mitsubishi Pajero is considered as Mitsubishi’s greatest asset and one of the best contributions to the world of off -roading and rally. Pajero or they say Montero in North America, is one of most iconic cars and is renowned for its suspension and speed.
The first generation Pajero was used in 1983 Dakar Rally and in its first attempt, Mitsubishi Pajero completed all stages and successfully finished the race at 11th position without any engine failures or retirement.

Next year, the Mitsubishi Pajero got its first podium in Dakar Rally which was a third-place finish in 1984 Dakar Rally and in 1985, Mitsubishi Pajero won the Dakar Rally for the first time and became the first Japanese team to win the world’s toughest rally. After having a great start and winning the Dakar Rally in their third year was a great achievement but later, Mitsubishi were not able produce the same magic by the Pajero for next 7 years because Mitsubishi didn’t win the Dakar Rally from 1986-1991. Not having won the event for 7 years was a tough thing but what came next was amazing as they won the Dakar Rally not once but twice as Mitsubishi won back to back Dakar Rallies in 1992 and 1993.
In just 10 years, Mitsubishi Pajero got five podium places and three overall wins and again the empty run came as Mitsubishi didn’t get any overall victories in next three years (1994-1996) but they did get three podiums in 1995 and 1996.

Citroen ZX of 1991 Dakar Rally
(Photo Credit: Flickr).

During this time France’s Citroen was quietly pushing their competitors because from 1987 to 1990, Mitsubishi and Peugeot dominated the Dakar Rally for four years until, Citroen elbowed both giants and won the 1991 Dakar Rally for the first time, followed by double podium finish (second and third) in 1993 and this three podiums and one win, boosted Citroen’s confidence as the French team won three Dakar Rallies in a row (1994-1996) with same drivers Lartigue/Perin and the car reached to its full potential and there were few cars who could challenge the duo Lartigue/Perin as they were relentless.
Japan’s Shinozuka along with his co-driver Fontenay won the Dakar Rally for Mitsubishi in 1997 and Kenjiro Shinozuka became first Japanese driver to win the Dakar Rally. So, Mitsubishi came back strong by winning back to back Dakar Rallies and the team had two dominant seasons as Mitsubishi got first-four places in overall standings in 1997 and 1998.
In the next two years, Renault won back to back Dakar Rallies in 1999 and 2000 while, Mitsubishi dominated remaining podium places in these two years.
Before the new millennium started, Mitsubishi motors announced that they are going to introduce a new line of cars and its design was inspired by their own creation the “Pajero” as Mitsubishi introduced the third generation Pajero or Shogun in 1999. The third generation Pajero was special because it was built from zero to complete beast and the car was officially used in Dakar Rally.

Third Generation Mitshubishi Pajero
(Photo Credit: Japanese Nostalgic Car).

The Mitsubishi Shogun got its first taste of success in 2001, when Kleinschmidt/Schulz won the 23rd Dakar Rally and in the same rally, Jutta Kleinschmidt became first female driver win the prestigious Dakar Rally.

Jutta Kleinschmidt (Photo Credit:

Now, this was start of a brilliant run as the third generation Mitsubishi Shogun went on to win six more Dakar Rallies so, the Mitsubishi Shogun won 7 consecutive Dakar Rallies in seven years from 2001-2007 and the reason of that strong performance was because of the spectacular Shogun which had an independent suspension, great stability and an ability to produce great speed on sand and many more qualities, that made the Shogun different from its rivals.
The 2008 Dakar Rally was cancelled due to security concerns and in 30 years Dakar Rally’s history (1978-2008), this was the first time it will not held and what looked like an adversity, was a beginning because an alternate event was born, “African Eco Race” and two event were held in 2009 (Dakar Rally and African Eco Race).

Mitsubishi Pajero Dakar Rally Team
(Photo Credit: Mitsucars.blogsite).

On 4th February 2009, a sad news came from the Japanese Automaker that, Mitsubishi Motors are going quit from the Dakar Rally. And after winning the Dakar Rally for a record 12 times (including 7 in row) from 26 entries and were competing in the world’s toughest rally for 26 years (1983-2009) and lastly, the most dominant car in the Dakar Rally, “the Mitsubishi Pajero” and the Japanese car manufacturer (Mitsubishi) finally called time and left the Dakar Rally forever.

By Dhruv Trivedi

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July 31, 2020 in Automobile

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