Mitsubishi embarked on a 'cautious' start to their 2009 Dakar Rally assault as they began their quest to score an eighth straight win with the all-new Racing Lancer machine.
Racing with a diesel engine for the first time to go in direct competition with arch-rivals Volkswagen, Mitsubishi drivers Luc Alphand, Stephane Peterhansel and Nani Roma made a solid start to their campaigns in fifth, sixth and eighth respectively.
Choosing to take things easy in order to give the new car a trouble-free run to the end of the lengthy first stage, Alphand led the trio, just under five minutes off leader Nasser Al-Attiyah.
“The main target today was not to lose too much time on the fast stage. Nasser (Al-Attiyah) drove very well and has a good top speed. I think we would have lost a lot more time last year with the petrol-engined Pajero.
“We are here, but are all driving cautiously with the new engine. It is a long, long race and today's stage was dusty and potentially dangerous. When you cannot see where you go in the dust it is always difficult. The car has excellent torque and handles very well. This new chassis is very good and it feels very stable at high speed.”
Peterhansel, who won the last running of the event in 2007, meanwhile, admits he drove 'too safely' over the stage as he struggled to get into a rhythm with the new car.
“It is never easy to be the first car on the stage, especially the first stage of the Dakar, when we are the first crew to pass the bikes. After a few cars it is always easier. My rhythm was not so good, but the car was okay.
“The top speed could be higher, but I drove very safely this morning because it was dangerous in the dust and I preferred to start slowly. Tomorrow will be the same kind of stage, but maybe a little bit shorter. We need to wait. It will be a long liaison afterwards, but the stability is not so bad and we have a top speed of about 180 km/h. Maybe I drove a little too safe today."