The Mitsubishi Lancer World Rally Car has undergone months of intense development work and the teams latest challenger for the FIA World Rally Championship - the Lancer WRC05 - will break cover at the 2005 Rallye Monte-Carlo, Januarys season-opening event.
The FIA World Rally Championship regulations have changed in a number of areas for 2005 and the Mitsubishi Motor Sports team has seized this chance to further enhance key areas of the Lancer WRC05. One of the most notable changes permits manufactures to increase the width of the car body shell by 30mm, from 1770 mm to 1800 mm. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the Lancer WRC05 now has re-designed front and rear wings, rear quarters and bumpers, making subtle visual changes but aiding stability.
In tandem with this, longer suspension links and drive-shafts are required and uprights have been modified to optimize the suspension geometry. In short, there has been a complete review of the suspension and, while the Tarmac-specification dampers used in the 2004 Rallye Catalunya-Rally de España were designed to comply with the new wider body shell of the WRC05, specific changes have been made to adapt the uprights and dampers to the new geometry on the gravel specification Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05. While retaining a light-weight form, these will improve stiffness and be used from Rally México onwards. Further modifications to the internal components are also then planned, affording greater freedom and finer tuning.
Improvements to the engine include new waste gate and anti-lag valves, both of which will be run from Rallye Monte-Carlo. These parts, working with an improved engine control, will give a significant performance improvement and more accurate tuning possibilities.
"In particular, this means we can get much closer to the limits acceptable to the engine in all conditions", commented the teams Technical Director, Mario Fornaris. "The final fine-tuning can now be on the absolute limit".
Improvements to the turbo-charger have also been investigated, although assessment of the increase in efficiency is still on-going and will be included in the WRC homologation in December if proved to be effective.
The Lancer WRC05s automatic clutch and gearshift have already proved successful during testing and this system will see paddles adopted on the steering wheel for changing gear, an active gearshift system that negates the need to use the clutch.
Development work is on-going with the center differential and although the aim is to have this ready for Monte-Carlo, the most likely date for the new component is Rally México, in March. Active front and rear differential prototypes have yet to undergo testing and, according to development results in the first quarter of the year, may or may not be implemented into the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05, especially as this active system will be banned in 2006.
In 2004, it was ascertained that gear ratios needed to be improved and longer ratios will be adopted for first, third and fourth gears, anticipated from Rally New Zealand onwards.
"Our target is to finish all the development work for the Lancer WRC05 within the first six months of the season", stated Fornaris. "Then we can really focus on results, podium finishes and our championship aspirations for 2006".
One of the other most significant changes to the Mitsubishi Lancer World Rally Car will be that it will run on Pirelli tires for the first time.
"We have started testing with Pirelli and are very impressed with their professional approach and the facilities it is putting at our disposal", added Mario Fornaris. "We are in the process of learning the tire range and adapting the Lancer WRC05 to optimize their performance, but from the first results I believe there is big potential with our new partner. We will take advantage of Pirellis strong points and, in the spirit of our technical partnership, will help Pirelli to improve its tires feeding them with our car data. Working together on the tire development is very important for us".