Evo VI owner with a tuning dilemma. Stick with a road car, or go all-out racer?
THIS MITSUBISHI LANCER IS TEETERING ON A KNIFE-EDGE OF USEABLE ROAD CAR AND ALL-OUT TRACK MONSTER. THE BIG QUESTION IS: WILL ITS OWNER TIP THE SCALES?
It’s rare that we feature a car in the middle of its evolution. No pun intended. However, that’s exactly where Adrian Lawes and his surprisingly-potent Evo VI are. After three and a half years of steady upgrades, the car has developed into a nicely-balanced package of power, handling and braking. The question is, should he stop here?
‘I’ve already bought the next load of parts!’ admits the 43year-old engineering surveyor from Nottingham. ‘I’ve bought a pair of Jun 272 cams from Ross Sport, a Blouch 760-XTR turbo, 1000cc fuel injectors and loads more. I haven’t opened the engine yet and apparently it’s the con-rods that are the weak spot. If I fit these bits I’ll have to change the rods and do something with the pistons, either machine the existing ones or replace them altogether, but I’m having second thoughts.’
The reason for Adrian’s hesitation is that he claims the MG Auto Motorsport guys got behind the wheel recently, and were surprised by how well it drove. They’re slightly biased of course, because they set-up the suspension and Matt at MG mapped the engine. It was the balance of modifications that impressed them, according to Adrian. He adds: ‘You would expect a tuning company to tell you to keep going with the mods because it makes them money, but they actually suggested I leave it as it is. The trouble is I can’t leave anything alone – idle hands and all that.’
Adrian is a very hands-on kind of guy. As a qualified engineer, he’s familiar with car mechanics. In fact, he did some development work on JCB diesel engines. So while his Evo VI is a completely different beast, Adrian isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. ‘I’ve done most of the work myself,’ he admits, ‘either in the garage or out on the drive. That’s everything from fitting the brakes to bonding on the carbon-fibre rear wheel arches. Funnily enough, the only thing I didn’t really touch was the engine. I just figured that was best left to the experts, people who are really familiar with the 4G63. I was lucky to find MG Auto Motorsport.
They’re just down the road from me and have done all the engine work. They’ve been really helpful with the whole car and are always willing to give me advice and offer insight and a professional opinion.’
When Adrian bought the car it was relatively standard. It did have one really nice modification, though, a threeinch downpipe and single-silencer exhaust. He adds: ‘I think it’s a Trust Greddy silencer but the pipework itself looks custom-made. It takes a much more direct route under the car, compared to the factory exhaust.’ So it’s able to get the hot gases away from the factory TD05 turbo quickly and effectively. The three-inch bore of the downpipe is particularly important, as the area directly behind the turbine is commonly where the biggest restriction occurs on the stock pipework.
Otherwise this Evo VI GSR was a fresh Japanese import ready for some tuning. Adrian has had loads of performance cars in the past and has modified every one. It’s usually old Fords though, so this is his first Japanese car. ‘I wanted to buy an Evo because of the rallying heritage, plus I love the way they look,’ he admits.
The upgrades started with a set of carbon-fibre sideskirts and aftermarket headlights, when a friend decided to break his Evo. It’s a common practice sadly, as modified cars have traditionally been worth less than standard minters to anyone outside the tuning scene. With the prices of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions rising rapidly now, it seems that anyone buying one as an investment is after a standard car with history. As a result, the forums and Facebook groups are packed with used parts, as people either break their cars or put them back to standard before selling them. Adrian has taken full advantage of this bargain-packed market.
‘You’ve got to be quick,’ he explains. ‘When you see a DAMD front bumper that normally retails for about £850 on its own, up for just £50, you’ve got to jump straight in your car and go and get it,’ which is exactly what Adrian did. The front bumper is attached with quick-release fixings, so he can remove it in about two minutes. This makes it much easier for him to get the car on a four-post ramp for example, as the car is too low and that splitter too big to clear otherwise.
‘The splitter is one of my favourite parts of the car,’ admits Adrian. ‘It’s something people often ask me about at shows. It was built by Trackday Splitters and includes the canards that attach to the side of the bumper. The splitter continues back under the engine so it works properly.
I was amazed how much difference it made when I drove it for the first time. The front-end turns in much sharper at speed, and generally just feels more planted. The guy who runs the company has an Evo VI that he drives in the MLR Sprint Series. I like the idea that any money he makes from the splitters goes into his own car, too.’
