Mitsubishi Starion Profile

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Mitsubishi Starion General Information

A very, very rare rally car but an interesting model of car, talked about in rally scenes quite often too. First there was a surprise Mitsubishi came out with this car at all. It is said below that the rally version used the engine of the Lancer 2000 Turbo. Above the Lancer Mitsubishi had the luxury saloon Galant (Galant Sigma in some markets) and this Galant had an even exciting looking coupé sister Sapporo (Galant Lambda). And the Starion was still one size up on the Sapporo. Or it wasn't actually that big, but it was a market bracket above the Sapporo and therefore had to have quite a sporty attitude. It had fold down headlights and a very aggressive, big B-pillar/no C-pillar with the doors showing a hint of a Lancia Stratos design, and huge rear light clusters. I may be known to not be the biggest fan of Japanese cars, but maybe that underlines the point just the stronger when even I wholeheartedly say: Mitsubishi really threw some beautiful cars onto the market at that time.

A funny but serious tale about the car is how it got its name. Mitsubishi Japan intended to aim the car against the American Ford Mustang and it also should get a "strong horse" name, they wanted to call it Stallion. The car should be presented to the world first in USA too. Just before launch the Japanese called Mitsubishi America bosses: "We malket the cal as Stallion", the Americans sensed a Japanese pronounciation problem here and by the time the Japanese realised the misunderstanding all catalogues, advertising walls and banners were already printed. And so the Stallion became the Starion.

It seems a bit far fetched comparing the car to the Mustang, famous for big V8 engines. Despite being easily two market brackets above the Lancer 2000 Turbo, that we know as a group4 rally car, the Starion originally had exactly this Lancer 2000 Turbo engine. Essentially the Starion was just a spiced up version of the Sapporo, with which it shared the floorpan too. But later the Starion was improved much with an engine enlarged to a 2.6 litres turbo (still 4-cylinder!) and Quattro-style wheel arch extensions widening the body severely from 1705mm to 1745mm. This looked rather neat and more aggressive than these numbers may indicate as small wheel arch lips made the original car wider on paper than it really looked. But for rally classes this big engine was not very fortunate - at exactly 2555cc (Subaru fans would be jealous) it slotted into the 2501-3000cc class. So as a groupA rally car only the 2000 Turbo narrow body was homologated.

One reason why the Starion was a big talking point in rallying was that Ralli Art worked on a groupB version. But the project must have been mislead. Or was it? Work only started late 1983 and for its time it looked too much like a Quattro, when mid engine should have been the norm. But on 2nd looks this is not quite true, as Ralli Art managed to move the engine quite far back, so it was a front-mid engine car with 4x4. Despite still having the 2000cc Turbo engine, the wide body actually reminded a bit of the 2600cc road Starion, but the fold down headlights made way for a classic front with big round twin headlights and a big radiator grille. Lasse Lampi won the Rallye 1000 Pistes 1984 with it, but then development got more and more delayed. Maybe the Japanese headquarters were not so sure about the potential of this car any more. At WRC level the car was never seen and talk about it died more and more too. Still, seemingly out of nowhere, this car finished 2nd on the Hong Kong-Beijing Rally 1986 and won the Himalaya Rally 1987, both times in a distinct and gorgeous yellow with golden stripes 555 paint job. But between European rally fans the car seemed to only exist as a mystery. Then came the groupA car:

This was a very rare car in World Rallying, but it delivered some of the funniest stories. Strangely the groupA Starion was only created after work on the groupB Starion was stopped, yet it is doubtful Ralli Art ever had big plans with it for groupA only WRC either. Technically it was the Lancer 2000 Turbo engine in a heavier, bigger, still RWD car. The Ralli Art works team only ever built one, "C196 LGP", and that was on customer request for Patrick Tauziac, who retired it in the 1986 Bandama Rallye. And yes, that Bandama car is the same that Pentti Airikkala used in the BRC later. (Actually there was a 2nd one, C301 MPU, but never seen in WRC or BRC, and having a C-year Essex plate when Ralli Art only moved to Essex in the E-year seems to indicate this is a 1986 car that was never registered before 1988, probably a test car.)

