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Masuoka triumphs & claims record-breaking

The Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution / Montero Evolution crew of Hiroshi Masuoka and Andreas Schultz have won the 2003 Telefonica Dakar Rally which finished today in Sharm El Sheikh on the east coast of Egypt. The Japanese/German pairing claimed an incredible 1 hour, 52 minute and 12 second winning margin after 19 days and 5,216 kilometres of competition in an 8,552 kilometre route that has taken the crews from Marseilles in France, down to Spain, Tunisia, across Libya and into Egypt. Masuoka’s win represents Mitsubishi’s eighth Dakar Rally victory, cementing its status as the most successful manufacturer in the 25 year history of the event. This is also Masuoka’s second consecutive win and he is also the first Mitsubishi driver to triumph in the event twice. Co-driver Schultz also claims a second win in this legendary event, the German taking honours with former Mitsubishi driver Jutta Kleinschmidt back in 2001.

After the opening one kilometre stage in Marseilles on New Year’s Day – for which the times do not count in the overall classification – Mitsubishi Motors drivers led from start to finish, underlining the Japanese manufacturer’s outright superiority in the Dakar Rally and the world of off-road competition. Stephane Peterhansel reigned supreme for 13 of the remaining 16 legs, while team-mate Hiroshi Masuoka led the crews for the other three. Mitsubishi Motors’ drivers also held the top five overall positions for four legs (12, 13, 14 and 15).

“I am so very happy to win this 25th Dakar Rally”, said a delighted Masuoka. “This year was a great race; it was fast and there were some good stages in Tunisia and Libya. It was hard though. Every day we were doing 160/180 km/h and it was exciting to race against Stephane, but in the second half we were more careful and reduced our speed to save the car. I was waiting in case he made a mistake.

“I feel sad for Stephane because he had a good race. One small mistake was expensive. It was important for Mitsubishi to win and I hope that this continues. I look forward to competing with Stephane again in the future.

“The car is fantastic. It was developed last year and finished at the end of August. Mitsubishi has worked very hard on the suspension settings. We tested the car for two weeks in Morocco and it showed potential from the start”.

Adding to this comments, co-driver Andreas Schultz said: “For me it was maybe an easier victory this time. I have now won twice with Mitsubishi as well. Maybe in 2004, if we can develop the car still further, we can win again”, said the German.