A week after the successful staging of the Philippine International Motorshow, the country’s most resilient automotive manufacturer left no stone unturned to highlight the 4x4 features of its top selling variants.
Dubbed as the Mitsubishi 4x4 Camp, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation (MMPC) invited the motoring media for a weekend of mud playing and learning a thing or two from Paris-Dakar rallye legend Hiroshi Masuoka. The last I shared a race track with Masuoka-san was March of last year for the launch of the all-new Strada. If Mitsubishi organizes an event with him as the highlight of the show, then this is a red letter date indeed for everyone related to the motoring sector.
“Our aim is for the owners and the media to enjoy and test the off-road capabilities of the 4x4 Montero and the Strada in a safe and controlled, yet extreme environment,” states Yoshiaki Kato, President and CEO of MMPC, who gamely joined the media in a karaoke night at Clark’s newest tourist destination, the Midori Hotel and Casino.
After a night of camaderie amid a sumptuous buffet dinner and unlimited booze, the Mitsubishi 4x4 participants drove up to the Tarlac Recreational Park in San Jose, Tarlac for the daylong event. An ambitious project of Governor Victor Yap, the Tarlac Recreational Park is a 78 hectare property with facilities for outdoor events. Spread around the sprawling park are ATV and bike trails, track and field, airsoft gun park, an Olympic size swimming pool and a 1.5km race track designed to accommodate motorbike and compact car racing. The race track was designed and engineered by veteran racers Richard Joson, Pepon Marave and Press Undersecretary George Apacible. “This short course is geared towards fast corners that can test a car’s handling and power when driving by the main straight away,” says Marave, who revealed that it took several months from concept to actual race track. “The asphalt is tarmac grade similar to the one used in our airports,” adds Apacible.
With Masuoka taking the lead, the day’s festivities started with a taxi ride around the twisty track. To say that his car control was excellent is an understatement. Masuoka-san showed this writer why he was the two-time Paris-Dakar champion. On corners where mortals like me would usually blip the brake pedal top decelerate, Masuoka-san took it at high speeds that tested the Montero’s grip and handling. He was driving the SUV as if he was behind the wheel of a Mirage sub-compact car. When it was my turn to take the wheel around the 1.5k, track, I just followed his racing line, although I took the corners not as fast as he did. “Let the technology do the work for you,” was his advice as we drove around the track under the hot midday sun. After taking turns behind the wheel, drift ace Audel Sison strutted his stuff around the race track with a drift modified Montero. It was not an easy feat, considering the Montero’s dry weight and with a turbo diesel engine to boot. Sison took corners sideways and did a doughnut to showcase the engine’s torque and power.
The highlight of the day was a drive around a specially designed off road course around the borders of the estate overlooking the race track. A marshal rode with us for safety purposes and to keep our lead foot in check. To make it more memorable, Mitsubishi organized a taxi ride around the off-road course with the rallye legend behind the wheel. It was a perfect way to end an adrenaline filled day at the Mitsubishi 4x4 Camp. “We are delighted that rallye legend Masuoka-san visited us again to share his knowledge and demonstrate the advantages of Mitsubishi’s superior technologies such as the MASTC and Super Select 4WD,” adds Froilan Dytianquin, Marketing boss of MMPC.
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