The Mitsubishi Evo is to cars what Manny Pacquiao is to pound-for-pound boxing.
Both have a reputation for being hard-hitting, relentless athletes while also possessing nimble footwork and an ability to soak up the punishment. They have always punched well above their respective weights.
In the case of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, it could be argued the ‘homologation’ seed was planted back in 1960, when its air-cooled 493cc Mitsubishi 500 saloon car claimed a podium lock-out in the 1962 Macau Grand Prix.
With the performance itch tickled by that success, Mitsubishi then went on to produce other iconic rally models, such as the Colt F2000, Colt Galant, Lancer EX2000 Turbo and Galant VR-4.
However, it wasn’t until 1992 after the arrival of Group A regulations in the World Rally Championship that Mitsubishi really flexed its technical muscle. Due to homologation rules, a minimum of 2,500 production models had to be built per year in order for manufacturers to compete.
Thus, in October 1992 the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution was born and proved an immediate success, with all 2500 models selling out in Japan within three days of the launch. Powered by the Japanese carmaker’s ‘4G63’ 2.0-litre turbocharged engine lifted from the Galant VR-4 and mated to a five-speed gearbox, the engine produced 244bhp at 6000rpm and 228lb ft at 3000rpm - plenty enough to humble the 224bhp Ford Escort RS Cosworth of the same year. Zero to 60mph was taken care of in 5.1sec before the Evolution hit its top speed of 143mph.
The Lancer’s Evolution nameplate proved to be appropriate, as each development bequeathed a faster, stronger, nimbler model to coincide with the Roman numeric increase. Just over a year after the first model was launched came the Evolution II; boasting handling improvements, a wheelbase increase of 10mm and a wider front and rear track to accommodate the larger wheels and tyres. Power was up to 252bhp from the same motor, but the Evolution II was 10kg heavier than its predecessor, however torsional rigidity had increased by 30 per cent.
February 1995 saw the arrival of the Lancer Evolution III. New side skirts and a large rear spoiler were added to reduce lift and give the car a more bullish aura. The ‘4G63’ motor kicked out 270bhp at 6250rpm, with 0-60mph being dispatched in 4.9sec and a top speed of 149mph.
By mid-1996, Mitsubishi’s rallying success began to have a tremendous outcome on Lancer Evolution sales. The 1996 WRC season brought Mitsubishi - together with a blisteringly quick Finn named Tommi Makinen - its first World Rally Championship drivers’ title. The fiercely competitive Makinen borrowed the phrase ‘maximum attack’ and used it to devastating effect, wrapping the championship up on the final round at Rally Catalunya with a comfortable fifth place finish.
In 1997, Mitsubishi pulled the wraps off the Lancer Evolution IV, showing a completely new platform. Weight was slightly up on the previous model, with the lighter RS weighing 1260kg and the GSR tipping the scales at 1345kg. Mitsubishi’s Active Yaw Control (AYC) made its debut on the Evo as a factory option for the GSR model. It utilised steering, throttle input sensors and G-force sensors to split torque via a computer-controlled differential individually to the rear wheels and increased cornering speed. Power was now up to the Japanese ‘gentleman’s agreement’ of 276bhp at 6500rpm. By this point, rallying had captured the imagination of petrolheads all over the world and Mitsubishi sold 6000 Evo IVs in the first three days of its launch.