As we saw in a previous post, 1998 was the most successful season in the history of Mitsubishi and Ralliart Team in rallying. In addition to drivers and manufacturer’s title, they had won all races since August 1998 in a row, in such specific rallies as Finland, Sanremo, Australia and Great Britain. And all with a group A car, without the design possibilities allowed to WRC cars, although with more freedom to introduce extensive modifications during the season.
And things could have gone worse the next year, as FIA modified WRC regulations for season 99, in the sense that the size of the aerodynamic devices had to be reduced. This forced Mitsubishi to redesign the car, and although the car base was maintained, the new car was renamed as Evo VI. Mitsubishi engineers were able enough to turn such reduction into an advantage, as new design performed even better than before.
Lancer Evo VI
The front spoiler redesign allowed to increase airflow entering into the engine bay to cool down the engine and brakes. To do that, integrated fog lamps were moved towards the sides of the bumper, and car plate was minimized. Also, the fog lamps were protected with a hemispherical cover, which allowed a smoother airflow around them, leading to drag reduction. The car was homologated in January 1999 with a front bumper total opening area of 2129 cm², according to Homologation Form (extension 12/08 VO).
T.Mäkinen/R.Mannisenmäki, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI, Rally Catalunya 1999, 3rd – picture by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation
While NACA duct on the right side of the bonnet and side skirts were not modified, the biggest change took place at the car rear, with a new, redesigned rear wing.
The wicker was separated from the top of the boot lid and repositioned as a second wing….but complaints from the other WRC teams forced Mitsubishi to block the space below with carbon fiber inserts. Even so, the new design resulted in even higher stability at high speed and contributing to a drag coefficient of 0,30, the same as for Evo IV. Upper wing still could be adjusted at four different angles of incidence (0, 6, 12 and 18 degrees), as in Evo V.
T.Mäkinen/R.Mannisenmäki, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI, Rally of Great Britain 1999, ret. – picture from eWRC-results.com
As in previous seasons, part of the success of the team was built during the test season. The combination of Tommi Mäkinen and Lasse Lampi driving and car setup fine-tuning abilities with the knowledge of Ohlins dampers engineer Pekka Siltanen and the support of some Japanese engineers (with Iwao Kimata in charge of the relationship with the European team), all under the supervision of Bernard Lindauer, Ralliart Technical Manager, allowed the team to make the difference with respect to the rest of the WRC cars. Also the newcomer Freddie Loix developed two series of tests in December 98, in France and Lapland, to get used to the new car.
T.Mäkinen/R.Mannisenmäki, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI, Rallye Monte Carlo 1999, 1st – picture by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation
The car debut at the Rallye Monte Carlo 1999 could not have been better, as Mäkinen obtained, at last, his first win in the principality of Monaco and repeated in Sweden, to confirm he was once again the first contender for the title.
M.Grönholm/T.Rautianen, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI, Rally Portugal 1999, ret. – picture by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation
Different problems with the car prevented the car from winning again until a new suspension was introduced in Portugal, where Marcus Grönholm replaced an injured Loix.
T.Mäkinen/R.Mannisenmäki, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI, Rally of New Zealand 1999, 1st – picture by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation
Once new suspension started to work adequately, Mäkinen was able to win in New Zealand, which repositioned him into a leading role in the Championship.
F.Loix/S.Smeets, Mitsubishi Carisma GT, Rally Sanremo 1999, 4th – picture by Petr Fitz from eWRC-results.com
The introduction of an active differential contributed to another win in Sanremo for the Finn driver, and, in spite of strong opposition from Subaru’s Richard Burns in the last two rallies of the season, Mäkinen’s third position in Australia ensured his fourth consecutive drivers’ title.
T.Mäkinen/R.Mannisenmäki, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI, Rally Australia 1999, 3rd – picture by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation
The 2000 season started the same for Mitsubishi, with Mäkinen obtaining his second win in Monte Carlo. But Sweden showed the new trend of the Championship, with the brand new Peugeot 206 WRC giving his first victory to Marcus Grönholm, ahead of Mäkinen.
