I went on a taxi ride with Dakar Rally winner Hiroshi Masuoka and my heart rate shot up

And I loved every second of it
by Elaine Lara | Jan 29, 2019
PHOTO: Elaine Lara

On January 26, another contender in the local pickup wars was introduced: the new Mitsubishi Strada. And for the grand event, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines invited us to Pampanga to witness and experience the cool tricks its new truck can do off the road.

During event registration, we were given a stub that we could use for testing the pickup, and for going on a taxi ride with back-to-back Dakar Rally winner Hiroshi Masuoka. Of course, I immediately lined up for the taxi ride and the Taters snack bar.

Before being called, I had to help my colleague drive around Pradera Verde, and then I rushed to the holding area. Upon getting there, I was already flustered. Other colleagues asked how the taxi ride was. I couldn’t bring to tell them that I haven’t gone yet and I just looked dizzy because, well, driving does that to me.

I quietly grabbed a balaclava and rushed out to the taxi area before anyone could ask where I was going. Thankfully, I arrived during downtime. I was seated beside Masuoka-san in no time.

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Masuoka-san has to be one of the most chill drivers you’ll ever encounter. He easily maneuvers the 2,870kg Strada across the tight Pradera Verde course, smiling while doing so. With deft hands, he makes the vehicle plunge, jump, and tilt at 30 degrees throughout the off-road course. Thank goodness for the new Mitsubishi’s dual-zone automatic climate control and the rear air circulator, because my hands definitely became sweaty.

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The first round went by too fast. I had to go for another one. Plus, I was too shy to ask for a selfie during the first ride with the Dakar Rally champ, and I really wanted to take one.

After a quick lunch break, I convinced my teammate to get in line for the ride with me. This time, I took the backseat. The cabin boasts a 1,745mm length on paper, and I had no trouble getting comfortable in the back. After a quick check of seatbelts, we were once again roughing it out with the Japanese pickup on the sands of Pradera Verde. I wasn’t sure whether the Masuoka-san drove wilder than before or if it was because I was seated in the back, but my camera’s lens cap ended up flying across the backseat area. Even though the car’s suspension provided comfort inside, I didn’t dare let go of the grab handle to look for the lens cap right away. I promised my precious camera that I’d look for the cap once the Strada came to a halt.

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We got out of the fun ride with wobbly knees, more respect for the rally driver, and an appreciation for the new Strada. I can’t even begin to imagine the beating it has endured during the two days it’s been thrashed on the course.

When I got home, I synced my fitness tracker and saw that my heart rate shot up twice that day—first during the taxi ride, and second when I was driving from Pradera Verde to NLEX.

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So, for anyone interested in experiencing the thrill of their life, I recommend signing up for a ride with Hiroshi Masuoka the next time he’s in town. Or try going on a taxi ride with yours truly? If you can convince me to drive, that is.

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Taxi ride with Hiroshi Masuoka

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PHOTO: Elaine Lara
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