Mitsubishi driver Francois Delecour believes that the team's best hope of a competitive return to the World Rally Championship in 2004 is a new car.

The Frenchman, who will spend next season testing as a result of Mitsubishi's shock decision to give 2003 a miss, is not convinced that the Lancer Evo WRC provides a viable long-term solution.

"Maybe it would be simpler to have a new car," said Delecour. "There is still a long, long way to go with the Lancer if it is going to be competitive." Mitsubishi is known to be assessing its smaller Colt as an alternative base car.

Delecour was only made aware of the team's decision not to contest the 2003 series on Monday morning [December 2] but says he understands the reasons behind it.

"For the sake of the team, it was a wise move," he said. "In their place, I would probably have done the same thing. However, from a driver's point of view it's horrific. It's better to be competing on rallies in a bad car than not competing at all."

Delecour has been promised some World Championship rallies next year, but he is not sure which ones and even which car he will be driving.

"I really know very little at the moment," he said. "I've been told I will do some rallies, and clearly I want to do as many as possible."

He is under contract to Mitsubishi for next year, but does not know whether or not the new circumstances will preclude the chance to drive on World Championship rallies in other cars.

"This is not clear yet," he said. "But it looks like I will have more time at home next year than I did this year." Team principal Andrew Cowan has indicated that he may consider releasing his drivers for one-off drives with other manufacturers.