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Mitsubishi Ralliart Australia’s plan to enter two Lancer Evolution 9s in this year’s Australian Rally Championship ended last November after the Mitsubishi parent company in Japan decided to invoke their company revitalization plan and withhold the budget for two cars to compete in the series.

Despite Mitsubishi Australia giving the green light to the rally project, under the control of Alan Heaphy, Mitsubishi Japan were unswerving in their pursuit of a financial turnaround for the troubled manufacturer, leaving Heaphy and star driver Scott Pedder without a drive.

With two Evo 9s completed and ready to go, Heaphy’s plan was to run both cars in the full ARC season, lead driver Pedder being backed up by South Australian rising star, Steve Glenney.

Both cars, built to the latest worldwide Group N specifications, were completed and ready to go some months back, awaiting the go-ahead. But with Mitsubishi Japan failing to provide the budget, Heaphy was forced to walk away from the championship.

“I have been in negotiations with Japan since early last year and informed them that I would need to know what their plans were by last November”, Heaphy told RallySport Magazine. “However, despite giving them a long lead time, they chose not to fund the program,” he added.

“We asked for a particular sum of money and weren’t prepared to run two cars for a full season for anything less than that. It’s pointless running a rally program that’s half-baked.”

As a result, one gravel-spec car has been sold to a Western Australian firm and will be shipped overseas to be used in the Asia Pacific Championship by (RallySport Magazine understands) the MRF team. The second car, recently completed, has never turned a wheel and sits on the showroom floor while a decision about its future is made.

When asked about the Evo 9’s potential as an outright winner in the ARC, Heaphy said he was disappointed that CAMS have not given more thought to the provision of a control tyre for the top cars.

“Toyota have the benefit of having exclusive supply of the good BF Goodrich-branded Michelin tyres this year and we probably would have struggled against them in our Evo 9s. The tyres are worth an extra second per kilometre,” Heaphy said.

So what of the future plans for Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Australia? Heaphy and his team are forging ahead with the build and preparation of a number of tarmac-spec cars that will be either sold to customers or used in selected tarmac events such as the Mount Buller and Lake Mountain sprints, possibly with Pedder and Glenney at the wheel.

In addition, TMRA have just completed two tarmac-spec cars for Targa Tasmania and are building a further two more.

Heaphy told RallySport Magazine that he had placed an order for a further four Evo 9’s but, with the 9 model being phased out at the end of March, only two were available. “They will most likely be built as customer cars for tarmac use but after they’re finished we’ll have to wait patiently for the Evo 10 to arrive.”

And as for 2008? Heaphy hopes that negotiations with the Japanese firm will commence shortly.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’d like them to make a commitment for 2008, 2009 and 2010 rather than for just one year so that we could at least put a proper plan in place. That would make things so much easier,” he concluded.

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