T.Mäkinen/R.Mannisenmäki, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI, Rallye Monte Carlo 2000, 1st – picture from eWRC-results.com
The results did not improve for the Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart Team, and after a series of retirements for both cars, the decision was taken to align since Rally Finland 2000 a redesigned car, based on the Lancer Evolution VI Tommi Mäkinen special edition (also known as Evo VI½ or TME), launched by Mitsubishi to commemorate the four titles of the Finnish driver.
Lancer Evo TME
T.Mäkinen/R.Mannisenmäki, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo TME, Rally Catalunya 2001, 3rd
The main difference of the Evo TME versus the Evo VI was a redesigned, less aggressive front bumper, but with a more prominent front splitter (in white), designed to generate higher downforce by reducing the amount of air entering below the car. New front bumper included even bigger air inlets (2408 cm², that is, a 13% increase over Evo VI), as well as a new air outlet on the left side (51 cm²). Design of the outlet included vanes, in order to minimize the impact of exiting airflow with the dominant, external flow: the smaller the interaction, the smaller the drag generated.
F.Loix/S.Smeets, Mitsubishi Carisma GT Evo TME, Rally of Cyprus 2000, 8th – picture from eWRC-results.com
Also, the airflow ducts were redesigned, which improved aerodynamics and engine cooling. The fog lamps were removed and blinded, while the overall weight of the car was reduced by 25-30 kg. No changes were done in the rear of the car, which was homologated in April 2000 (see Homologation Form) as Variant options (VO).
T.Mäkinen/R.Mannisenmäki, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI TME, Rally Finland 2000, 4th – picture by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation
After an extensive test program of three months, including a full eight days test in Finland previous to the rally, the first appearance of the revamped Evo only allowed Mäkinen to be fourth at his home rally, due to suspension misadjustments. Things slowly improved in the next events, but it was not until Sanremo Rally when Mäkinen gave the team his first podium with the new car by finishing third.
T.Mäkinen/R.Mannisenmäki, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI TME, Rally Australia 2000, DQ – picture by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation
He then recovered his fighting spirit in Australia, when he managed to return over leader Grönholm in the last leg and finished first on the road….to be disqualified hours later due to a turbo not in conformity to homologation. Mäkinen finished then third in the Rally of Great Britain, to close the season with just one victory and three more podium positions. He was fifth in the Championship, after a series of four years of success.
T.Mäkinen/R.Mannisenmäki, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI TME, Rally Montecarlo 2001, 1st – picture by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation
For 2001, FIA forced all teams to compete under the WRC category, while Mitsubishi was allowed to keep aligning the Evo VI½ with the only condition that a WRC model would be launched during the season. The only modification allowed was an increase of 25mm of rear suspension travel, in order to allow similar values of the WRC cars, with no impact on the external appearance of the car. Development of the modifications, as well as of the new WRC car, was carried out in Rugby by Olivier Maroselli, Roger Estrada and Phil Roach, under the supervision of Technical Manager Bernard Lindauer.
T.Mäkinen/R.Mannisenmäki, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI TME, Rally Portugal 2001, 1st – picture by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation
In spite of still driving a group A car, things started very well for Mitsubishi, as Mäkinen got his third consecutive win in Monte Carlo, while Thomas Rådström was second in Sweden. Mäkinen won also in Portugal, under heavy rain, and after a thrilling battle with Carlos Sainz (Ford Focus). Both drivers were separated just by 0.3 seconds before the last stage, Ponte de Lima, where Mäkinen gave all to win by a narrow margin of 8 seconds.
T.Mäkinen/R.Mannisenmäki, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI TME, Rally Safari 2001, 1st – picture by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation
With an old car and the team concentrated on the development of the new car, Mäkinen still obtained a third position in the asphalt of Rally Catalunya, and very unexpectedly, he won the Rally Safari, in what it was going to be his last victory for Mitsubishi, and more importantly, the last of the Japanese company to date, even though they kept taking part in the Championship for some more years, until 2005. But this is another story…we will cover in a future post.
You can find Ralliart models Homologation Forms here.
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