ProRally: Ojibwe Forests: Team Mitsubishi preview

Team Mitsubishi poised to capture National SCCA ProRally title. CYPRESS, Calif., Aug. 13 -- Rhys Millen, the pilot of Team Mitsubishi's Open Class Lancer Evolution VII and owner of Rhys Millen Racing, is brimming with confidence. The Ojibwe ...

Team Mitsubishi poised to capture National SCCA ProRally title.

CYPRESS, Calif., Aug. 13 -- Rhys Millen, the pilot of Team Mitsubishi's Open Class Lancer Evolution VII and owner of Rhys Millen Racing, is brimming with confidence. The Ojibwe Forests Rally looks to be the "coming-out party" for the full-race version of Mitsubishi's heralded street car that the performance import car crowd will be getting their hands on early in 2003.

"I am really happy with the car. It's powerful and perfectly balanced. The development problems we encountered early in the season were finally worked out at last month's Maine Forest Rally," says Millen, "The Evo VII was running superbly. No problems at all. A bit of driver error that resulted in a flat tire at an inopportune time [the beginning of a 17-mile-long stage] is the only thing that kept us from a strong podium finish."

Team Mitsubishi's all-wheel-drive Evo VII has all the ingredients to make a top finish a real possibility.

Its turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-liter, DOHC 4-cylinder engine, incorporating a custom RalliArt engine control module, creates 375 horsepower at 18 psi of boost and 6,000rpm. That tremendous power is transferred through a close-ratio manual five-speed and RalliArt carbon triple-plate clutch to an active center differential that modulates the power to all four wheels. RalliArt limited-slips in both front and rear differentials further maximize traction at all four corners.

Millen has another advantage over many of his Open Class rivals -- the ability to instantly adjust the ratio of the power transfer, changing the bias from front to rear as the road conditions dictate. Like the street version coming in early 2003, state-of-the-art computer technology, engine power, suspension and braking performance provide all the tools for a winning edge.

Weighing in at 2900 pounds, the Lancer Evolution VII can accelerate from 0-60mph in four seconds, making it one of the quickest vehicles of its kind in the world. Large, AP ventilated disc brakes help the car stop quickly while multi-adjustable Intrax's ProFlex Jumbo coilovers help to maintain control in the treacherous rally terrain such as that the driver's will experience running the Minnesota forest roads.

(Lancer Evolutions are known as the global yardstick by which rally cars are developed and have helped Mitsubishi Motors achieve race victories at World Rally Championships in remote areas around of the world, with four World Rally Driver Championships since 1995.)

Millen is not alone in the pre-race confidence department at Team Mitsubishi. Lauchlin O'Sullivan, who joined Team Mitsubishi shortly after last year's Maine rally, is poised to capture the coveted open-class Group 2 SCCA Pro Rally national title if he and navigator Matt Chester secure a win at Ojibwe this weekend. His car is the best it's been all year and a win in the Minnesota forests would give Mitsubishi Motors of America a national title in the team's first year on the SCCA ProRally circuit.

In past races, O'Sullivan has driven the Lancer O-Z brilliantly despite it being at a significant horsepower disadvantage compared to the majority of other Group 2 competitors -- some with cars that are making more than 150 horsepower more than the O-Z's 140hp. Gearing has also been a challenge for O'Sullivan.

The O-Z's differential used a stock 4.0:1 axle ratio, which often times left the San Francisco, California, ProRally driver pushing the 2.0L SOHC Mitsubishi powerplant to the rev limiter in 1st gear coming out of tight corners or climbing long grades. Not this race. Team Mitsubishi/RMR manager Blair Stopnik says they needed a lower gear set, but were unable to find one until recently. They now have it in the car.

The custom-fabricated 4.80:1 gear set will give O'Sullivan the equivalent of a close-ratio five-speed so "he can make full use of the engine's powerband during the Ojibwe Forests Rally." That's a luxury O'Sullivan has not had in past races and it'd cost him time on many of the special stages with slower turns.

"It'll be like driving a new car," says O'Sullivan when asked about the gearing change. "This course is really sandy and rough in some of the tighter corners, and they would have been trouble for us with the old setup. But now with the new gears I hope to be able to set fast time in our class for every stage."

A string of wins this season gives O'Sullivan a commanding points lead in the Woodner Cup coming into this, the 8th of a 10-race series. If O'Sullivan and Chester win at Ojibwe in their RMR-prepped 2002 Lancer O-Z Rally Edition and Eric Burmeister, their closest competitor in the national points race, finishes third or lower, the Woodner Cup, for both driver and co-driver, belongs to Team Mitsubishi.

After Bemidji the ProRally tour heads back to the Pacific Northwest and Olympia, Washington (Wild West, Sept. 7-8) and then on to the final SCCA ProRally event in Houghton, Michigan (Lake Superior, Oct. 18-19.)

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About this article
Series SCCA
Drivers Rhys Millen , Eric Burmeister