A Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX broke a barrier long thought impossible: a sub-50-second lap of Tsukuba Circuit on street tires. Better still, it did it with a camera on board, so the rest of us can experience the moment time-attack history was made.
The record was set by Toshiki Ando at the wheel of an Evo IX built by Escort Racing, an outfit with decades of experience building world-beating drag and time-attack cars. According to The Narita Dogfight, Escort built its Mitsubishi to take the lap record at any track it decided to aim it at, and it has been modified accordingly. Its body makes heavy use of carbon fiber and bristles with more aero than some entire fields of race cars. The transmission is now paddle-shifted, and as of 2019, it put down 750 all-wheel horsepower. (Evo engines can make much, much more though.)
The result is a car capable of challenging a lap record at Tsukuba; arguably the crown jewel of the entire time-attack discipline. And last week, Escort showed what its car could do.
On a filmed hot lap, Ando notched a time of 49.897 seconds, which is believed to be the first sub-50-second lap ever on street tires. For reference, the McLaren F1 lapped this same track in 1:04.62, which was nearly matched by a modified Tesla Model 3 in 2020.
It's not the only sub-50 lap of course, as a Super Formula car got close to 44 seconds flat in 2015, while HKS claimed to have been the first across the 50-second line with a tuned car with a time attack Toyota 86. That lap was managed on racing slicks however and isn't widely acknowledged in the time attack community.
In any case, this record is a momentous one in the history of Tsukuba, not to mention a reminder of the kinds of cars Mitsubishi used to make—and could soon make again, by the looks of things.
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