Reading Matters – Book Review: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
by Brian Long
Published by Veloce Publishing Ltd
£19.99 + P&P
To the real rally fan, three letters – EVO – spell dominant success in the world stage for Mitsubishi with various generations of its Lancer Evolution saloon model. If ever there was a rally giant car, well, the Lancer Evo deserves to be included in the Veloce ‘Rally Giants’ softback book series. This 128 page A5 collection, full of facts and figures, enhanced by a broad selection of colourful action shots, joins such luminaries from the Audi, Fiat, Lancia, Peugeot, Saab and Citroen stables. Expert author and Japan resident Brian Jones tells the tale of the inaugural Lancer road car, produced in 1991, that was transformed into a 4WD rally racing machine, that went head-to-head with prime examples of the aforementioned rivals.
Brian leads in with details of Mitsubishi in the World Rally Championship, heralding the ‘Ralliart’ team name badge in the early days with the Starion, early Lancers and Galant campaigned in the 1970s and ‘80s. In addition the Pajero competed in off road rally raids, which also led to a series of Dakar Rally wins.
But it was with the fourth generation Lancer that provided the platform for the rEvolution in the World Rally scene. During that era, road going versions of these rally cars had to be produced to meet regulations and demand for the Evos out-weighed supply. For example, all 5,000 units of the Evo II from early 1994 were sold within the Japanese market, so none were exported. As Brian stated, it wasn’t until a year later that the first World Rally Championship win was achieved by Kenneth Eriksson in Rally Sweden, followed by another victory in Australia that season, after many agonising attempts.
Finnish legend Tommi Makinen secure the brand’s first drivers’ title the following year with 5 wins and a second that season. Tommi retained his title the following year with 4 wins and 5 podiums. Type Evo 5, introduced in 1998, saw Makinen take the overall driver’s honours once again and helped Mitsubishi record a much warranted manufactures’ crown, with 6 victories, proving that both man and machine were on par and in harmony with each other. The ‘Flying Finn’ repeated the feat in 1999.
However, keeping ahead of the opposition on the various special stages surfaces was proving difficult, and newly developed versions, including the Evo VIII in 2000 and without a top line driver, the wins dried up and the consistent highs descended rapidly. Even with the final newly developed variant, the Evo IV, the glory days were over.
By the end of 2005, it was done and the works team disbanded. And so with 26 top class victories in the WRC, 4 drivers titles and a manufacturer’s crown plus number wins in the Group N Production series, the Lancer Evos certainly made their mark, in a highly entertaining way. Gone but not forgotten, thanks to the splendid record compiled by Brian and published by Veloce. Jarlath Sweeney