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Mitsubishi’s Dakar winner to race 240kW EV

The Pajero driver who once posted consecutive overall victories in the 10,000km Dakar Rally has a very different challenge to face in July.

Hiroshi Masuoka will pilot a race-prepared “Evolution” version of Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV electric car over the 20 kilometres of the legendary Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado.

Hiroshi aims to win the Electric Class in the tube-framed, carbon-fibre-cowled four-wheel-drive car, which uses the same major components as the production i-MiEV but has three electric motors, one driving the front wheels and two more driving at the rear. Together they develop 240kW. That’s more power than the Lancer Evolution X puts out.

 “Given the tough driving conditions Pikes Peak is known for”, Hiroshi said, “I’m really keen to show that in addition to their environmental benefits electric vehicles are capable of gutsy performance and handling.”

Mitsubishi has also entered a production i-MiEV, standard except for special tyres, roll bars and other safety equipment, and a little extra streamlining. It will be driven by American off-road racer Beccy Gordon, whose father, brother and sister have all been successful racing drivers, as is her husband, Indycar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay. Beccy said: “I’m really looking forward to giving it my best in the type of vehicle that is set to become a major player in motor sports in future.”

The July event is the 90th version of the annual “Race to the Clouds”, which climbs 1,400 metres through 156 corners to the Pikes Peak summit which, at 4,300 metres, would tower above Aoraki/ Mount Cook. High altitudes are no threat to electric motors, which don’t suffer from power loss in thin air as do conventional engines.

 

*Hiroshi Masuoka drove Pajeros in 20 Dakar Rallies, back to back, and won in 2002 and 2003. Today he works with Mitsubishi on new vehicle development and trains company test drivers.