Mitsubishi's Racing Lancer still has some way to go before taking Dakar 2009 by storm, but giant strides have already been made.Here's a first look at it.

No, it’s not a Touareg or an X6; it’s the new racing Lancer and it’s getting ready for rally battle after Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart put it through its paces over real-life racing conditions. Hiroshi Masuoka, the Japanese driver who has twice competed in the car is raving all the way to the mountain about it. He is particularly impressed with its diesel motor which he says is much more drivable than its petrol counterpart, with torque at a predictably greater level, accessible at lower and broader rev range.

Driver Joan 'Nani' Roma (Spain) posted three fastest stage times at a Portuguese event in a Pajero/Montero Evolution with the same diesel engine, further making the case for its huge potential. Dakar 2009 will be the real testing ground and the whole team believes it can take gold with driver Stéphane Peterhansel, nine-times Dakar winner. Peterhansel will also be piloting when the car makes its official debut during round six of 2008 FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup in Portugal between 30th October and 2nd November. More extensive testing will see it cover over 8,000km in Morocco, preparing for that ultimate Dakar title.

First Pictures Reveal Mitsubishi's Racing Lancer