Rallye Côte d'Ivoire
Draped in the classic red, green, and blue Mitsubishi race livery, the rally car on display was the very same one Japanese Mitsubishi works driver Kenjiro Shinozuka drove to victory in the 1992 Rallye Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast Rally). It beat the likes of the Audi 90 Quattro, Toyota Celica GT-Four, and the Opel Kadett GSI.
On the outside, it looks like your regular Galant VR-4, but fitted with specific parts to help it cope with the harsh stages of the African rally. The front is protected by a huge bull bar, while two huge halogen fog lamps are mounted upfront, plus two more on either side of the fenders help the driver see clearly during night stages. It's also equipped with air vents on the roof, mud flaps on all four corners, and - most importantly - rally-spec tires.
The interior is stripped out and reinforced with a full roll cage; a pair of carbon fiber Sparco bucket seats and five-point Sabelt harnesses take the place of the stock seats; and all the original amenities are replaced by a multitude of control switches. For rally racing, the fuel tank was moved to the trunk, while the spare tire now sits inside the cabin. Also do care to notice that this VR-4 is right hand drive.
The bonnet might seem stock, but engineers at Mitsubishi used ultra-thin sheet metal to cut down on weight. And residing underneath it is the iconic 4G63 four-cylinder 2.0L turbocharged DOHC engine. The road-going Galant VR-4 already had 235 hp, which was already considered a lot in 1988, but this Group A rally car packed 295 hp and a staggering 400 Nm of torque. It ran on a permanent four-wheel-drive system, six-speed manual gearbox, and came equipped with ABS.
Focusing on the man that made this car famous, Kenjiro Shinozuka made his debut as a works Mitsubishi rally driver in 1976. Behind the wheel of the Galant VR-4, he won the APRC in 1988, and became the first Japanese to win a WRC event in 1991 at the Rallye Cote d’lvoire - a feat he repeated in 1992. He also became the first Japanese driver to win the Dakar Rally in 1997, on board a Mitsubishi Pajero. Sadly, Shinozuka left Mitsubishi in 2002 to race for Nissan with limited success, and ultimately retired from professional competitive motor racing in 2007.
Mitsubishi's race-winning Galant VR-4 has not been restored in any way since 1992. As a matter of fact, you could see some battle scars from its last rally, with patches of mud still attached to the chassis. The 20-year-old rally car is definitely showing its age, revealing cracks on the plastic parts, rust on the chassis, and paint that’s starting to fade. But they should stand as reminders to all of us why it's a rally legend. It raced in an era where cars had very little driver aids, gearshifts were done manually, and rallies were regularly run in the dark.
The heritage didn't die out when Mitsubishi pulled out the Galant from the WRC at the end of the 1992 season. It was superseded by a newer and smaller car in 1993 that adopted the Galant's 4G63 engine and four-wheel-drive drivetrain - a car we now all know as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.