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Mitsubishi to fight fire with fire

High-tech hotshot: Mitsubishi's new Lancer Evolution WRC will make its competition debut at Italy's San Remo rally in October.

Mitsubishi has pulled the wraps off its new Lancer Evolution World Rally Car

31 Jul 2001

THIS is the weapon that could help Tommi Makinen secure his fifth World Rally Championship title.

Mitsubishi's new rally rocket - known as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution WRC - is due to make its FIA World Rally Championship debut at Italy's San Remo Rally from October 5 to 7.

The newcomer is Mitsubishi's first World Rally Car and is claimed to be the "most advanced, most sophisticated competition car" the company has produced.

Switching to the World Rally Car regulations from the established Group A category represents a major change of policy for the Japanese manufacturer - but it says the change was inevitable in order to stay competitive.

The Group A rules allow significantly fewer modifications to the standard road car, a characteristic that Mitsubishi endorsed because it valued the direct link between its competition cars and road-going vehicles.

But that's now history.

"The only way for us to improve performance and to gain more post-development benefit on the standard car was to follow World Rally Car rules," Mitsubishi Ralliart Europe chief engineer Bernard Lindauer explained.

The Mitsubishi Lancer WRC is closely based on the Lancer Cedia four-door saloon in the Japanese market, although it exploits the extra freedom offered by the World Rally Car rules in a number of key areas.

Mitsubishi Ralliart engineers have changed the suspension, weight distribution and some elements of the bodywork. But it retains many components from the existing Lancer Evolution and is therefore a blend of new and well-proven technology.

The Lancer Evolution WRC was tested for the first time on July 24 by Mitsubishi Ralliart's Belgian driver Freddy Loix at the Millbrook Proving Ground north of London in Britain.

"It's exciting to be involved in the World Rally Car project and was great to drive the car for the first time," Loix said.

"The regulations allow us greater flexibility in certain areas and I think this, combined with elements of our current car, mean we can look forward to a really competitive package.

"Tommi (Makinen) won in Africa last week - the toughest event in the Championship - so we know what we are already using is good, strong and reliable. Combine the two, and hopefully it should be fantastic." Test work will concentrate on asphalt in the early stages, as the car is being introduced to the World Championship in Italy in the 11th of 14 rounds.

After its debut in San Remo, both Tommi Makinen and Freddy Loix will contest the remaining three rounds in the Lancer Evolution WRC.

The Tour de Corse in France October from 19 to 21, Rally Australia from November 2 to 4 and the final round in Great Britain from November 23 to 25 all closely follow Italy's round of the championship.

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