BAL­ANC­ING ACT

Japanese Performance - - WHAT’S IN - WORDS: DAN GOODYER PICS: DAN SHER­WOOD

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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