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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

DAKAR Champion Mitsubishi announces end to Baja and DAKAR racing

Cost-cutting cited to end 12 year run of DAKAR Championships

TOKYO (Reuters) - Mitsubishi will pull out of cross country rallying, including the Dakar Rally which the Japanese team has dominated in recent years, as part of cost-cutting measures caused by the global economic downturn.

With Wednesday's announcement, Mitsubishi Motors Corp became the latest Japanese automaker to scale back their motorsport activities following Honda's shock exit from Formula One in December.

"The sudden deterioration of the global economy made it necessary for the company to focus its resources more tightly," Mitsubishi said in a statement.

Mitsubishi won the storied Dakar Rally 12 times in 26 appearances, including a record seven consecutive victories from 2001 to 2007.

They took part in this year's Dakar Rally, switched to Argentina and Chile because of security fears in Mauritania that forced the cancellation of last year's event.

"Discussions (about their future involvement) were going on before and continuing during the race," Mitsubishi's Adam Sorkin told Reuters. "The decision was finalized today.

"It's basically anything that requires a works or manufacturer-backed team we're pretty much done. It's going on from 2010. There's no end date in sight."

Mitsubishi's involvement in the Spanish Baja and Baja Portugal rallies will also be terminated.

Honda, which has forecast a 190 billion yen operating loss for the fiscal second half ending in March, withdrew from Formula One to reduce costs amid a slump in global car sales.

Their departure from F1 was quickly followed by the withdrawal of rival carmakers Subaru and Suzuki from the world rally championship (WRC). Mitsubishi quit the WRC in 2005.

Japanese motorcycle maker Kawasaki also followed suit last month by pulling out of motorcycling's MotoGP championship.

Baja Racing News.com