Lancer Evolution / 1993 Monte Carlo Rally - Kenneth Eriksson
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III is now regarded as the best rally car in the World. From its launch on the Monte Carlo Rally in 1993 to its victories in the FIA Asia-Pacific and World Rally Championships in 1995, the Lancer Evolution has set the rally scene alight with its dazzling performances after its early development stages.
The Lancer combined all the technologies developed during the earlier Galant, Starion and Lancer EX 2000. The bodyshell was more compact then that of the Galant, with better aerodynamics and a high rear wing for better road-holding. This combined with the most advanced turbocharged engine and a highly effective four-wheel drive system, combined to form a winning car. The suspension was improved with a rear "multi-trailing-link" system. From the start, the first Lancer Evolution proved competitive in the capable hands of Kenneth Eriksson and Armin Schwarz. Over the hazardous, changeable conditions of the 61st Monte Carlo Rally where drivers can experience ice, snow, wet tarmac and dry all on the same stage, the Lancer Evolutions stormed to the front and finished fourth and sixth for Eriksson and Schwarz respectively on their very first event with the new car! Although the Lancer Evolution naturally suffered from early teething problems, as with all new cars at the top level of competition, Eriksson was able to score a superb fifth on the following event, the 26th Rally of Portugal. Schwarz retired when a problem caused him to crash head-on into a wall, but the potential of the Lancer Evolution had been clearly demonstrated to the World. Schwarz went on to confirm that potential on the tough Acropolis Rally, widely regarded as having the roughest "sprint-style" stages in the world which must be tackled under the heat of the strong Mediterranean sun,with the Lancer Evolution's first podium position - third overall. Over in Asia, Shinozuka was also proving the capabilities of the Lancer Evolution with a series of fine results on the Indonesian and Malaysian rallies in the Lancer of the Mitsubishi Lancer Dealer Team (second and third), while in Group N, the Lancer Evolution easily took over the mantle of "best Group N car in the World" from its predecessor the Galant VR-4 with a string of World Championship and National Championship victories in countries from Scandinavia to Australia. In Finland that year, for example, Lancers Evolutions filled the top three places in the category on the 43rd 1000 Lakes Rally and first through to third again at the other side of the world on the 6th Rally Australia. Back at the top in Group A, Eriksson came a hair's breadth of winning the 49th RAC Rally of Great Britain in 1993 with a fine second overall in the Lancer Evolution, scoring several fastest stage times after suffering time delays with punctures. In 1994, the Lancer Evolution's development gathered momentum, and between them, Eriksson and Schwarz managed a total of 10 fastest stage times on the 62nd Monte Carlo Rally to finish fifth and seventh respectively. Shinozuka, meanwhile, put in a stunning performance on the Safari Rally later that year to score the best result to date for a Japanese driver with a superb second overall after a total of 23 competitive sections in 2,393 km of the toughest African rally terrain.
-Lancer Evolution II-
The first of the modern Lancers was replaced by the Lancer Evolution II in May that year, in time for the 41st Acropolis Rally. The car immediately generated excitement with its dynamic looks, courtesy of a deep front airdam and rear wings. Indeed, the car performed as spectacularly as it looked as Schwarz romped home to second overall.
Further improvements were made with the launch of the Evolution II, including revised suspension with a slightly wider track, the use of Showa dampers, improved turbocharging, and during the later stages of development, increased compression ratios which gave even more power. Eriksson, who unfortunately retired with suspension problems in Greece went on to win the first round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in Indonesia, with Shinozuka playing the perfect supporting role to arrive home on Medan, the capital of Sumatra in third place. It was clear at this point that the Lancer was destined to be a winner. Team Mitsubishi Ralliart continued to use the Lancer Evolution II on the opening rounds of the 1995 World Rally Championship, providing two cars for the new signings, Finn Tommi Makinen and Italian Andrea Aghini. Makinen proved astonishingly quick on his first outing for Mitsubishi and battled through until the first night the top three, until eventually slipping back to fourth at the finish. Aghini, a tarmac expert, was more cautious because of the greater amounts of ice and snow than he had at first expected and finished sixth. On the following round, however, Mitsubishi demonstrated the form that was to continue for the rest of the season when Kenneth Eriksson and Tommi Makinen stormed home to score a magnificent 1-2 victory over the ice and snow of the 44th Swedish Rally. It was a tremendous result and a fitting finale for the outgoing Lancer Evolution II, and it marked the start of a year of outright dominance of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution across the globe.
