Mitsubishi and Ralliart are back doing what they do best – rallying! Earlier this year, the brands unveiled the as-matter-of-factly-named Triton Rally Car, a specially-prepped but crucially nearly-stock version of the automaker’s popular pick-up truck that will compete in the Asia Cross Country Rally (AXCR) 2022 that’s running this week (November 21-26).
By compete, the company intends to win the whole thing. That’s how confident the team is in the base car, the minimal modifications and the drivers it has. The entire project just feels special, and we were given an early look at the mean machine before the new Team Mitsubishi Ralliart officially makes it competitive comeback.
Mitsubishi and Ralliart have long been synonymous with rallying. Who can forget the Lancer Evo’s WRC success with Tommi Makinen in the 90s? The Evo with the red and white livery was as iconic as it gets for the world rally stage.
And Mitsubishi was even more dominant in the Dakar Rally, often described as the world’s toughest motor race. With a total of 12 overall wins, including an unprecedented run of seven consecutive victories in the 2000s, where the Mitsubishi Pajero was the unmatched king of the desert. To this day, having not competed since 2009, Mitsubishi is still, by far, the most successful manufacturer in the Dakar Rally. No other brand has even come close.
Having been dormant for a while, both Mitsubishi and Ralliart are now back in the game with the Triton Rally Car. The newly revived Team Mitsubishi Ralliart will compete in the upcoming FIA-sanctioned AXCR 2022. This is a long and gruelling 1,700 km race across Thailand and Cambodia.
You can think of this as Asia’s very own Dakar Rally, covering tough terrain that includes racing through mountain roads, jungles, swamps and river crossings, all in Asia’s own unpredictable weather conditions. It’s going to be a long, epic ride.
Surprisingly however, the Mitsubishi Triton Rally Car is actually very close to the standard road-going pick-up truck that you or I can buy today. It has been expertly and specially prepped for rallying, sure, but by and large it’s near stock standard!
The team says the Triton is an excellent base to start with, already being significantly lighter than pick-up trucks in the same class, and blessed with superior driving dynamics too. Not much had to be done for it to be competitive in world-class rallying.
The engine is practically untouched, with the same 2.4 litre MIVEC turbodiesel motor you’d get in a stock Triton. It has been tuned very slightly by HKS, mostly to reduce friction loss and improve responsiveness, but believe it or not, most of the internal parts, including the pistons and crankshafts, are all standard factory items.
Even the engine output is exactly the same as a road-going Triton – 181 PS and 430 Nm of torque. The six-speed manual gearbox is pretty much standard too, down to the leather gear knob!
On the outside, it looks rather unassuming, with stock standard lights and wing mirrors, and inside, it still has the entire dashboard and working air conditioning system! But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a serious rallying machine, of course.
The Triton has been put on a strict diet, now with lightweight carbon-fibre body panels and a stripped-out interior with a race-spec roll cage and a pair of Bride seats. Also installed is a Sparco steering wheel, a Motec racing instrument display and the customary rally-style hydraulic hand brake.
Other than that, serious attention has been put into the suspension system, with the standard double wishbone front and leaf spring rear upgraded with adjustable Cusco dampers. Cusco also supplied new LSDs front and back, although the standard Triton’s Super Select 4WD system with multiple modes is still in place for drivers to play with.
More visible are the specialised 17-inch Work wheels with Yokohama tyres, and behind the aluminium alloys are upgraded Endless brake discs and four-pot calipers all around.
Knowing just how close to standard the Triton Rally Car is, it’s beyond amazing how it felt being strapped in it for a taxi ride around the test course. It felt extremely agile, supple on landings, and just incredibly stable through quick turns and high-speed Scandinavian flicks. Best of all, the cabin was nice and cool with the working air-conditioning!
Heading the effort is Mitsubishi’s own Hiroshi Masuoka as team director. One of Japan’s most successful rally drivers on the world stage, having won back-to-back Dakar Rallies with Mitsubishi back in the day, he’s the ideal leader for Team Mitsubishi Ralliart, bringing plenty of world-class experience to the table.
The official driver lineup is just as impressive too, with Rifat Sungkar from Indonesia behind the wheel of the lead car. If the name sounds familiar, yup, he’s the one who drove the Mitsubishi Xpander AP4 to rallying success recently. The second car will be driven by Chayapon Yotha, a pedigreed Thai rally champion.
This may well be the team’s very first entry to the long-running AXCR, but it’s setting its sights directly at no less than overall victory. The team’s confidence after the shakedown tests were clear to see, which just goes to show how capable the Mitsubishi Triton really is even through extreme driving.
Beyond achieving victory, a more far-reaching objective for this initiative is to learn and improve its production cars that Mitsubishi customers can buy in the near future. It’s a cycle that has been proven a success through previous endeavours in WRC and Dakar Rally, and it’s nice to see both Mitsubishi and Ralliart being back at their competitive best, and in our own region too.
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