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Dakar 2009: Thierry Viardot - "The new Lancer is a big step forward".

The Frenchman is based at the MMSP SAS headquarters at Pont-de-Vaux in France and has worked in close liaison with Japanese engineers at MMC’s Okazaki R&D Center in Japan throughout the development of the brand new Mitsubishi Racing Lancer. Viardot and his team, have worked hard to make the new Racing Lancer a potential Dakar winner. He talks here about the newcomer's main strengths and about the technical challenge of Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team faces in Argentina and Chile during the first two weeks of January 2009.

MR: What are the strengths of the Racing Lancer's new 3-litre turbocharged V6 diesel engine?

Viardot: "The new V6 is more powerful by some 25 horsepower compared with last year's petrol engine. It delivers much more torque, too: i.e. 650Nm compared with 412Nm previously, so that's a big step forward in terms of performance. With the exception of soft sand, we have reduced fuel consumption in most situations, too, so that's another very important step forward. The Racing Lancer's transmission is new because of the switch to diesel power. However, our experience has enabled us to develop what we believe to be a reliable package which also complies with the new regulations which aim to make transmissions both similar and more economical from 2010 to the Dakar for the very first time with diesel power. As I say, we have focused on reliability for the moment given the performance characteristics of our new V6 and we feel quite confident in this area.”

MR: Has been the engine the only area of improvement?

Viardot: "One of our priorities during the Racing Lancer's design was to develop and improve the overall suspension package. We initially worked on a laboratory car to work through a variety of geometry options in an attempt to find the best compromise. We then worked hard on fine-tuning the damping performance to ensure an efficient, comfortable ride. Thanks to the large amount of running we have covered, I believe we have achieved major strides forward to deliver a first class package."

MR: What are the features of the Racing Lancer's cockpit?

Viardot: "You only have to look inside the racing Lancer to see that its cockpit is roomier, which is something the crews appreciate because it marks a significant improvement in terms of comfort and visibility. This, in fact, is another requirement of the regulations which are due to come into effect in 2010. They state minimum dimensions for safety reasons. It's not an ideal solution for the car's aerodynamics, but we believed it was important to introduce all the new changes – new car, new engine, new suspension, new cockpit, etc - this year at the same time to gain experience on all fronts, rather than stagger their introduction."

MR: How much testing have you done with the new Racing Lancer?

Viardot: "Our programme with the new car in 2008 featured three major tests in Morocco, as well as development work at several venues across Europe throughout the year. In total, the Racing Lancer has covered some 17,000km. This work was centred on engine endurance and performance across the biggest possible range of conditions, including at altitude. We also sought to enhance damping and handling, a domain in which you can always progress. We are particularly pleased with the progress we have made on this front regarding the trade off between balance and ride comfort. There are also a number of components which we have carried over from the Pajero Evolution, such as the wheelbearings, hub carriers, brakes, cardans, etc, which have proved their worth over the years."

MR: On paper, the 2009 Dakar in South America appears to offer two main technical challenges: the altitudes you reach in the Andes Mountains and the variety of terrains you face. How have you prepared for these?

Viardot: "The route effectively takes crews to altitudes of around 3,000 metres on stages. The setting the engine began on the bench at special test facilities in Japan before validating those findings with the drivers. This took us to altitudes of close to 3,000 metres in the Sierra Nevada near Grenada in Spain and in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco."

2008/12/19 | 12:42 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Repsol

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