-Lancer Evolution III-
After two years of development and preparation, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution moved smoothly through its stages from inception to Evolution III which was finally debuted in 1995 on the Safari Rally, appropriately enough by Shinozuka. On that event he again finished second after a tough battle with Yoshio Fujimoto; he so nearly won but for a delay on the third day. The Lancer Evolution III featured more than just cosmetic changes. By this time, the introduction of a specially developed "Post Combustion Control System (PCC)" had improved throttle response, and an "Active Control 4WD System" was developed to give the Lancer optimum traction at all time across a wide variety of constantly changing track surfaces. The Lancer Evolution III first appeared in Europe on the Rally of Corsica, an event held in pleasant, warm conditions, usually on very dry, twisty tarmac that causes more intense stress of car chassis than any other event. The new Evolution III had a bigger airdam and rear wing, and side sills giving it a very aggressive stance as well as improving its already excellent aerodynamics. The PCC system was introduced to improve throttle response. The 1995 Rally of Corsica was the fastest on record as perfect conditions allowed all the top cars to make maximum use of the power and handling of their cars. Aghini, the tarmac expert, was again drafted in, and promptly rewarded the team with a third overall after a fraught battle with the top cars at high speed. Makinen, driving the second Lancer Evolution III, finished eighth, both drivers slowly becoming accustomed to the new car. Meanwhile, Portuguese Rally driver Rui Madeira, the third nominated driver on many events, in his Ralliart Germany Group N Lancer Evolution II. While Eriksson and Makinen launched their attack along with Shinozuka in Asia during the summer, the Lancer Evolution III was able to double its efforts since two rounds of the World Rally Championship shared with the Asian series - New Zealand and Australia. Eriksson's victory in Australia set the scene for a grand finale and historic victories in Asia on both the Hong Kong - Beijing Rally, where Eriksson won again and picked up the Driver's crown in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, and the Rally of Thailand, where Makinen won to secure the Manufacturers' award for Mitsubishi. 1995 was the year that all Mitsubishi's hard work for almost three decades had finally come to fruitation with the Lancer Evolution III. The Lancer has quite literally evolved over the last few years, gradually "growing" into a machine that is capable of dominating rallying the world over. The technology developed through motor sport; and the lessons learned, are passed through Mitsubishi's engineering department to eventually be adapted and incorporated in the Mitsubishi vehicles available in car showrooms across the globe.
-Lancer Evolution IV-
The 1996 season brought tremendous success for Mitsubishi and its ace driver, Tommi Makinen and co-driver Seppo Hajanne. The Lancer Evolution III never let them down as they powered their way to glory, winning 5 out of 9 rounds of the 1996 World Rally Championship. The 1997 brought a completely different challenge to Mitsubishi and the Finnish pair as the regulations were changed and the FIA introduced the concept of the World Rally Car. While Subaru and Ford developed their new rally machines, Mitsubishi stayed true to its creed that rallying is an ideal proving ground for its road cars, Mitsubishi opted to retain its production-based Group A car, yet its new Lancer Evolution IV is the most exciting and radical of the 1997 contenders - and its rivals are by no means sure that they will be able to keep up with a machine that promises to outperform the ultra-successful Lancer Evolution III that established Tommi Makinen as the 1996 World Rally Champion. In preparation for this round, the Lancer Evolution IV was thoroughly tested in the south of France and in Lapland (Finland), as well as in Japan, and the drivers were as delighted as the engineers with the results on the first round of the 1997 season.
Mitsubishi Ralliart driver Tommi Makinen took a splendid third place on the Monte Carlo Rally, the first round of the 1997 World Rally Championship, where his new Lancer Evolution IV debuted. It was the perfect setting for Makinen and Mitsubishi: vast crowds flock to the most famous rally in the world from all over Europe, run through the snowcapped French Alps, hordes of enthusiastic local spectators, well used to international rallies on the superb mountain roads of southern France. After the third leg of the event, Makinen took control to lead the rally ahead of his main rivals Ford and Subaru. He would have kept the pace if not for an unlucky spin on SS15 where he sustained minor damage and lost 2 minutes. The Mitsubishi Ralliart mechanics quickly repaired the damage and Makinen was able to secure a well-deserved third place on the podium.
The Ralliart Germany team of Uwe Nittel and Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner were not to be left behind, bringing their Lancer Evolution III to the finish in the top five. Although the Lancer Evolution III is no longer the latest car, the team's reputation and Uwe Nittel's impressive performance in the Group N category in the 1996 World Rally Championship prompted Mitsubishi to move him up to Group A for the 1997 season. Nittel adapted steadily on his first rally in a Group A car, enthusing at his Lancer Evolution III's performance and reliability.