30 years ago Thierry Sabine got lost in the North African desert and decided a rally from Europe to Dakar would be a splendid idea.
Since then, Mitsubishi has become synonymous with the legendary Dakar rally.
For the 2008 event, the total route has been extended to 9,273km, while the total competitive distance (stages) has also been upped to 5,736km.
Ensuring they are up to the typically insane distance and terrain covered by the event, Mitsubishi has unveiled a brand new version of the all-conquering Mitsubishi Pajero Montero Evolution called the MPR 13.
Mitsubishi's latest contender features a rigid, lightweight multi-tubular frame construction with the fuel tank and spare wheel positioned lower in a more centre weighted location to aid stability.
Thanks primarily to the use of aeronautic steel in constructing the multi-tubular frame and the use of carbon fibre in the bodywork, weight has been kept preciously low at 1825kg.
Technical regulations for the 2008 event dictate the switch to a 31mm diameter air restrictor, which is 1mm smaller than the one used in 2007.
The 2008 event will also require competitors to use a five-speed gearbox instead of the former six-speed 'box, aimed at reducing all-out top speeds across the murderous special stages.
Racing, but low-revving
MPR13 will be powered by a 4-litre, 24-valve, double-overhead cam V6 featuring dry-sump lubrication and electronic fuel-injection.
Driving through a five-speed gearbox as opposed to last year's six-speeder, the engine has been profiled for low-rev lugging power and produces 188kW at 4500 r/min and 412Nm @ 3500 r/min. The drivetrain features a larger diameter clutch too, aimed at enhanced durability.
With terrain as forbidding as the Mauritanian desert waiting patiently to punish vehicles beyond their design parameters, suspension and differential combinations are critical components in overcoming the huge dunes and high-speed, shale strewn flats.
Featuring full-time four-wheel drive with a mechanically lockable centre differential as well as Xtrac self-locking differentials both front and rear ensure the MPR13 will not find it hard to put down all of it's 188kW of power...most of the time.
An Independent, double wishbones and coil spring suspension set-up with anti-roll bars front and rear ensure a fair compromise between high-speed stability and optimal wheel-travel for rocky terrain.
Each wheel features two fully adjustable dampers too able to accentuate up to 250mm of wheel stroke, whilst BF Goodrich 235/85mm tyres riding on 16-inch OZ racing mags ensure maximum grip. Stopping power is provided by Brembo in the form of ventilated discs with 6-pot callipers.
Piloting the four MPR13s will be a veritable 'who's-who's' of Dakar racing royalty. Two Dakar biking legends - six time winner Stéphane Peterhansel and Nani Roma - will join Hiroshi Masuoka, himself a two-time overall Dakar winner, and former downhill skiing champion, Luc Alphand.
Together they will be aiming to deliver a seventh straight win for Mitsubishi and its 12th in total from 26 starts.