After that Ralli Art had the car sitting around for a while. By 1988 Pentti Airikkala had no program and he wanted to piece together a BRC drive. He thought Ralli Art had no use for the Mitsubishi Starion Turbo and since Ford Sierra Cosworth and BMW M3 are doing well in the BRC, the unwanted RWD Starion Turbo may not be such a bad idea after all. And that Mitsubishi themselves didn't seem to think much of this car would be a good starting point to talk rental prices. Pentti asked Andrew Cowan and his reply indeed was on the lines of 'Sure, you can have it, but I don't know what you want it for, it's a useless car'. Andrew Cowan didn't seem to care much about the idea while Pentti Airikkala went out testing and altering set ups. Shortly afterwards Cowan was on a business trip to Japan. In the plane he bought a daily newspaper and only in here he found out that his "useless" car had won the opening round of the BRC 1988 (Cartel Rally)! Questions if this was luck or lack of competition Pentti wiped away in winning round3 (Welsh Rally) too. And while the Cartel Rally had a high attrition rate, lady driver Louise Aitken-Walker coming 2nd to the Starion Turbo in a Peugeot 205 GTI, in Wales Pentti and the Starion had to beat Jimmy McRae's works Sierra Cosworth by 28sec. However then results started to drop, but in the end Pentti in the Starion still finished 2nd in the championship.

However later Pentti was to claim the car indeed wasn't that brilliant. It had potential, but after the first successes Japanese Mitsubishi engineers started to be interested in it. Ever heard anybody unhappy about works support? It seems the Japanese engineers had their own ideas of how to make the car even more competitive. The story sounded a bit like what went wrong in Toyota's F1 program, several Japanese engineers each trying to put the successes to their own personal claim when the successes were there already and the engineers just kept getting into the way. They interfered with Pentti's own set up ideas and apparently the car became more undriveable event by event, the more the Japanese works engineers worked on it. At the end of the season Pentti was then involved in a huge accident with the Starion that hospitalised him. Pentti's verdict: "This was a good thing, the car I hated was dead and I met the most beautiful nurse!"

While Pentti told this story to me in person, there is a big contradiction or misunderstanding. I am not deleting the story, for it is well funny. Thing is, I have seen the car around since and forum member Topcat confirmed the car is still around, he even delivered the photos. It is true that Pentti's BRC results tumbled big style after his 2 wins in the first 3 rounds, after Japanese works engineers got involved with it. But Pentti still finished 6th on the Manx Rally 1988 with C196 LGP, which was the last round of the BRC that year, and I myself am not aware of Pentti having driven the car thereafter! Pentti has had so many magic moments, maybe he has mixed it up with his career ending horror crash in the Ford Sapphire Cosworth from leading the 1990 RAC Rally. However here such comment "the car I hated was dead" doesn't make sense, because on that occasion, despite crashing at 200km/h Pentti was lucky, "H377 JEV" was not actually a write off plus I count 21 works Sapphire Cosworth groupA. Killing a rare Starion Turbo would have been far more ultimate in killing the species. Oh well, funny story, nice car, glad she's still alife and hope Pentti had fun with the nurse.

Mitsubishi Starion Related Content

Mitsubishi Starion Evolutions

Model & Evo. (Activity)
Mitsubishi Starion Turbo (86-88) 280/7000 337/5000 4425.1705.1315 1350 (4.8) RWD (2435)

Random Mitsubishi Starion Photos

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Mitsubishi Starion Results

This is an unofficial Car Results list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego hh:mm:ss
2nd. 1989 WRC Bandama Rallye P. Tauziac C. Papin #2 [UNKNOWN] 11:36:50
4th. 1988 WRC Rally New Zealand D. Officer K. Officer #5 [UNKNOWN] 8:04:20
3rd. 1988 WRC Bandama Rallye P. Tauziac C. Papin #5 [UNKNOWN] 7:20:20
5th. 1987 WRC Rally New Zealand D. Officer K. Officer #7 [UNKNOWN] 7:35:12
17th. 1987 WRC Rally of Finland A. Laine R. Virtanen #23 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
7th. 1987 WRC Bandama Rallye M. Yace J. Yace #11 [UNKNOWN] 11:01:43
4th. 1987 WRC Bandama Rallye P. Tauziac C. Papin #17 [UNKNOWN] 5:37:53
11th. 1987 WRC Rally of Great Britain S. Ohba Y. Kusakabe #43 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00

Mitsubishi Starion Retirements

This is an unofficial Car Model Retirements list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego Reason
Ret. 1988 WRC Bandama Rallye E. Salim C. Konan #12 [UNKNOWN] SS73 suspension
Ret. 1988 WRC Rally of Finland L. Lampi P. Kuukkala #29 [UNKNOWN] SS14 suspension
Ret. 1987 WRC Rally of Finland L. Lampi P. Kuukkala #10 [UNKNOWN] SS28 turbo
Ret. 1986 WRC Bandama Rallye P. Tauziac C. Papin #11 [UNKNOWN] SS26 suspension
Ret. 1986 WRC Rally of Finland A. Laine R. Virtanen #21 [UNKNOWN] SS21 engine
Ret. 1985 WRC Rally of Great Britain S. Ohba Y. Kusakabe #56 [UNKNOWN] SS11 engine