Mitsubishi Motors Corporation is gearing up take its 4WD 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV to the dirt in the Baja Portalegre 500 rally raid.

The specialized race version of the vehicle was specifically developed for the event, and will be piloted by Mitsubishi factory driver Hiroshi Masuoka, who is best known for winning back-to-back victories in the legendary Dakar rally raid in 2002 and 2003. He’s only the fourth driver in Dakar history to win in consecutive years. He also took victory in the 2003 Baja Italy and 2004 UAE Desert Challenge. 

In addition to driving duties, Masuoka will also play the part of team captain. Supporting him will be a glut of Mitsubishi personnel, including team manager and technical director Yasuo Tanaka. Tanaka is also an engineering expert from the EV Component Research Department at Mitsubishi. Alongside him will be four engineers from the department.

Organized by the Portuguese Automobile Association, the Baja Portalegre 500 will see its 29th running this year, and will pit competitors against one another in 500 km (311 miles) of dirt, gravel, and punishingly harsh conditions. The event is part of the ninth round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup, and over 300 vehicles are expected to take part, including cars, motorcycles, and quads. The Portalegre 500 is also known as a warm-up for the infamous Dakar rally, which is slated to kick off this coming January. 

The Baja Portalegre 500 will take place in the Portalegre province of eastern Portugal between October 22nd and 24th. Entrants will see non-stop action over the entirety of the 500 km, halting only for brief 20-minute service intervals. 

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

The Outlander PHEV racing SUV was developed specifically for the Baja Portalegre 500 to help promote Mitsu’s electric and 4WD technology. It utilizes the production model’s battery, while modifications were performed to its structure and drive system for greater performance and reliability.

Included is the requisite roll cage and safety harnesses, while the suspension has been raised with a longer stroke and larger diameter rally tires. Mitsubishi says data gathered during the event will be fed back into the development of its production vehicles, particularly in terms of the 4WD and plug-in hybrid system. I’m thinking a performance hybrid SUV from the automaker is not too far off in the future.

Electrification is becoming a mainstay in street vehicles, but in order to advance the technology, there has to be certain goals to create the necessary development pressure.

In addition to efforts in Portugal, Mitsubishi will also support the Two & Four Motor Sports team as it runs a similarly prepped Outlander PHEV in the FIA Asia Cross Country Rally this year, just as it did in 2013 and 2014. This time around, Mitsubishi will provide support in the form of vehicle construction, vehicle provision, and a team of engineers.

The Asia Cross Country Rally will take place August 8th through the 14th, celebrating it’s 20th running this year. Compared to the Portuguese event, the Asian rally raid is quite a bit more grueling, starting in the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand and encompassing some 2,500 km (1,553 miles) of mountainous terrain.

Suffice it to say, the use of electric vehicles in rally racing is a pretty big deal. Electrification is becoming a mainstay in street vehicles, but in order to advance the technology, there has to be certain goals to create the necessary development pressure. If one of those goals is to make it to the finish line first, then you can bet the tech will see a good deal of improvement.

In some ways, electrification is great fit for a rally raid. The extra mileage will help eke the most from available fuel, while the extra insta-torque from the throttle will help to power out of adverse road conditions.

However, the systems are quite heavy, and more weight on a race car is never a good thing. What’s more, the complicated drive system that a hybrid uses can make in-the-field repairs an absolute nightmare.

However, these are things that will need to be overcome if the team is to reap the rewards of a hybrid rally car, and it looks like Mitsu is ready to take on the challenge. It’s somewhat reminiscent of hybrid technology’s entry into the world of Le Mans and endurance racing.

What’s more, it’s great to see Mitsubishi throwing some of its attention to this badass motorsport. After all, we all remember the Evo. While an Outlander might be a far cry from the old AWD turbo Lancers that jumped their way through the WRC, it’s at least a step in the right direction.

One question, though – where you gonna plug in?

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Concept-S

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Concept-S Exterior Models Female
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Read our full review here.

Press Release

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) is to enter an Outlander PHEV, the only twin-motor 4WD in production today, in the Baja Portalegre 500 cross-country rally due to be held in the Portalegre municipality in the eastern part of Portugal from October 22nd to October 24th this year.

The specially developed vehicle will be driven by Mr. Hiroshi Masuoka of MMC, who won the Dakar Rally twice in two years in 2002 and 2003. Mr. Masuoka will also be playing a role as the team captain. The team led by Mr Masuoka is heavily populated by MMC personnel, including the team manager and technical director Mr. Yasuo Tanaka. Mr Tanaka is an engineering expert from the EV Component Research Department within MMC’s Development Engineering Office and will be supported by four engineers from his department.

Since its inception in 1987, the Baja Portalegre 500, which celebrates its 29th edition this year, is a cross-country rally organised by the Portuguese Automobile Association. Contestants will be driving approximately 500 kilometers at high speed over mainly dirt roads. The course provides the arena for the 9th Round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup and is known as an event in which rally aces from all over the world participate each year as a warm-up to the Dakar Rally, the world’s most punishing event of its type. This competition is has three separate categories - automobile, motor bike and quad – with over 300 vehicles expected to take part.

Based on the production model but with modifications required for a rally car, this Outlander PHEV has been entered by MMC to promote development of EV and 4WD technologies. It uses the production model’s drive battery – which forms the heart of a plug-in hybrid vehicle – with modifications to its structure to realise greater capacity and output. The control system governing the motors has also been modified to deliver a higher output. In addition, the generator and engine which supply power to the battery and motors have been modified to increase power output and boost overall system performance.

As for the body, in addition to the fitting of a roll cage and other safety equipment, off-road performance has been improved in order to take full advantage of the upgraded PHEV system. Detail changes include a higher ground clearance and longer suspension stroke together with larger diameter rally tyres. These changes will enhance the Outlander PHEV’s performance limits under punishing rally conditions and the valuable data gathered during the event will be fed back into the development of production cars.

Ahead of the event team captain & driver Hiroshi Masuoka said:

“Well, here we are entering the new Outlander PHEV in the Baja Portalegre 500. This car has received popular reviews both in Japan and Europe for its smooth and stable driving dynamics which stem from its Twin Motor 4WD driveline. The Baja Portalegre 500 requires competitors to complete the 500 km course non-stop, apart from some 20 minute service times, over everything from high-speed gravel to punishing ‘yumpy’roads. For a PHEV, this demands the highest levels of drive motor and battery durability. With many competitors in this year’s Baja Portalegre 500, I am driven to show the rally Outlander PHEV’s high levels of driving dynamics and durability which derive from the production model to people from all over the world. With the support of MMC EV development engineers, we will be competing with a view to finishing among the winners using this event as an opportunity to demonstrate the upgraded power of its EV components alongside the advance stage of development of our 4WD control technology aiming to develop plug-in hybrid EV system further in the future. I ask you all to support our efforts.”

In addition to the Baja Portalegre 500, MMC will be providing support, as it has done in 2013 and 2014, to the Two & Four Motor Sports team which is entering a similarly specified Outlander PHEV in the FIA Asia Cross Country Rally 2015. This support will be in the guise of vehicle construction, vehicle provision and an engineering team.

The Asia Cross Country Rally 2015, scheduled to be held from August 8th to August 14th, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Entrants will have to compete over a punishing 2,500 km, mountainous route which starts and finishes in the ancient city of Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. The Two & Four Motor Sports team will be aiming to finish among the winners on the back of knowhow gained in the last two years.

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