Now Reading
Mitsubishi completes motorsports comeback with Ralliart victory at the Asia Cross Country Rally 2022

Mitsubishi completes motorsports comeback with Ralliart victory at the Asia Cross Country Rally 2022

Avatar

Chayapon Yotha of Thailand delivered a swashbuckling victory for Team Mitsubishi Ralliart at the Asia Cross Country Rally (AXCR) 2022 in its first rally scene appearance in over a decade that completed an incredible return to the field of motorsports for the car company.

The five-day race, which covered a total distance of more than 1,700 kilometers, saw Team Mitsubishi Ralliart overcome various challenges, including unpleasant weather and unexpected road conditions.

This year’s AXCR, with five legs that required exemplary driving skills and high-performance cars, started in Buriram, Thailand, and finished in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

With a total time of eight hours, 22 minutes and 42 seconds, Yotha crowned himself the overall champion, besting 31 other contenders in the car category.

What makes the victory even more impressive is that Yotha clinched the victory at his very first appearance at AXCR—or any rally race, for that matter.

“It was a very tough battle… To win among rivals with larger engine displacements, I concentrated on reducing mistakes thoroughly and completing each corner and stage carefully. We were able to achieve good results in this rally because of the excellent handling performance of the Triton. It was very easy to control, allowing me to follow the line as I intended in any road surface condition—tarmac, gravel, or mud,” Yotha said.

Yotha prevailed with his usual, calm driving style, never too aggressive, but just enough to finish each leg safely. In a long-distance rally race like this, precise and consistent driving pays off.

Three race-prepped Triton (called Strada in the Philippines) trucks joined the race. However, Sakchai Hantrakul (Thailand), a Team Mitsubishi Ralliart driver, tested positive for COVID-19 after the Special Stage 1 (SS1) and was forced to retire from the rally.

The other Ralliart contender, Rifat Sungkar (Indonesia), placed 5th overall, with a total rally time of 8:39:56. This was also the first cross-country rally for Rifat, who mainly participates in sprint rallies.

Despite his lack of experience, Sungkar was among the fastest in each stage, overcoming an unfortunate incident early on in the race (punctured right rear tire) that left him no choice but to finish Leg 1 with one missing tire.

“This experience has allowed me to find issues that I need to work on, both in terms of my skills and the rally car. Once again, I felt that the Triton is a truly tough, durable, and reliable car. It is amazing that we were able to fight through the rally with an almost production car,” Sungkar said.

Leg 1 (SS2) featured the longest stage of the event, with a total distance of 203.50 km, starting in Khonburi and ending in Nong Bon. With countless potholes and ruts in the rough road surfaces, as well as tight corners, SS2 was considered to be the longest and most challenging stage of the event. SS2 was a test of all-around performance, with long tarmac roads and rough roads typical of cross-country rallies, and a mix of technical and high-speed sections.

See Also

Leg 2 (SS3) began in Bankruat, a district close to the Cambodian border, south of Buriram. The stage covered a total distance of 157.45 km, mostly straight flat dirt over a 100 km/h high-speed range, as well as gravel and tarmac roads.

Leg 3 (SS4), on the other hand, featured a high-speed flat dirt road with large puddles from heavy rain. SS4 began in Khu Mueang, located east of Buriram Airport, with a mostly flat dirt road in the middle of vast rubber plantations. The leg consisted of two laps of the 70-kilometer course, which had plenty of muddy dirt due to heavy rain the night before.

The course consisted of rough dirt roads with large holes and deep ruts, muddy roads that are difficult to escape from if stuck.

Leg 4 (SS5) was originally scheduled as a stage of over 90 km near the border with Cambodia, but the course was changed the night before to an 80 km course from the starting point of SS3.

Leg 5 (SS6) was relatively short at approximately 48 km but was more demanding compared to the previous stages. It consisted of rough dirt roads with large holes and deep ruts—muddy roads that are difficult to escape from if stuck. Some teams were unable to escape and failed to finish within the 2-hour time limit.

Ralliart team director Hiroshi Masuoka was pleased with the performance of his group, saying he would have been happy to finish in the upper rankings. But taking home the overall victory was such an important win for a team such as theirs.

Masuoka said, “The mechanics and engineers brought the Triton to the course in perfect condition every day, and the drivers and co-drivers brought out the best performance from the Triton. This victory was the result of the teamwork and know-how that Mitsubishi Motors has accumulated over the years. Team Mitsubishi Ralliart will consider the possibility of coming back again next year and will fully prepare our team structure and the rally cars. We would like to thank all of our fans and sponsors for their great support.”