Mitsubishi has confirmed that it will enter a two-car team on all 16 rounds of the 2005 World Rally Championship, with a new driver line-up for the team's full time return to competition.

Former SEAT and Peugeot driver Harri Rovanpera will lead the team, competing in all of the events in his Lancer WRC05, with president of Mitsubishi Motors Motorsport Isao Torii confident that the Finns experience will help the team to improve during the course of the season.

"The championship is more and more dominated by gravel rallies and we need a driver who knows all these events very well," he said. "Harri Rovanpera is a good loose surface driver, especially on the high-speed events. We feel fortunate that he is joining the team and expect some good performances. He drives consistently and finishes rallies; we will be very reliant on him."

With Rovanpera confirmed for a full season, the second Lancer next season will be shared between tarmac expert Gilles Panizzi and youngster Gigi Galli. Panizzi in particular is being tipped to shine on the asphalt events next season, and Torii is in no doubt that the Frenchman can add to his tally of seven WRC victories.

"Gilles has been incredibly supportive of the team and has contributed enormous amounts to our development program," he said. "We did not give him the car to challenge, but next year we have big expectations and see him as a potential winner on tarmac, especially in the second half of the season.

"Gigi has made very good progress and although it was very difficult to compare the results of our three young drivers this year, his performances in Sardinia and Spain are what made us decide to retain him in 2005."

Although it has already been confirmed that Daniel Sola will not be with the team next season, there is still a chance that a third Lancer WRC05 could run on selected events.

Development of the 2005 version of the Lancer started back in August and produced some strong performances towards the end of 2004. Torii confirmed that work was still on going ahead of the new season, although he believes the team is still on target to achieve the goals set out when Mitsubishi returned to the WRC at the start of 2004.

"We have concentrated very seriously on development of the Lancer WRC since August this year and that strategy paid off in Spain, where the progress we made saw two cars finish in the top seven," he said. "We still have more development work to do. An active differential system and modified semi-automatic gearshift will be the main targets in the development program and our primary focus for the first half of the season. But we intend to get back on the podium in the second half of next year; Rally Japan, in particular, being our target.

"In October 2003 we announced our team's three-year turn-around program, namely that in 2004 we would come back to the series with the Lancer and then target podium positions in 2005. For 2006, our aim is to claim the world title again; I feel those objectives are on track."

 

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