From conquering the most gruelling competition in the world to taking a stab at new technology in motorsport, Hiroshi Masuoka has done it all..
Life, it has been said, is a journey. And Hiroshi Masuoka’s journey has been a pretty incredible one. The two-time winner of the gruelling Dakar Rally for Mitsubishi Motors – that too in its original Paris-Dakar avatar – has been a company man ever since he got involved in international motorsport.
It is one of the things that has lead to him touring India to do demo off-road runs in Mitsubishi’s latest offerings in the country.
The Japanese auto company’s unflinching support saw him compete in 14 editions of the rally from 1987 with Mitsubishi before winning it two years in a row in a Pajero.
It was arguably the time when the four-wheel category of the Dakar Rally had more relevance compared to the present day as the vehicles were less removed from their road-going counterparts with the exception of the prototype Dakar buggies. Eventually the cars on the Dakar became little more than ‘shell racers’ with a near bespoke construction and super powerful engines.
It was in this era that Mitsubishi eventually lost out to Volkswagen’s Touareg. Masuoka’s Dakar participation ended in 2009 when the event first shifted to South America and ended with a retirement.
The Japanese motorsport legend is not one to look back in anger though, instead reminiscing about his time behind the wheel of one of the iconic motorsport events in the world.
“It was definitely an unforgettable experience and one that will stay with me for a long time,” Masuoka told autoX at a Mitsubishi Motors event in Delhi in February. “It was definitely a lot different back when I won to what it has become now and I think that is one of the reasons why Mitsubishi has chosen to focus on new projects in motorsport.
“In particular we (Mitsubishi) are committed to electric technology in motorsport and it is one of the reasons for our very intensive effort at the Pikes Peak Hillclimb.”
Masuoka is referring to the 19.99 km ‘Race to the Clouds’ where competitors start from a point that is 1,440 meters above sea level to a finishing point that is 4,300 meters above sea level.
Mitsubishi’s MiEV Evolution III electric vehicles took the overall second and third overall fastest times at the 2014 edition with Greg Tracy completing the run in 9 min. 08.188 seconds. That mark was just a remarkable 2.387 seconds off the overall best mark that was set by an internal combustion engined car. Masuoka was not far behind Tracy with a time of 9 min. 12.204 seconds.
Masuoka states that the company is committed to translating their foray into electric competition into their road cars and have even been flirting with the idea of developing hybrid cars where the electric motor is the primary power source and a small capacity combustion engine is used as a back up, which is the opposite of how it is normally done.