Finished third in the 1982 Rally of the 1000 Lakes with eleven special stage victories
A Works entrant in the 1981 and 1982 World Rally Championships
One of only three factory Mitsubishi Lancer 2000 Rally Turbos extant
A beautifully original car, with just four private owners since 1981
A forebear to the World Rally Championship-winning Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution models
What is it?
It’s a 1981 Mitsubishi Lancer 2000 Rally Turbo, the model with which Mitsubishi took rallying seriously for the first time. Built initially to Group IV specifications, the rear-wheel-drive saloon was prepared for competition by the Japanese marque’s specially formed motorsport equipe RalliArt.
It was powered by a turbocharged two-litre four-cylinder engine which, while powerful (280bhp), was characterised by its oodles of torque: 337 lbs-ft, to be precise, which was far more than many of the car’s period competitors. A then-newfangled electronic control unit – the very first to be employed in a rally car – ensured the engine’s ignition, injection and turbocharger boost systems worked in perfect harmony.
Though the advent of four-wheel-drive and the introduction of the essentially limitless Group B category ultimately thwarted the potential of the Lancer 2000 Rally Turbo, the car gave Mitsubishi the confidence to further explore and invest in rallying – primarily with the Lancer Evolution. The result? Four consecutive drivers’ titles between 1996 and 1999 and the all-important constructors’ championship in 1998.
Could you tell us about this Mitsubishi Lancer 2000 Rally Turbo’s early history?
One of just three examples prepared by the Works for competition, this Mitsubishi Lancer 2000 Rally Turbo – chassis number 1096 – was originally built for RalliArt in 1981 by Wolfgang Denzel Kraftfahrzeuge A.G. in Austria and registered with the number ‘ST 944 192’.
The car’s maiden competitive outing came in the Acropolis Rally in June of 1981, round six of the World Rally Championship. The Rally of 1000 Lakes followed for chassis 1096 in August where it finished third in class, though it wasn’t until the Finnish round the following year in 1982 when this Mitsubishi truly realised its potential.
At the event it was driven by the local driver pairing of Pentti Airikkala and Juha Piironen, the latter of whom would famously go on to read the notes for Juha Kankkunen during all four of his World Rally Championship title victories.
Facing the might of Audi Sport, the new four-wheel-drive Quattros and messrs Mikkola and Blomqvist, this Mitsubishi Lancer tackled the ‘yumps’ and ice-like gravel of the Finnish forests with aplomb, winning an impressive eleven special stages on the way to third overall.
The final competitive appearance for chassis 1096 came in October of 1982 and Rallye Sanremo, Anders Kulläng and Bruno Berglund finished a commendable seventh overall.
What happened to the car after its Works period competition career?
By no means were this Mitsubishi’s factory duties complete following its final rally in Sanremo. Not only did chassis 1096 serve as a tyre testing car and make promotional appearances in both Rally Sport Magazine and Mitsubishi’s international PR publication, but it was also used by Harri Toivonen, brother of Henri, as a recce car for the 1983 Rally of 1000 Lakes.
When Mitsubishi founded Team RalliArt in the United Kingdom, this Lancer was imported to England, assigned the registration ‘GJI 9826’ (the number it retains today) and comprehensively rebuilt by the Works outfit. In the years that followed, chassis 1096 passed through the hands of just three UK-based private owners. That is until April of 2022, when Girardo & Co. acquired the car.
In what condition is this Mitsubishi in today?
Beautifully original condition, thanks predominantly to the foresight, attention and care of its previous keepers. Satisfied with the provenance and condition of chassis 1096, we acquired the car and promptly sent it to the renowned rally car preparation specialist BGMsport for a thorough inspection and service. Works included the replacement of the engine timing belt, cam cover gasket, engine oil and filter, gearbox oil and differential oil. A new sump guard was also fabricated and fitted.
Which events can I enter with this Mitsubishi?
As a Works Mitsubishi Group IV entrant in the World Rally Championship, there is a raft of competitive and non-competitive events around the world for which this Lancer is extremely eligible, from the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Rally Legend to the Modena Cento Ore to the Eifel Rallye Festival.
Sell it to me in a sentence…
Not only is chassis 1096 an ex-Works Mitsubishi World Rally Championship entrant from arguably the most exciting and evocative periods of the sport and which scored a podium finish in one of the most challenging events on the calendar, it’s also a riot to drive – not dauntingly powerful, but with the torque to exhilarate and the balance to inspire confidence.
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