Mitsubishi Motors paid tribute to the Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart World Rally Championship Team and the countless successes of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution worldwide at the annual Mitsubishi Champion's Meeting in Tokyo on 16-17 February.

The Champion's Meeting is not a competitive event, but it gives Japan's numerous rally enthusiasts a chance to savour the thrill of special stage rallying in an accessible, city centre environment and they flocked to the slickly run meeting in their thousands.

Held in Daiba, on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay not far from the bustling heart of the Japanese capital, it was a festival devoted to the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, one of the most popular high-performance models in the world.

A short but spectacular tarmac course provided a demonstration of the Lancer Evolution's capabilities as professional drivers took the wheel of a variety of Lancers, both in World Rally Car and Group N production class tune, clouds of tyre smoke drifting out towards the bay as they flung the cars from lock to lock.

The general public were given a chance not simply to watch, but to participate. Rides with the stars were available in a lottery and the drivers were available for a question and answer session, as well as signing autographs and posing for photographs.

The drivers on hand certainly lived up to the champions billing. French star Fran?ois Delecour and Britain's Alister McRae were present from the World Rally Championship team, along with co-drivers Daniel Grataloup and David Senior, as well as Ralliart President Yukimichi Kitane, Ralliart Europe Chairman Andrew Cowan and Ralliart Europe Team Director John Easton, but so were former Asia-Pacific Rally Champion Katsuhiko Taguchi and Australia's Group N production rally king, Ed Ordynski.

The Champion's Meeting is a demonstration of Mitsubishi's capabilities in an intensely competitive form of World Championship motorsport, but also a demonstration of its heritage. The attractions included a display of some of the most successful cars in its 35-year involvement in rallying, including the Colt Lancer that won the 1974 Safari Rally and a Mitsubishi Galant that had won Australia's renowned Southern Cross Rally.

There were also no fewer than 38 immaculately presented Lancer and Carisma rally replicas, created privately by Mitsubishi fans.

Mitsubishi Executive Vice-President Rolf Eckrodt stressed rallying's value to Mitsubishi in a speech on Saturday night. "The Lancer story is a success story. Rallysport means passion, teamwork and spirit, and that exactly summarises the qualities we need in our company," he said.