The racing debut for the Works Mitsubishi Motors UK Lancer Evolution X in this weekend’s Britcar 24-hour race at Silverstone was hailed as a great success by the team, the brand new car completing the whole event without missing a beat.
Driven by James Kaye, Andy Barnes, Mark Lemmer and Jay Wheals, the team crossed the line fifth in class and 25th overall after covering a race-distance of 517 laps and 1651 miles.
After the decision was made to contest the Britcar 24hr event, ADR Motorsport, the team which builds and runs the two-works Mitsubishis currently competing in the British Rally Championship. had precious little time to develop and prepare the new Lancer Evolution X in readiness for the Silverstone marathon. However, with just a few hours to spare the car arrived and immediately went out on the track for qualifying.
With only enough time for a few laps it was a back-of-the-grid start for the circuit newcomers, but that position soon changed when the race got underway. The first stint was driven by Kaye, who had to circulate for almost an hour under safety car conditions following an accident involving other cars.
In the first pit-stop after two hours he reported that the car was running perfectly, but commented that petrol fumes were to getting inside. This issue was later confirmed by both Barnes and Wheals, who felt decidedly unwell following their two-hour sessions behind the wheel. The cause was finally traced to a faulty breather valve.
As the race continued into the night, lap times became more and more consistent and at one point the team climbed from its start position of 46th to a place inside the top 20. In fact, was the car running so well that the only maintenance required was the routine changing of tyres and brake pads.
Having survived the darkness hours, the team were now determined to make it to the finish and all four drivers did what was required to provide Mitsubishi UK with its first success on the track for many years, crossing the line to finish fifth in class and 25th overall.
However, the result would have significantly improved if re-fuelling issues could have been overcome. Because of the size of the tank and the breather problem - which caused a slower fill - the team were losing anything up to five laps each time they came into the pits. Consequently, drivers spent most of their time overtaking when they were out on the track.
At the finish Team Principal and Ralliart General Manager Paul Brigden said: “We have achieved what we came here to do and I am delighted. Considering the car was built in such a short space of time and then performed so well straight out of the box – and without any testing - for all 24 hours, it’s a credit to the whole team: the engineers, drivers and pit crew.”
Lead driver James Kaye was also pleased with the outcome: “It’s a tremendous achievement that we’ve completed one of the toughest races in the UK calendar without any major problems in a car that was only built this week! There’s great potential in the Lancer and I’m looking forward to being able to do some test and development work which will make it even more competitive.”
The three other drivers were also complimentary about the car: “It’s great to drive and is very well built, with excellent delivery of power and forgiving handling”, said Andy Barnes.
Mark Lemmer commented: “It’s an easy car to drive and, with a little more development, there is at least two-seconds a lap to be gained. It’s a great package.”
Jay Wheals, who was drafted in just a few days before the race said: “I was able to get used to the car very quickly. It felt good from the word go and I had no problem adapting to four-wheel-drive.”
The team is now considering future events before the end of the year, details of which will be announced in the next few weeks.
The Mitsubishi Motors UK Works Race Team is supported by: Ralliart, Alcon, Speedline Corse, Janspeed, EcuTek, Autoglym, Exe-tc competiton suspension, Intelligent Financial Advice Ltd, PIAA and Powerflex.