Despite insisting that it would bid to reclaim the Dakar crown it lost to rival Volkswagen on this year's event in South America, event stalwart Mitsubishi has stunned raid fans by announcing that it will withdraw from all future cross-country rallies with immediate effect.
In common with many other major players in motorsport, the Japanese marque has cited 'the deterioration in global economy' for forcing its hand in the decision, which comes after its Pajero model racked up twelve victories, including seven consecutive, in the Dakar, as well as further success in other rounds of the FIA raid series.
The unparalleled record also provided valuable 4WD technology to Mitsubishi's production vehicles, aiding their durability and off-road performance, and was followed by the introduction of the all-new Racing Lancer for this year's Dakar, which took place in Argentina and Chile following terrorist threats causing the cancellation of the traditional route through northern Africa in 2008.
The four-strong official Mitsubishi team made a cautious start to the 2009 event, allowing BMW and Volkswagen the early glory, but struggled to make up the gap as its cars fell by the wayside deeper into the event. Joan 'Nani' Roma was the only classified finisher, having received a reprieve on a cancelled stage, but trailed the winning VW of Giniel de Villiers in tenth spot. Team-mates Stephane Peterhansel, Luc Alphand and Hiroshi Masuoka fell foul to a combination of reliability problems and illness before the halfway point of the two-week event.
In line with the likes of former WRC rivals Subaru and Suzuki, which recently announced their withdrawal from the premier rally series, Mitsubishi blamed the sudden current global economic crisis for its decision, claiming that the company needed 'to focus its resources more tightly'.