Mitsubishi 500
Macau Grand Prix (1962)
Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) first competed in world motor sport more than 40 years ago when it entered the Mitsubishi 500 in the 1962 Macau Grand Prix. Since then, the Japanese manufacturer has focused its activities on rally and cross-country competition and has been dominant in the motor sport categories that have the most direct impact on its business and the motoring public.

Mitsubishi Motors won four world Drivers’ titles with Tommi Mäkinen (1996-1999) and claimed the world Manufacturers’ title in 1998 in the FIA World Rally Championship. In total, Mitsubishi won 34 world rallies between 1974 and 2002, making it the sixth most successful of the 20 manufacturers in the series since records began in 1973.

In the world Group N Production Car category, Mitsubishi’s record is unmatched; seven consecutive titles from 1995 to 2001 with the Lancer Evolution. And this says nothing about its success in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, where five titles have been won by Mitsubishi drivers. In 2004, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution drivers also had an impressive run in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, winning six of the seven rounds of the series.

The roll of honor in Cross-Country Rallies and the world-famous Dakar Rally is equally impressive. Mitsubishi Motors has won the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies on four occasions, three times consecutively (1998-2000), and again in 2003, and is one of the most successful manufacturers in the history of The Dakar with nine victories. In January 2005, it will be bidding for its fifth consecutive win with the Pajero / Montero Evolution.

Mitsubishi Lancer 1600 GSR
Southern Cross Rally (1973)
After contesting the Macau Grand Prix, Mitsubishi’s Colt 1100 Fastback entry into Australia’s Southern Cross Rally in 1967 marked its first entry into the world of international rallying. Its first international victory however was not until 1972, when Andrew Cowan won the same event in a Galant. Mitsubishi then chose the 1973 Southern Cross event to debut the Lancer 1600 GSR and it was a success from the beginning, winning the event three consecutive years (1973-1975), again in the hands of Cowan. Mitsubishi’s first outing in the Safari Rally in 1974 also reaped rewards and the Lancer took victory with Kenyan Joginder Singh. The team also took a clean-sweep of the Safari Rally leaderboard in 1976, Singh, Robin Ulyate and Andrew Cowan claiming an impressive one-two-three for Mitsubishi.

Like many manufacturers, Mitsubishi’s motor sport programme was severely cut during the world oil crisis, but it returned to the World Rally Championship in 1981 with the new Lancer EX2000 Turbo, a model that competed successfully for three years. In 1983 however, it was replaced by the Starion Turbo model and then by the Galant VR-4, which went on to win three Asia-Pacific titles in the hands of Kenjiro Shinozuka (1988) and Ross Dunkerton (1991 and 1992).

In 1983 Andrew Cowan, a leading driver with the team, established Ralliart Europe as the European competition base for Mitsubishi Motors, while in Australia Doug Stewart - Cowan’s team-mate in 1975 and 1976 - set-up Ralliart in Australia. Both men were involved in Mitsubishi’s future successes in the World and Asia-Pacific Rally Championships. 1993 saw the revival of the Lancer Evolution for the first time in ten years, marking the start of a celebrated career in world rallying for the car. The Evolution III claimed both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in 1995 and also went on to win the opening round of the 1996 World Rally Championship in Sweden. In the hands of Finland’s Tommi Mäkinen and Britain’s Richard Burns, the car won five other events in 1996, including the Safari Rally in Kenya and events in Argentina, New Zealand, Finland and Australia. Mäkinen claimed the title that year, marking the start of his four-year domination of the series with Lancer Evolutions.

In 1997 FIA regulations changed and World Rally Cars were introduced, however Mitsubishi elected to stay with its Group A machinery. Tommi Mäkinen remained quick, the Finn taking victories in four events (Portugal, Spain, Argentina and Finland) to claim his second World title.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V
Rally Finland (1998)
More changes took place in 1998, the introduction of split-second timing confirming the level of competition in the FIA World Rally Championship. The new Lancer Evolution V made its debut competitive outing in Rallye Catalunya in April and was on the podium immediately, with Mäkinen third and Burns finishing fourth. Visually the car was wider, taking advantage of the new maximum width allowed under world rally car regulations, and had an improved aerodynamic package. A more powerful electronic management capability and changes to the suspension all improved the car’s asphalt performance. Mäkinen’s five victories secured his third title, and two wins by Richard Burns settled the Manufacturers’ Championship in Mitsubishi’s favour for the first time.

The team secured its fifth consecutive World Rally win in Monte-Carlo in January 1999 and added to the record by winning the next event in Sweden too with the revised Lancer Evolution VI, a variant on the previous model and classed, for the first time by the FIA, as a World Rally Car. In total, Mitsubishi drivers Mäkinen and Burns won seven of the season’s 14 events ensuring Mäkinen claimed a record-breaking fourth world title, while Burns finished just seven points behind in second position.

The development of the original World Rally Car, known by many as the ’Evo 6.5’ continued in 2000, gradually lightened in the early part of the season until the new car was launched in Finland. After victory in Monte Carlo, the season got tougher for the team, yet 2001 started well when the FIA agreed to modification of the Evolution VI’s rear bodywork and flywheel. The car won Rallye Monte Carlo in its debut outing. The team continued with this evolution until Rallye Sanremo, when Mitsubishi launched its first true World Rally Car. Mäkinen claimed four victories throughout the year, but competition was tough and former team-mate Richard Burns won the Drivers’ title in his new Subaru. The Finn and Mitsubishi finished third in the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships, temporarily ending the Japanese company’s years of domination.

2002 proved to be a difficult year for Mitsubishi and ultimately led to its withdrawal from the 2003 World Rally Championship. A year of re-structuring followed, including the formation of Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports (MMSP), a new organization responsible for global motor sport operations and strategy. Based in Trebur, near Frankfurt, MMSP is responsible for the design, development and running of both the World Rally Championship and World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies programmes, with the operational teams based in Rugby, England, and Pont de Vaux, central France, respectively.

2004 proved to be another challenging year in the FIA World Rally Championship, and ultimately led to the team withdrawing after Rallye Deutschland in August. Months of intense test and development work followed with the Lancer WRC04 and when the team entered Gilles Panizzi, “Dani” Solą and “Gigi” Galli in the Rally Catalunya-Rally de EspaĖa, it was rewarded with sixth and seventh positions respectively with Solą and Galli.

The 2005 season kicks off with the awesome Dakar Rally, which starts in Barcelona on January 1st. Mitsubishi Motors will be bidding for a tenth victory and fifth consecutive win with a strong five-car team. Its return to the FIA World Rally Championship starts the same month in Monte-Carlo and the team is firmly focused on securing podium positions during its 2005 WRC campaign.