FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP (WRC2) 2015: SUCCESSFUL COMPETITION DEBUT UNDERLINES NEW MITSUBISHI’S GRAVEL CREDENTIALS
FIA ERC/WRC2 A FULL 2015
Successful competition debut underlines new Mitsubishi’s gravel credentials.
30th March 2015
The test and development programme for the R5 specification Mitsubishi Mirage took a major step forward this weekend, when the car competed in the Rally North Wales. The rally was entered to provide a true picture of how the Mitsubishi would handle real rally conditions in UK forests. It also signified the car’s first ever competitive outing and its first public appearance on gravel.
The outcome of the on-event test surpassed the expectations of the Mpart team (the organisation behind the R5-specification Mitsubishi project), when the car achieved two second-fastest stage times and ended the rally in fifth place overall. Added to this, the Mitsubishi ran faultlessly from start to finish, continuing its impressive 100% reliability record ever since it first turned a wheel.
Following a successful test on asphalt last week, when the Mitsubishi ran as course-car for the Tank S Rally in Holland, the car was transported to the UK. Swedish driver Martin Berglund – who has driven most of the test mileage so far – and co-driver Sofie Lundmark then joined the rest of the team to carry out a programme of gravel testing in South Wales where, working closely with Öhlins, they came away extremely satisfied with the results.
For both Berglund and Lundmark, the Dolgellau-based event was the first either had contested in the UK, the added challenge of storms and torrential rain providing a further dynamic to their British debut. Although the going was extremely slippery, the first of the event’s six stages posed no problem to the car and crew and they recorded the second-fastest time over the eight-miles through Gartheineog Forest.
Again, the car ran well through the next two stages in Dyfi Forest, but a misted windscreen due to the exceptionally wet conditions meant that Berglund dropped time. He was also mindful that any problems caused by the lack of visibility might compromise the test.
The second half of the event featured a re-run through the morning’s three stages. Again, a second-fastest time was achieved through Gartheiniog Forest. With the rain now stopped, Berglund intended to increase his pace in the following two Dyfi stages, but the onset of fog meant that his visibility was little better the second time around.
Experiencing no mechanical issues whatsoever, finishing fifth overall and having set two second-fastest stage times, the team were extremely pleased with the result of the test, as team manager and chief engineer Tomas Weng explains:
“We are delighted with the performance of the car and amount of information we have gained by taking part in this event. The car comfortably set two second-fastest times when Martin could actually see where he was going! The only car faster was an R5+ Fiesta, which was running a 34mm air restrictor against the 32mm FIA specification R5 restrictor in the Mitsubishi, which obviously makes a difference to power. Consequently, we are now even more confident that the car will be competitive in its class.”
Berglund was also impressed: “The car is absolutely fantastic to drive and had great traction in the slippery conditions. There’s no doubt it has great potential. I felt I didn’t have to push that hard to achieve the times we did. Of course, this was a test and the whole point was to gather information and not to battle with other competitors. Even putting aside the weather, I really enjoyed my first time in the UK.”
Having gained invaluable information and data from the asphalt test and rally in Holland last weekend and the gravel test and rally in Wales this weekend, the team now returns to Sweden to focus on further development and the production of its first batch of customer cars.
Note: The rally version of the Mitsubishi Mirage (badged Space Star in certain territories) is built to comply with FIA R5 regulations. However, as the car is not currently homologated, it will be referred to as the R5+. R5+ is a category for National specification vehicles.
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