Mitsubishi announced today that it will enter a modified Lancer in next year's Dakar rally, the legendary grueling race through Africa. The base model Lancer is a small economy car with not much pep but a good cabin tech package, seemingly a poor platform for this tough race. However, Mitsubishi has been proving for years with the Lancer Evo, a heavily modified version of the car, that it can win World Rally Car races. The newest version, the Evo X, impressed the heck out of us on the track at Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., earlier this year. Mitsubishi only released a sketch and some specifications of the car, designated MRX09, it intends to enter in Dakar.
The body design is based on the Lancer Sportback Mitsubishi will show off at the Paris auto show this fall. The MRX09 is powered by a turbocharged three-liter six-cylinder diesel engine producing over 260 horsepower and 480 foot-pounds of torque. The car's all-wheel-drive system uses a center limited slip differential, similar to that on the Lancer Evo, and a five speed sequential manual gearbox. Mitsubishi achieved 12 wins in past Dakar rallies using its Montero/Pajero SUV as a platform, so the Lancer represents a significant departure from tradition. The only question that remains is whether the Dakar rally will actually happen, as the 2008 race was canceled because of the threat posed by armed groups along the route.