Mitsubishi returns to Dakar Rally with Eclipse Cross

When you hear “Dakar Rally”, what comes to mind? I’m pretty sure the image for most is of a Mitsubishi Pajero with a brown background of desert sand. Right? MMC has strong heritage in the famous rally, having won it 12 times (seven of those wins were consecutive), a feat unmatched by any other manufacturer. Now, it’s making a comeback with a different car.

Mitsubishi, via its Spanish arm, is entering the 2019 Dakar Rally with a Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross T1 Prototype. The machine will be driven by Spanish Cristina Gutierrez, assisted by compatriot Pablo Huete. Backed by Mitsubishi Motors Spain for the past four years, Gutierrez, 26, was the first Spanish woman to complete Dakar in a car in 2017. The following year, she was the highest placed female driver.

“As always when you face a Dakar, you do it with great expectation but also a lot of respect for the test. The first objective, of course, is to finish what is the toughest rally in the world, for the third time in a row,” she said.

The Eclipse Cross T1 prototype is built around a steel spaceframe chassis with a carbon fibre body, and employs double wishbone suspension with two fully-adjustable Ohlins dampers on each wheel. The full-time 4WD system uses a mechanical centre differential and limited slip differentials at both ends, helping transmit the turbodiesel engine’s 340 hp/686 Nm to ground via a six-speed sequential transmission. Stopping power is courtesy of four-piston AP Racing brakes at each corner.

“For me, it is a big step ahead compared to the previous years. You can go very fast with it, while it is easier to drive and has greater off road capabilities. It’s the most spectacular car I’ve ever driven and attracts a lot of attention!” commented Gutierrez.

The 2019 Dakar Rally takes place solely in Peru (it has been held in South America since 2009) next month, with drivers and riders facing 5,000 km of timed competition over ten stages, 70% of which on sand. After racing on Sunday, they’ll be hoping to sell this on Monday.

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