Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III - First Car to Bring WRC Title to Mitsubishi

  • Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III,1996 Acropolis Rally, Tommi Makinen
  • Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III,1996 Acropolis Rally, Tommi Makinen

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III (or shorter Evo III) is a Group A rally car which brought the first World Rally Championship title to Mitsubishi, in 1996, when Tommi Mäkinen became the drivers’ world champion. That year, Mäkinen scored five WRC wins with Lancer Evo III and took his first out of four consecutive championship titles. Lancer Evo III debuted during the 1995 WRC season and it was in use for the season and a half in the WRC and then it was replaced by Lancer Evo IV in 1997.

Tommi Makinen, #7 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III

Tommi Makinen poses with the championship winning car

The first Lancer Evo came to WRC in 1993

The story about Lancer Evolution cars started in 1992 when the first road-legal Lancer Evolution was introduced and then rally version followed in 1993. On rally stages, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution I came as a replacement for Galant VR-4, with Kenneth Eriksson and Armin Schwarz as the main drivers of Mitsubishi Ralliart Europe team.

All Evolutions had the same engine

Lancer Evo I was using AWD drivetrain from Galant, in combination with a 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine (factory name 4G63T) and 5-speed manual gearbox. In 1993, Eriksson scored only one podium and Mitsubishi finished fifth (out of five) in the manufacturers’ points. The Evolution II participated in the 1994 WRC season and then came the Evolution III in 1995.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III cutaway

The third Evolution debuted in rallying in 1995

New design and improved engine for Evo III

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III had several improvements in comparison to previous generations, including a more aggressive design with a big rear wing and a new nose/front bumper, which allowed better air supply, intercooler and brakes. The engine was the same (2.0L 4G63T), but it was improved and had more power than before, with 270 hp of power and 450 Nm of torque. The Group A rally car had the same power, but of course, it was much lighter than a street version.

Manufacturers’ and drivers’ APRC titles for Mitsubishi in 1995

In that period of time, the Japanese manufacturer was concentrated on Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, so the new Lancer Evolution III had its debut in the first round of the APRC, the Rally Indonesia in July, with Kenneth Eriksson and Staffan Parmander in the car. They finished in second place in debut race. Later in the season, Eriksson scored three APRC wins and brought both manufacturers’ and drivers’ titles to Mitsubishi.

1995 Rally Australia, Kenneth Eriksson racing in Lancer Evolution III

Kenneth Eriksson at 1995 Rally Australia

Maiden WRC win for Evo III at 1995 Rally Australia

In the World Rally Championship, Lancer Evo III debuted at 1995 Rally New Zealand in July, with Eriksson finishing in fifth place and Tommi Mäkinen retired after an accident. The first victory came in the next round, at the Rally Australia. Kenneth Eriksson won the event, Makinen finished in fourth place.

In August, Mäkinen won the 1000 Lakes Rally, but it wasn’t a part of the WRC calendar, it counted for 2-Litre Championship only. The Australian victory was the only one for Mitsubishi in the controversial 1995 WRC season, which ended with Toyota’s exclusion from the race because of illegal turbo restrictors. Mitsubishi was second in the manufacturers’ points, Eriksson third and Makinen fifth in drivers’ standings.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III racing through mud, 1996

The #7 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III of Tommi Makinen in 1996

First world rally title for Mäkinen and Mitsubishi

In 1996 WRC season, Lancer Evo III showed its full potential, scoring five wins in nine events, in the hands of Tommi Mäkinen, with Seppo Harjane as a navigator. Driving the #7 Mitsubishi, Makinen won in Sweden, Kenya, Argentina, Finland and Australia, dominantly taking his first championship title ahead of Subaru’s Colin McRae and Ford’s Carlos Sainz.

The other Mitsubishi Ralliart’s driver, in the #8 Lancer, was Richard Burns, who participated in four WRC events, contributing to second place in the manufacturers’ standings. Burns was more successful in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, where he scored one victory and two podiums, bringing one more APRC manufacturers’ title to Mitsubishi. Burns finished in second place.

1996, Makinen, Swedish Rally

In 1996, Makinen has won five WRC events, including Swedish Rally

Three more titles with other Evolutions

With six WRC wins on its account, the competitive life of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III came to an end after the 1996 season, when Japanese manufacturer introduced the Evolution IV for the 1997 WRC season. A new car had a completely different layout, with an engine and transaxle that rotated 180 degrees.

Until 1999, Tommi Mäkinen captured three more world rally titles with three different evolutions of Lancer, but the Evo III will always be remembered as the first Mitsubishi that climbed on the top of the rallying world.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III specifications

ChassisSteel monocoque chassis with roll-cage, 4 door saloon steel bodyshell
Length4,310 mm
Width1,695 mm
Height1,420 mm
Wheelbase2,500 mm
Track (front/rear)1,468 mm/1,475 mm
Weight1,200 kg
Engine4G63T, 4-cylinder 1997ccm, turbocharged
Power/torque270 hp/450 Nm
Transmissionfull-time 4-wheel drive
Gearbox6-speed manual
Front suspensionIndependent MacPherson strut with coil spring
Rear suspensionIndependent multilink with trailing arms and coil spring
Brakesfront: ventilated discs with 6-pot callipersrear: ventilated discs 4-pot callipers
Wheels/tires6 - 7 x 15" or 6.5 x 16"


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