Mitsubishi Will Return to Dakar With Eclipse Cross T1 Prototype

The Eclipse Cross T1 is a carbon-clad prototype that Mitsubishi hopes can replicate the success of the Pajero Evolution.

Mitsubishi Motors announced Tuesday that it will enter the 2019 Dakar Rally with a new prototype racing SUV called the Eclipse Cross T1.

Across a period spanning 1985 through 2007, Mitsubishi won the grueling Dakar rally a dozen times—seven consecutively—with its Pajero Evolution, making it the single winningest model in the race’s history. For the next Dakar event in January of 2019, to be held solely in Peru for the first time, Mitsubishi will be back with the Eclipse Cross T1, which boasts modernizations of which the Pajero Evolution’s engineers likely dreamed.

Unlike the divisive

Eclipse Cross on-roader from which the T1 derives its silhouette, the racing machine is built around a steel spaceframe chassis, to which is bolted carbon fiber bodywork. Propulsion is handled by a turbocharged diesel engine (whose configuration and displacement was not specified by Mitsubishi) producing 340 horsepower and 686 newton-meters (506 foot-pounds) of torque. This flows to the ground through a six-speed sequential manual transmission and a full-time four-wheel-drive system with mechanical front, rear, and center differentials. 

At each corner is a pair of long-travel Öhlins Racing shock absorbers, capable of handling almost anything Dakar throws its way. For things that no shock absorber on earth is built to withstand, four-piston AP Racing brake calipers will bring the Eclipse Cross T1 to a halt.

Mitsubishi entrusts its Dakar campaign to 26-year-old Cristina Gutierrez and her co-driver Pablo Huete, both of whom hail from Spain. Gutierrez earned this opportunity by finishing best of any woman in the 2018 Dakar Rally.

“For me, it is a big step ahead compared to the previous years,” said Gutierrez of the Eclipse Cross T1. “You can go very fast with it, while it is easier to drive and has greater offroad capabilities. It’s the most spectacular car I’ve ever driven and attracts a lot of attention!”

The philosophy with which Gutierrez will approach the race is one of to finish first, you must first finish, which is appropriate given the event’s infamous rate of attrition.

“As always when you face a Dakar, you do it with great expectation but also a lot of respect for the test,” Gutierrez continued. “The first objective, of course, is to finish what is the toughest rally in the world, for the third time in a row.”