In 1981, due to their prior success in rallying with the Lancer 1600 GSR, Mitsubishi developed the Lancer EX 2000 Turbo specifically for Group 4 homologation. However, a year later when Group B was announced as a replacement, Mitsubishi knew that their Lancer, which was also suffering from teething troubles, would not be competitive in the new class. Seeing how the Audi quattro was very successful with its four wheel drive system, it was evident to Mitsubishi that their Group B car needed the same kind of drivetrain. When came the time to decide on which platform the new rally car would be based on, it was obvious to Mitsubishi that it should be on their newly introduced flagship model: the Starion. Mitsubishi gave the lead of the project to Andrew Cowan of RalliArt UK. The team included the very reputable Alan Wilkinson, whom had already helped develop the Audi quattro.
Although the base car was rear wheel drive, it was found to be fairly easy to adapt it to four wheel drive by adding an upgraded transfer case from a Mitsubishi Pajero behind the transmission. The configuration allowed for the engine to be mounted longitudinally in a front-midship location to improve weight bias. As it was the case with many other manufacturers’ new rally projects, RalliArt favored in using the engine of the previous rally car, in this case the Lancer EX 2000 Turbo’s unit, albeit the end goal was to use the “Sirius Dash” version of the now legendary 4G63 engine.
This powerplant was announced by Mitsubishi at the 1983 Tokyo Motor Show; it featured a special 3 valves per cylinder head that featured 2 intake valves, one is in constant operation, while the other is electronically controlled to come into operation only over 2500 rpm. It was said to provide good top end performance without having to sacrifice power at the lower end of the rev range. For the Starion “Evolution”, this engine was bored out to 2140 cc (from 1995 cc) to maximize the WRC x1.4 forced induction factor (resulting in 2996 cc) of the 2500~2999 cc engine class, and produced around 350 HP.
The bodywork was based on the widebody version of the production Starion. The most notable difference is the redesigned nose that used more reliable standard lights rather than the pop-up units. This allowed the nose to be shortened by 6 inches, which saved a bit of weight, and permitted a larger radiator grille. Further weight savings were done by using carbon fiber reinforced plastics for the propshafts, sumpguard, and lower control arms of the suspension. Most of the exterior body panels were made in fiberglass and plastic (Carbon & Kevlar on evolution models): bonnet, tailgate, door skins, wings, bumpers, and spoilers. The resulting weight of the rally car was said to be around 1050 kg (2,315 lbs).
An early prototype of the rally car was able to win the 1984 Rallye des Milles Pistes but the overall development of the car was far from finished. As it was often the case with such projects, it suffered from many delays, and seemingly second thoughts from the management as to the car’s doubtful competitiveness in the now ultra fast WRC scene. However, the car would have surely been very competitive at the national level, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. As such, work slowly continued with an expected homologation at the end of 1986 for an official participation in the November RAC rally. Sadly, as history would turn out, news of the cancellation of Group B & Group S for the end of the same year would ultimately terminate the Starion 4WD Rally project before its completion. Years later, Mitsubishi would revive the Starion Rally’s spirit with the now famous Lancer Evolution series.
P.S.: Note to mention that a Starion 4WD Rally is featured in the 2008 manga-derived movie “Special Stage” (Esu esu).
- (H) = Planned Homologation Version
- (E) = Planned Evolution (Rally) Version
|Production||1984~1986||# built: unknown|
|Type||4G63 “Sirius Dash”, I-4, SOHC 12v, gas||located front-midship longitudinal|
||WRC x 1.4 = (E) 2996 cc|
|Output power – torque||(E) 350 HP @ 7000 rpm||(E) 253 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm|
|Materials||block: N/A||cylinder head: N/A|
||boost: 14 psi (E)|
|Type||four wheel drive||Starion 5 speed manual|
|Front suspension||McPherson struts, carbon fiber control arms, anti-roll bar|
|Rear suspension||McPherson struts, carbon fiber control arms, anti-roll bar|
|Steering system||rack and pinion||N/A|
|length: 4258 mm (167.6 in)||width: 1745 mm (68.7 in)||height: 1320 mm (52.0 in)|
|wheelbase: 2435 mm (96.0 in)||front track: N/A||rear track: N/A|
|Rims – tires||N/A|
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(C) article by Jay Auger – website owner & author
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