At the end of last year a YouTube clip emerged of Rockstar Energy’s Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard testing a British MML Sports prepared 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer WRC in the Czech Republic. L’Estage later confirmed that they were testing the car, but quickly downplayed any rumors that the car would ever come to North America due to the high cost to operate the machine. At that time L’Estage said that it was hard enough to find funding to compete in both Rally America and the Canadian Rally Championship with his existing production based Evo X and it would be a long-shot at best to be able to run the WRC car. Well it appears that long-shot has become a reality. Early yesterday L’Estage that they will be competing the rest of the Rally America Championship in the 2005 WRC Mitsubishi Lancer.
One might think that a car from 2005 would be a disadvantage, and why not continue to use his newer EvoX? That’s because a WRC based car is a huge difference. Antoine’s current EvoX is a production car with rally bits added to it. A WRC based car is stripped completely down to the frame rails, then built from the ground up to be a rally car. This allows strategic weight distribution for better balance, chassis stiffening and strengthening, more adjustable mount points for suspension components, and many more upgraded components that his EvoX could only dream of having. Basically it will feel like a completely different car, but should also be easier to drive. The down side to the WRC Lancer is that many of the high performance parts used on it are designed to be replaced very frequently. That means it is a much more expensive car to run, even if you don’t hit something.
Here’s the expected livery:
Antoine and Nathalie will be introducing the WRC Lancer at the Oregon Trail Rally May 3-5. Although this will be their first rally in the new car, Antoine has said that he expects he could gain a half-second per mile. That has to make Subaru Rally Team USA driver David Higgins and Hoonigan Racing Division’s Ken block a little nervous. L’Estage has always been a very consistent and fast driver, but he hasn’t had the hardware to get that extra bit of speed Block and Higgins could achieve. With the 2005 WRC Evo 9, the playing field should essentially be level now between the top 3 teams. It is a well deserved next step for the Rockstar Energy Drink team, and I can’t wait to see it on the stages driven in anger!