Adrian admits speed bumps are a bit of an issue now, particularly with the nose-down rake provided by the suspension alignment. Once again, MG Auto Motorsport were involved, setting up the car for ‘fast-road/track’ use.
‘I do get on track occassionally,’ Adrian says, ‘Usually it’s Donington Park as that’s closest to me. I particularly enjoy going out on the track sessions at shows, like I did recently at Japfest Donington.’
It’s only when you’re really hustling this car that its brilliance reveals itself. Visit any Lancer Evo forum and you’ll find 400bhp is often quoted as the reasonable power limit for a 4G63 engine with standard internals, which is exactly what this car has. There’s a load of braces underneath and a set of BC Racing coilovers. While the brakes have been upgraded with Performance Friction discs and pads, HEL braided lines and proper fluid. Adrian admits: ‘I know it’s a fairly budget build compared to some cars you see – in that it’s not running Alcon brakes or Öhlins suspension, etc. – but what I have got seems to work really well together.’
Indeed, it seems that Adrian has hit a sweet spot for an enjoyable and reliable fast-road car that can also do a decent job on track. The brake
upgrades for example still use the original Brembo calipers, although they have been rebuilt, so while the braking performance isn’t going to match an expensive eight-pot kit with massive discs, they do pull the car up well. More importantly, Adrian can stamp on them repeatedly and they don’t fade, which is the biggest downfall of standard brakes. This is largely because of the pad compound and brake fluid. Adrian reckons the braided lines have given the brake pedal a much more direct and consistent feel, too.
The new rubber certainly helps as well. When the tyres wore down on the standard wheels, Adrian took the opportunity to replace them with a set of 8.5x18in Rota GTRS with Toyo R888 rubber. Surprisingly, he found the car moved around quite a bit on the R888s, which are basically a cut slick. Recently he’s swapped them for a set of Yokohama AD08R tyres and has been much happier. With the sticky rubber, front splitter and proper suspension alignment, this Evo sticks to the road like glue.
Of course there are lots of quick Evos about, so it helps that Adrian’s car is a bit of a looker, too. ‘It’s no show car,’ he admits, ‘but it does get a lot of compliments. I’ve gone for a Time Attack style with the rollcage, big wing and splitter. Actually, I’ve been following Bruce Winfield and his Evo IX GT in Club 4WD this year. He’s sponsored by MG Auto Motorsport and set a new class lap record at Snetterton recently. So he’s no slouch!’
A lot of the carbon-fibre parts on the car have come from the sales section of the Mitsubishi Lancer Register forum or the Evolution group on Facebook. Take the rear arches, for example. Adrian had to remove the originals and bond the new carbon ones in place. He also cut the rear bumper out
for the new diffuser, which he admits is purely cosmetic: ‘It doesn’t serve a purpose, other than to balance out the rest of the styling. If I needed a proper diffuser, I’d cut the boot floor out, make a false floor, etc. It just seems a shame to cut the car up as I don’t feel it really needs one. Not yet, anyway.’
That might all change if he goes ahead with the power upgrades. ‘I’ve got a decision to make now, haven’t I?’ he asks, looking over the white and carbon bodywork. ‘I was never going to fit carbon bits to it, to be honest. It was going to be matt black and white. That’s why one of the first mods I made was to swap the colour-coded original door handles out for some matt black RS ones. Sometimes I tell people I did it to save a gram of paint on each handle, for a laugh. The truth is that carbon bits kept cropping up for the right price, like the boot lid and rear wing. It just sort of evolved naturally.’
Now he’s got to either take a perfectly well-balanced and reliable car off the road, pull the engine and upgrade the bottomend – or forever wonder what the car could have been like with more power. With the new Blouch XTR turbo in place, the engine should easily make over 500bhp, possibly closer to 600bhp. That will definitely be fun, but will it require more mods? Will the ’box handle the torque with the grip provided by those Yoko AD08R tyres? How will the brakes cope? It’s not a cheap game, this modifying lark. And no-one said it was easy. But one thing’s for sure, we all get used to what we have under the bonnet. So, it won’t surprise us at all if we revisit Adrian’s car in a few months and he’s thrown caution to the wind and changed the whole thing. But then that’s the nature of evolution for you...
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