Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle successfully completed the 2014 Australasian Safari in Western Australia at the weekend.
Driving in production category A1.6, the Outlander PHEV crossed the Safari finish line in 19th place and took the title for the Hybrid and Dual Fuel Vehicles.
Built and run by Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Australia with support from Mitsubishi Motors Corporation and piloted by Australian rally pairing Steve Glenney and Bernie Webb, the Outlander PHEV endured conditions described by Safari regulars as more brutal, relentless and challenging than any experienced in recent Australasian Safaris.
The Safari’s 2,500 kilometre course and extreme road conditions tested the limits of vehicles, competitors and crews across the Safari’s auto and moto categories, with many succumbing to the Safari’s long competitive stages over rocky outback tracks, corrugations and deep sand.
Despite its production form, the Outlander’s Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle system performed faultlessly in conditions that challenged even the most heavily modified entries.
That’s not to say TMR Australia didn’t encounter hurdles along the way, with the team experiencing major setbacks as the event entered its final stages.
Most notably a major impact on Leg Six, that broke the Outlander PHEV’s front drive shaft and severely damaged its left front and rear suspension.
The Outlander PHEV was rebuilt by TMR Australia overnight and recovered to record the second fastest time outright on the final special stage in wet, muddy conditions heading into Kalbarri.
An Australasian Safari first-time competitor, TMR Australia Outlander PHEV driver Steve Glenney said the Dakar-style event was much more difficult than he could have imagined.
“It’s hard to appreciate just how difficult and punishing the Australasian Safari is until you’ve experienced it first hand – it’s an epic event,” he said.
“To put it into perspective, one leg of the Safari is equivalent to kilometres travelled in a weekend-long Australian Rally Championship event, so we’ve effectively done six rounds of the ARC in one week.
“And throughout all of it, the Outlander PHEV has been an absolute star. The high-torque motos and regenerative braking worked so well in slow-speed situations, and the Super All Wheel Control has been unbelievably effective in helping us climb out of steep river crossings and over sand dunes.
“We’ve absolutely loved the challenge of competing in the Safari and, despite everything we’ve thrown at it, the mighty Outlander PHEV hasn’t skipped a beat.”
TMR Australia Team Manager Alan Heaphy said the Outlander PHEV’s 2014 Australasian Safari result establishes a new record for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in Australian motorsport.
“We’re so impressed with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV completing the Australasian Safari rally – it’s the first plug-in hybrid to finish an Australian motorsport event and another record for us at TMR,” he said.
“Thanks to Mitsubishi Motors for having the faith in us to put the program together and the dedicated team at TMR Australia for making it happen.
“Records don’t happen very often and words can’t express how rapt we are with the Outlander PHEV’s finish and class win.”
Mitsubishi Motors gained valuable data, experience and information from the Outlander PHEV’s performance during the Safari, which will be fed back to its engineering department for future development of the company’s plug-in hybrid systems.