Maybe I’m being naive, but the news that Mitsubishi has withdrawn from off-road racing and therefore future participation in the Dakar Rally has come as a shock.

Perhaps I should not be surprised at all, when Honda has withdrawn from F1 and Subaru from the WRC, but I happen to know just how close to Mitsubishi’s heart it holds the Dakar and how much agony the decision to quit must have brought.

To say the Dakar means to Mitsubishi what F1 means to Ferrari is only a slight exaggeration.

Of course there will be those who suspect that Mitsubishi is running away after its disastrous showing on this year’s event, its seven-year winning streak being brought to an abrupt and undignified conclusion by uncompetitive cars and mechanical failure – surely if it had romped away with the event it would not be withdrawing now.

Maybe that’s true, but we should still lament the decision as well as fear for the future of the perhaps the most gruelling motorsports event in the world today.

The withdrawal of Mitsubishi from the Dakar will do the event more harm even than, say, were Ferrari to withdraw from F1, where there are still a number of other well funded, factory teams.

What incentive is there for VW to defend its superb victory this year when the team everyone wanted to beat is no longer present?

Come what may, the Dakar without Mitsubishi is a severely diminished event.

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