Team Mitsubishi Motor Sports America made a dream debut on the opening round of the 2003 SCCA ProRally Championship, when David Higgins and co-driver Daniel Barritt drove the new team’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution to victory on the Sno*Drift Rally (January 25-26). Team-mates Lauchlin O’Sullivan and co-driver Mark Williams finished 4th and top placed all-American crew.
The Anglo-American team’s initial goal on its debut event was for both Michelin-shod Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution cars to reach the finish and to demonstrate its potential. Run by UK-based Co-ordSport and US-based Vermont SportsCar, the cars ran faultlessly over 115 miles of snow and ice covered stages on Michigan’s lower peninsula, scoring a dominant victory.
After finishing day one’s stages on Friday just over 20 seconds off the leader, the following day’s stages saw Higgins make a quick charge to the top of the leader board. After only the first three stages, Higgins had built up a lead of over 35 seconds and thereafter began to pull away from his rivals. Higgins went on to win nine of the final day’s 11 stages in his red and silver Open Class Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution rally car, winning the event by over two-minutes.
Higgins said: “These were by far the worst conditions I have ever rallied in – one second there is grip and the next none at all. This is the type of rally you have nightmares about! We had the right car and the right team for this rally, I’m just so impressed with how everything went on our debut event.
“Our HKS engines were our greatest asset today; they have so much torque and the power delivery is so nice, smooth and flat that it made driving in the slippery conditions much more forgiving,” added Higgins. “I felt so positive about the car that after the first couple of stages I told Lance Smith [Team Director] that we will be having a lot of parties this year!”
Higgins’s team-mate, rising American star O’Sullivan, drove intelligently as he quickly acclimatised to the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution in the snowy conditions. After ending day one in 6th position, O’Sullivan increased his pace throughout the final day to finish an impressive 4th overall.
O’Sullivan said: “It’s the classic story of the tortoise and the hare; I went slow and steady and learned about my new car while some of the guys ahead of me pushed too hard and crashed out. It’s pretty incredible; it really couldn’t have gone much better. We were the top finishing all-American team and that means a lot to me and the rest of the team.”
Peter Collinson, Managing Director of Co-ordSport, said: “Before the event we talked about putting together a dream team and we’ve just pulled off a dream debut result. We’re all very happy and looking forward to the hard work of taking the team forward from this point.”
Team Mitsubishi Motor Sports America’s next event will be the Rallye International de Quebec (a round of the Canadian Rally Championship) on Feb 26-March 2, before the second round of the SCCA ProRally Championship, the Rim of the World Rally, in California, on May 2-3.