1967 – 1977 Participation in the Southern Cross Rally and the World Rally Championship
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' rally activities in Japan began in 1965 and two years later, in 1967, MITSUBISHI MOTORS took to the international rallying stage. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries contemplated exporting their COLT 800, which was launched in November 1965, to Australia. In order to confirm its reliability and durability, they decided to conduct a test session in 1966 in Australia. Doug Stewart, who was asked to coordinate the tests, suggested that they should participate in the Southern Cross International Rally. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' Automotive Division considered his advice and came to the conclusion that the rally participation would be an effective way to promote the sales of their passenger cars and to raise their brand awareness. Therefore, they decided to take part in the Southern Cross Rally in October 1967 with their COLT 1000F. The two COLT 1000Fs pitted themselves against vehicles with larger displacement engines using high reliability and durability as their main asset. Colin Bond finished fourth overall, winning the small engine capacity class, while Stewart finished third in that class. The foundations for what is referred to as " MITSUBISHI MOTORS in rallying" were laid at that time.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries continued to compete at the Southern Cross Rally, with the COLT 1100F in 1968 then the COLT 1500SS and the COLT 11F SS in 1969. In April 1970, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' Automotive Division became MITSUBISHI MOTORS CORPORATION (hereinafter MITSUBISHI MOTORS). The company introduced a series of new vehicles such as the GALANT AII in 1971, thus accumulating know-how. In 1972, when Andrew Cowan, who was later to lead RALLIART EUROPE, was brought in as their top driver, two GALANT 16L GSs and two GALANT GTO 17Xs were entered. In spite of being plagued by clutch and brake problems, Cowan's GALANT 16L GS beat its rival Nissan Fairlady 240Z by 24 minutes and gave MITSUBISHI MOTORS their first overall victory.
In 1973, the year the World Rally Championship (WRC) was created, the GALANT 16L GS became the first MITSUBISHI MOTORS vehicle to participate in the WRC. This happened at the Safari Rally, where the driver was Joginder Singh, who was competing as a privateer. At the Southern Cross Rally in October, MITSUBISHI MOTORS fielded five LANCER 1600GSRs, a high-performance car that can be said to be the culmination of their rally activities. With Cowan leading the way, they managed to achieve a 1-2-3-4 finish. MITSUBISHI MOTORS had officially decided to send LANCER 1600GSR rally cars to the Safari Rally in April 1974, but the first oil crisis forced the team to rethink their plan from scratch. However, Singh did not give up. He bought a 4-door LANCER 1600GSR, which was set to be exported to East Africa, with his own money. In return for his enthusiasm, MITSUBISHI MOTORS sent rally spare parts to Kenya to support Singh's participation. Singh's first Safari Rally with the LANCER 1600GSR earned MITSUBISHI MOTORS their first WRC victory.
The LANCER 1600GSR continued to progress until the end of its sporting career in 1977, winning the Southern Cross Rally three times (74-76) and achieving a 1-2-3 finish in the 1976 Safari Rally. In December 1977, Cowan and Singh finished first and second in the Bandama Rally in Ivory Coast. This was the last rally of the LANCER 1600GSR as a works car, its career thus drawing to a close in style.