Although everyone readily accepts the heritage of manufacturers such as Jaguar, Porsche and Alfa Romeo it is perhaps too easy to fail to recognise ‘newer’ brands such as Mitsubishi UK a.k.a Colt Cars in the same way. Therefore like us, you may be surprised to learn that in 2014 they will be celebrating 40 years.
This gem of a discovery was made at the ‘Guild of Motoring Writers – Big Day Out’ held at Rockingham Motor Speedway on 22nd August where the Cirencester (Gloucestershire – UK) based importer had on display a totally mint 1970s Colt Lancer, rare 1980s Lancer 2000 Turbo and immaculate 2001 Tommi Mäkinen special edition Evo 6 with just 1800 miles on the clock. The three cars told some of, although not the entire story with, amongst others, good clean examples of the Starion and Gallant now being sought to help complete the family tree.
The original Lancer stood out the most having all the external visual charm of a MK1 Escort or Vauxhall Chevette combining the same understated looks with a relatively bare cabin including proper period exposed metal trim. Of course a front engine and rear wheel drive chassis always creates intrigue with reports on the day of surprisingly peppery performance. When a turbo is added into the mix, such was the case with the 1980s car then a truly menacing combination is born. Particularly one boasting boxy good looks and subtle reversed front lettering on the spoiler for anyone on the road ahead to read in their rear view mirror ‘2000 Turbo’. This same Lancer has in the past performed very well on track which is possibly where most examples ended up leading to its extreme rarity on our roads today.
It is true Mitsubishi Evos might not do it for everyone, and we can argue all day long about their potential classic or future classic status, but the Tommi Mäkinen car must now surely be considered exceptional. After all Ford has claimed the same in the past with Escort RS models, Lancia with the Integrale and Audi even today nearly 30 years on with their Quattro brand. The case for this Evo is very strong offering a genuinely fitting tribute to what was four years of international rally dominance (1996-1999) with bright red paint, 4WD, trick differentials and Japan’s very own gentleman’s agreement of a maximum output of 280PS (276bhp). Read into the last point what you will, the engine is easily capable of another 100PS without internal modification. For any doubters there was a modified 400bhp Evo X track car made available for passenger hot laps providing a sense of what these cars are capable of at full chat to leave a feeling of total respect in terms of outright pace and incredible grip levels, even in damp and slippery conditions.
Nissan drew similar comparisons by having a 1970s 240Z and 1990s Skyline R34 on display, whilst Ford kept it current with Fiesta and Focus STs. Kia on the other hand keenly shared the keys to one of three remaining ex-Top Gear Cee’ds which proved to be an ideal track day companion combining lively handling and decent performance in what was described as a ‘standard’ car. The bucket seats, harnesses and a full roll cage meant it felt anything but, the latter one suspects adding stiffness to the rear chassis, always a bonus on a front wheel drive machine. This leads nicely onto the main purpose of the day, to have fun on Rockingham’s multi-purpose track using the same layout the British Touring Cars will enjoy in a few weeks’ time.
Sadly with no suitable classic available the opportunity provided was exploited by exploring the limits of our modern day BMW (F30) 320D which performed admirably well for a diesel confirming a decision to enter it into at least one sprint whilst a suitable classic competition car is sought. Other cars enjoying the same privilege included a rapidly driven 964, equally committed 944, very sideways S-Type Jaguar and myriad of MX5s and hot hatches from the last twenty years, all classics or potential future classics in their own right. An open pit lane provided absolutely no time limit on a relatively empty circuit where our trusty Bavarian bruiser covered more than 50 miles flat out in which it topped 110mph lap after lap averaging just 17.9mpg. How very retro is that and quite a contrast to the near 60mpg it achieved on the journey up.
Taking your road car or classic on track is never completely without risk and Peter Burgess for one was more than a little concerned about some oil smoke being emitted from his beautifully presented Porsche 911 (964). The upside of this apparent folly is that it does give you the opportunity to have a proper play, with Peter for one even being recognised and in fact rewarded on the day by the joint GoMW and Rockingham organising teams for his high level of skill displayed in Stuttgart’s finest.
Given that driving on or above the limit is impossible to replicate safely, legally or otherwise on the public highway a track day has got to be worth considering if you want to push the envelope of your own car, classic or otherwise. It does come with a degree of risk, but equally the rewards are there if you can put together a decent lap or two. Tempted yourself, then go for it, you know you want to and you can always contact moris.co.uk for an insurance quote to protect against more serious accidental damage.
How does this event make you feel?
In one word: Pumped
As a favourite meal: Classy BBQ chicken burger served with lettuce and coleslaw
Anything Else: Can’t believe Mitsubishi UK is 40 and how good an empty track feels lap after lap
Key Ingredients: Unique event, particularly with manufacturers present, terrific circuit venue, insightful networking opportunity with writers and bloggers combined with endless track time.
With thanks to Guild of Motoring Writers
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