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Ralliart is back, and they’re going racing. As part of its first motorsports endeavour since the brand’s racing arm’s revival, Mitsubishi will be participating as a semi-factory-works team in the 2022 Asia Cross Country Rally (AXCR), and they’ll be fielding a trio of race-prepped Triton pick-up truck to challenge for the crown.

The three Mitsubishi Tritons, consisting of two competition cars and one high-speed support vehicle, have been modified according to the FIA’s Group T1 (prototype cross-country rally car) specifications. Except, when we say “modified”, it’s really not by much.

The 2.4-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder mill that is powering the rally truck is essentially the same unit that you’ll find on a road-going Triton. It’s been slightly reworked to reduce friction loss and improve on responsiveness, along with a “very very slight” tune, but the 181 hp and 430 Nm outputs is pretty much unchanged. According to Team Director Hiroshi Masuoka, even the pistons and crankshafts are left as-is.

Even the six-speed manual gearbox and Super Select AWD system are also unchanged from the Triton you see at the showrooms, but the rally truck does get a pair of Cusco LSDs added to the drivetrain in order to help with off-road traction, alongside racing brakes from Endless, Cusco adjustable front and rear dampers, and beefy Yokohama Geolandar tyres wrapped around a set of 17-inch aluminium alloys from Work.

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The AXCR is a 2,000 km, six-day long endurance rally that will run from Buriram in Thailand to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Like the Dakar Rally, since the drivers will be driving for long periods, comfort and reliability is much more important than outright speed – and that’s why the Triton is perfect for this task, instead of a purpose-built race car.

We were offered a taxi ride during the team’s second endurance test at the Grand Prix Motor Park in Thailand, and we were all surprised by how plush the ride quality is. The drivers also praised the Mitsubishi Triton’s agility on the gravel, which is truly a testament of the pick-up truck’s quality, even in standard form.

To save weight, the car’s bonnet and door panels have been replaced with carbon fibre parts to save weight, while the interior of the truck has also been stripped out, and glass windows replaced by plastic. The rest of the body has also been strengthened with a roll cage and under guards to handle the challenging terrain.

Since the AXCR also involves several river crossings, the rest of the modifications are for added water-proofing, such as stronger sealing, as well as an air-intake snorkel on the A-pillars.

ALSO READ: Mitsubishi rewards 100,000th Triton customer in Malaysia with 100,000 km worth of diesel

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart will be led by two-time Dakar Rally winner Hiroshi Masuoka, who has been working as the brand’s Chief Expert in the Product Strategy Division, and will be joined by three driver pairings, consisting of Rifat Sungkar and Chupong Chaiwan, Chayaphon Yotha and Peerapong Sombutwong, as well as Sakchai Hantrakul and Kittisak Klinchan.

Speaking after the endurance test, Rifat Sungkar said: “Rally drivers pass through many different corners, one by one. Therefore, it is crucial for the rally car to have excellent manoeuvrability and drivability as the driver intends, and high durability and reliability over rough roads.

“A good co-driver who can navigate accurately and quickly is also important for a successful result. Through the endurance tests, we were able to confirm that the Triton rally car delivers excellent performance in terms of rough road drivability and durability.”

Chayapon Yotha added, “Speed is not everything in rally competition. In order to win, it is important to maximize the sense of unity between the driver and the rally car, and to control the tempo flexibly between acceleration and deceleration. We have confirmed that the Triton rally car has a great finish and responds precisely and agilely to driver input.”

The rally car even comes with air-conditioning, and the gear lever is also unchanged!

“It is a privilege to welcome such talented drivers to the team. Rifat has lots of experience in sprint rallying, so if we do a good job as a team to manage the long-distance aspect of a cross-country rally, he will deliver a great performance,” said Hiroshi Masuoka.

“Chayapon has extensive experience in cross-country rallies and improves every time he gets in the car, so I’m expecting good outcomes from him. With regard to the Triton, the two endurance tests enabled us to identify issues and deal with them. We will carry out a shakedown test in November before AXCR 2022, but the Triton is looking good so far and I believe the drivers will be able to deliver tough, solid performances.”

As to why Mitsubishi chose AXCR as their first challenge for the Ralliart revival, Masuoka explained that the Triton is a very important model for Mitsubishi Motors, especially in the Asian market. Participating in the AXCR will not only act as marketing for the pick-up truck, but also help accelerate the development of the Triton pick-up truck for regular road use.

“My personal dream is to bring bigger challenges to Triton and bring Triton to the world stage,” he added.


GALLERY

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