Monday, March 4, 2024

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart continues cross-country revival in AXCR

Between the 1980s and 2000s, Mitsubishi was one of the top manufacturers in rally and rally raid, scoring twelve Dakar Rally overall wins and four driver’s World Rally Championships thanks to Ralliart. After a decade of relative dormancy, Ralliart made their triumphant return in 2022 by winning the Asia Cross Country Rally (AXCR).

Formally competing under the Team Mitsubishi Ralliart banner, the programme seeks to defend their title in 2023. Last week, the team unveiled the Mitsubishi Triton that will compete in the 2023 AXCR. Chayapon Yotha and Rifat Sungkar return as drivers while Katsuhiko Taguchi reunites with Mitsubishi in a third truck.

Yotha, a Thailand Super Series and RAAT Thailand Endurance International Championship veteran, won the 2022 AXCR. Sanger was a three-time Indonesian Rally Champion from 2000 through 2002 before becoming a brand ambassador for Mitsubishi’s Indonesian sales division. Taguchi competed in the WRC for Mitsubishi Ralliart between 1995 and 2008; in 2007, he won the Group N category at Rally Japan for his lone career WRC points, and also boasts a pair of Asia-Pacific Rally Championships.

Peerapong Sombutwong will serve as Yotha’s navigator, while Chupong Chaiwan and Takahiro Yasui respectively do so for Sungkar and Taguchi.

Initial testing took place over three days and 840 kilometres in late April across various types of roads. A larger, thirteen-day test focused on vehicle durability was held in June at Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. With the AXCR being moved from November back to its traditional August slot, heavy rain is expected in the forecast and thus makes gauging vehicle endurance in such conditions a high priority.

The Triton is a rally-spec model built from the ground up for competition. Its production counterpart is set to be released in Thailand on 26 July. A Trophy Truck version prepared by TSCO won Australia’s iconic Finke Desert Race in June with Toby Price.

“The all-new Triton utilises the strengths of the base model to further improve handling performance, running stability on rough roads, and ride comfort,” said team general manager Hiroshi Masuoka, who won the 2002 and 2003 Dakar Rallies for Mitsubishi. “In addition, the turbocharger has been improved to improve engine response over the entire range from low to high revs, realizing powerful driving, resulting in a wonderful rally car that can handle any road surface condition. During the on-site endurance test this time, there were no major initial problems, and the course was set to be harder than the actual race.”

The AXCR begins on 13 August and runs through 19 August. After starting in Pattaya, Thailand, the event will run along the border with Cambodia before ending in Laos.