Dominating the top four places for two consecutive years - an
unprecedented feat - Mitsubishi became in name and content the 'king of the
desert' and renowned as the marque to beat. But the Pajero/Montero s was fitted
with a new tyre pressure adjustment/deflation system for a trial.
maintained the team's high performance and improved the competitiveness of the
car. It marked the third year of competition for the T2 Pajero/Montero in the
Paris Dakar event, but a strong rival had appeared. The Schlesser Buggy, driven
by Jean-Louis Schlesser, (the prototype class) was the rival. The previous
year's Renault engine was modified for more power and its top speed was higher
than the Pajero/Montero .
Mitsubishi, on the other hand, entrusted two
of the latest Pajero/Montero s with tyre pressure adjustment systems, fitted to
the cars of last year's winner Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Kenjiro Shinozuka.
Mitsubishi Motors Deutschland GmbH (MMD)
entered last year's car for the lady driver Jutta Kleinschmidt, while MMC
Automoviles Espana, S.A. (MMCE) entered a 1997 Pajero/Montero for Miguel Prieto
and Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka was entered in last year's specification Challenger
to take on the Schlesser operation.
The cars for Kleinschmidt and Prieto
were modified and updated to keep the performance handicap to a miminum.
Mitsubishis moved into an early lead, as in previous years. Kleinschmidt's run
at the top of the leaderboard was a first for a female entry and drew much media
attention. Fontenay, however, experienced some trouble and lost ground,
weakening the team's early challenge.
Further ill fortunes followed with
both Shinozuka's Pajero/Montero and Masuoka's Challenger experiencing punctures
and other problems, which dropped them down the running order. Good fortune
eventually eluded Kleinschmidt, who had kept the overall lead for three days.
She lost her position at the top and the Schlesser Buggy moved into the lead.
Mitsubishi's Prieto was now second overall with Kleinschmidt following
in third. The misfortunes that befell the Pajero/Montero may have been in part
due to the combination of the Michelin tyre and the cars with the tyre pressure
adjustment system not functioning as planned. The competition in the late stages
was a battle between Schlesser, Prieto and Kleinschmidt. But the Pajero/Montero
was ultimately unable to catch the Schlesser Buggy and victory was not attained.
Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero s duly managed to take second, third and fourth places
in the final overall standings, barely tarnishing the name -'king of the
The victory by the Schlesser Buggy, a privateer's machine,, was
a sensation for the Paris-Dakar event. The podium finish and the drive at the
top by Kleinschmidt saw the birth of a heroine and a new star, which will no
doubt change the event in the future.
1999 Granada - Dakar