January 9th, 2003
Mitsubishi Motors North America reveals new framework for serious rally effort in North America.
Colchester, Vermont USA – Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (MMNA) has stepped up their involvement in the SCCA ProRally Championship and will work with Vermont SportsCar to field two Open Class Lancer Evolution rally cars for 2003. The new factory backed team, dubbed Team Mitsubishi Motor Sport America, was announced at the 2003 L.A. Auto show along with the World debut of the new Evolution VIII streetcar. The new team will have the full support of Mitsubishi Motor’s performance arm Ralliart and will be contesting all nine rounds of the 2003 SCCA ProRally Championship.
Mitsubishi has selected two champions to each pilot an all-new HKS tuned and Michelin shod Open Class Lancer Evolution VIII rally car. Rising star David Higgins will lead the team with his co-driver Daniel Barritt. Higgins’ talents were affirmed last season when he won both the SCCA ProRally and British Group N Championships. American Lauchlin O’Sullivan will drive the second Evolution with veteran co-driver Mark Williams at his side. O’Sullivan firmly put his name on the map by winning the 2002 SCCA ProRally two wheel drive (Group 2) Driver’s Championship in a nearly stock, front wheel drive, Mitsubishi Lancer.
Experienced rally firm Vermont SportsCar will provide technical, logistical, and team management support for the Mitsubishi team and all team operations will be based out of Vermont SportsCar’s headquarters in Colchester, Vermont. The initial two Open Class Evolutions were prepared in the UK by Mellors Elliot Motorsport and Vermont SportsCar will perform all additional car builds and preparation.
Heading up the management effort as Team Director will be veteran rally car builder and President of Vermont SportsCar, Lance Smith. Accomplished WRC-level team manager and former co-driver John Kennard will act as Team Manager. American rally legend John Buffum will play a key role as Event Coordinator for the team. Buffum has won eleven national rally titles as a driver and six ProRally Manufacturer Championships as the Team Manager for Hyundai’s U.S. rally team. “Buffum knows every inch of every road used in the ProRally Championship and his expertise will be invaluable to the team,” explains Lance Smith.
Alongside the factory team Vermont SportsCar will offer customer rally programs using the Mitsubishi Evolution VIII. The Evolution VIII customer program will include rally car preparation services, event service and logistics, rally car rentals and a complete line of Evolution VIII rally and performance streetcar parts. Vermont SportsCar will aspire to offer privateer drivers and enthusiasts a chance to experience the Lancer Evolution in its true form and prove why the Lancer Evolution is considered one of the most dominant and reliable rally cars ever.