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MITSUBISHI LANCER 1600 GSR

Lancer 1600 GSR/1975 Safari Rally - Andrew Cowan

Lightweight, compact and reliable thanks to its engineering simplicity, the Mitsubishi Lancer cut a swathe through the road-going vehicle market when introduced in February 1973. It's smooth sporting lines signalled superb performance under the skin, and it was on this base that the sporting version, the 1600 GSR, was based, combining the Lancer's inherent qualities of strength and high performance with the experience gained through seven years of successful competition with the Colt and Galant. Fondly remembered as the "A73 Lancer", the Lancer 1600 GSR was an immediate success in rallying, taking a remarkable 1-2-3-4 victory in the 8th Southern Cross Rally in October that year. And the victor? One Andrew Cowan, a man who would be part of the Lancer success story for many years to come. But it was during the following year that the Lancer really made its mark on the world stage. While events such as the Southern Cross had a world-wide reputation, a manufacturer couldn't truly claim rally superiority until it had won a World Championship event. Mitsubishi chose the toughest of all, the Safari Rally, held in Kenya, Africa, in which to launch the Lancer onto the world scene. And what a glorious success it was!

Lancer 1600 GSR/1975 Safari Rally - Andrew Cowan

Few manufacturers have ever enjoyed such a remarkable feat as Mitsubishi did in 1974 when, on its world debut, the Lancer strode confidently to a maiden victory at the hands of Joginder Singh. It's remarkable to note that the 1600cc Lancer beat Bjorn Waldegaard's Porsche 911 which boasted 2600cc, proving that the light, compact reliable Lancer could beat all-comers. It was a momentous occasion, and one which started a love affair between Mitsubishi and this great classic event. The Safari Rally enjoys a reputation as an extremely tough event. It ranks as one of the most famous rallies in the world and, at the time of the Mitsubishi Lancer's memorable 1974 victory, the event was the biggest rally in the FIA World Rally Championship, stretching over five days and a gruelling 6,000 km. The Safari was, and is, regarded as a real "car-breaker", a term coined by rally followers for those events one is lucky to finish in one piece, never mind win. To contest such an event successfully, a driver needed a car that he could rely upon totally, even in the harshest conditions, and combine that resilience and reliability with speed and performance. Clearly, the Mitsubishi Lancer combined those rare qualities with great success. Singh gave the Lancer the most praise when he said: "To win the Safari Rally your machinery must have the best performance and superior handling, as well as strength, ease of maintenance and simple design. I believe I won this race because of the Lancer. This victory will remain a vivid memory throughout my life and the Lancer will surely become a lifelong friend. I was lucky to be able to drive such a reliable machine." Singh went on to repeat that success with a further win with the Lancer on the 1976 Safari Rally, heading a Mitsubishi 1-2-3 and beating the World Championship winning Lancia Stratos in the process. During this time the Lancer went on to dominate the Southern Cross Rally in Australia, which became the scene of yet another famous driver's debut, that of Kenjiro Shinozuka, Japan's first rallying superstar. Having already enjoyed success on domestic events in Japan,

1977 Safari Rally - Andrew Cowan

Shinozuka drove his first international event at the wheel of a Lancer on the Southern Cross, where Andrew Cowan was the acknowledged master and went on to win a further three of these great events in a row in the Lancer. By this time the Mitsubishi Lancer was developing a reputation for being invincible at home in Japan and abroad. Indeed, in Africa it had gained the sobriquet "The King of Cars." It seemed that everyone who drove a Lancer prospered from its superior performance, especially over rough and arduous rallies where it undoubtedly excelled. While Shinozuka's loss of concentration after losing his way on his first Southern Cross Rally resulted in retirement after leaving the road, his first world championshipexperience on the 24th Safari Rally gave cause for celebration when he won the Best Driver award for finishing sixth overall, joining such luminaries as Hannu Mikkola, Shekhar Mehta and Joginder Singh. By the time Andrew Cowan won the Southern Cross yet again in 1976, the Lancer had clocked up six wins overall and including Cowan's class victory on the 1975 Safari, a grand total of seven major international awards. Lancers also dominated the Bandama Rally in 1977, with Cowan and Singh beating the works Peugeot 504s, but with this event, the endurance era drew to a close.







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