Mitsubishi Motors today confirms that is has registered a two-car entry for the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship and the team will contest all 16 rounds of the series with the latest specification Mitsubishi World Rally Car, the Lancer WRC05. Mitsubishi Motors is therefore fulfilling the commitment it gave in 2003 to come back to the FIA World Rally Championship and participate in a three year program until 2006.
"In October 2003 we announced our teams three-year turn-around program, namely that in 2004 we would come back to the series with the Lancer and then target podium positions in 2005. For 2006, our aim is to claim the world title again; I feel those objectives are on track", said Isao Torii, President of Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports.
Strong driver line-up to challenge the 16-round World Championship in 2005
For 2005, the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports driver line-up includes Finlands Harri Rovanperä, Frenchman Gilles Panizzi - who has been instrumental in the development of the Lancer World Rally Car this year - and Italys "Gigi" Galli.
Thirty-eight-year-old Rovanperä will contest all 16 rounds of the championship, the Finn providing the team with valuable knowledge of all events in the series; in particular the gravel rounds the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports team missed during the 2004 season.
"The championship is more and more dominated by gravel rallies and we need a driver who knows all these events very well", said Isao Torii. "Harri Rovanperä is a good loose surface driver, especially on the high-speed events. We feel fortunate that he is joining the team and expect some good performances. He drives consistently and finishes rallies; we will be very reliant on him."
Team-mate Gilles Panizzi, whose dedication to test and development work this year has been invaluable to the team, will compete in selected rounds of the series, notably the sealed-surface events where Mitsubishi has high expectations of the Frenchman being a potential winner.
"Gilles has been incredibly supportive of the team and has contributed enormous amounts to our development program", added Torii. "We did not give him the car to challenge, but next year we have big expectations and see him as a potential winner on Tarmac, especially in the second half of the season."
Gigi Gallis commitment impressed the team from the outset and the Italians fine sixth overall in Mitsubishis Group N machinery in Sardinia, and seventh in Spain in the Lancer WRC04, has secured him a place as the teams third driver. He will share the second Lancer WRC05 with Panizzi, although a third car may be entered on some European events.
"Gigi has made very good progress and although it was very difficult to compare the results of our three young drivers this year, his performances in Sardinia and Spain are what made us decide to retain him in 2005", Torii concluded.
New Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 development in progress
"We have concentrated very seriously on development of the Lancer WRC since August this year and that strategy paid off in Spain, where the progress we made saw two cars finish in the top seven", said Isao Torii, President of Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports. "We still have more development work to do. An active differential system and modified semi-automatic gearshift will be the main targets in the development program and our primary focus for the first half of the season.
But we intend to get back on the podium in the second half of next year; Rally Japan, in particular, being our target."
The Mitsubishi Motors assault on the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship will kick-off in January with the famous Rallye Monte-Carlo (January 20-23), one of the most unpredictable and treacherous events in the series.