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Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII - Track Day Bonanza

Project Super VIII puts its new upgrades to the test.

Peter Tarach
Sep 24, 2013
Photographer: Henry Z. De Kuyper
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It’s long overdue, but Project Super VIII finally made it to the track for a shakedown. Anytime you substantially modify a car, there’s bound to be some trial and error involved, and there’s no better way to see what works and what doesn’t than some laps around a track.

Let’s rewind for a moment, though, and quickly recap what has been done to improve the handling and power production on this ’03 Evo VIII. A plethora of bolt-ons has opened up both the exhaust and intake tracts thanks to Tomei and HKS. A CBRD BBK Lite upgraded stock-frame turbo has been fitted up, and with an RRE tune, the engine produces 339 whp and 323 lb-ft of torque at a modest 23 psi with California 91-octane pump gas.

In the handling department, JRZ RS1 coilovers take care of damping duties, while a simple but effective Whiteline rear sway bar helps promote vehicle rotation in the corners. StopTech six- piston calipers with two-piece rotors and 18x9.5 +22 Gram Lights 57DR wheels shod with 255/35R18 Yokohama Advan Neova tires round off the setup.

The big question remains: How well does this package work in unison? But before I could find out, an alignment was needed, because without dialed-in suspension, this would all be for naught.

Any serious racer will tell you that having proper camber, toe, and caster alignment is the difference between a car that can be a nightmare on track and a tight, precise, well-balanced machine. That’s why I took the Evo to Evasive Motorsports for a trackworthy setup, but one that will still be kind to the tires during street use. Evasive has been around the track game for a long time and has aligned some of the top time attack cars in the Southern California region, so I’m confident when I leave there I’ve got a great setup to test with.

To this day I’m still immensely impressed at how track capable a modified Evo is. Out of the factory, it’s a well-equipped track car, but with the aforementioned mods, it becomes such a beast. The Evo is arguably the best mod-friendly, dual-purpose car out there. Best of all, unlike many other cars that you mod, the character of how an Evo drives and behaves is not lost after modding it. Its threshold just increases.

Let’s start with the horsepower gains. Obviously there’s a night and day difference between stock and current power levels, but what I particularly like about this setup is the linear delivery. It may not make a ton of horsepower, but the way it’s delivered is stocklike with immediate boost response and a fat powerband. I much prefer this over peaky high horsepower, as it allows for better throttle-induced control in corners.

For suspension, I’m just beginning to explore the capabilities of the JRZ RS1 coilovers, but from my initial impressions, the damping control is superb. Since these are single-adjustable, both rebound and compression are regulated together resulting in noticeable changes with just one click of the knob. Being an intermediate track guy, that’s a good thing, as I don’t have the time or commitment level to tune and sort out double-adjustable shocks.

In both high- and low-speed corners, the RS1 handles bumps and nodulations without ever upsetting the vehicle. Even at the Evo’s low ride height (not low enough for some of you, I’m sure), there’s no jouncing or jarring in any of Buttonwillow’s bumpier corners. Smooth isn’t likely the best term to use, but that would sum up the ride quality.

Mitsubishi lancer evolution VIII project center differential Photo 5/8   |   A track-oriented center differential will allow for faster corner exit as opposed to the current open-diff that hinders midcorner power delivery.

With the larger Whiteline sway bar out back, the Evo’s willingness to rotate during initial turn-in is significantly improved. Since the VIII doesn’t have AYC (Active Yaw Control) or ACD (Active Center Differential), you have to be patient with the throttle because mashing on the gas too soon will result in a midcorner push. Hopefully, a mechanical center differential upgrade as opposed to the current open one will help remedy this issue.

When I first installed the 255/35R18 tires on the aggressive-fitting +22-offset Gram Lights, I was worried about rubbing, and my suspicions were warranted. For street use, the combo works well, but at the track, where compression of the rear tire into the fender arch is at its fullest, rubbing is present. It’s not bad enough that I can’t run the car at full tilt, but nevertheless, rubbing is never a good thing.

Stiffening the suspension helped tremendously, but if I had to do it all over again, I would have gone with a 245-series tire for that extra bit of clearance. I’m not looking to win any championships with this car, so the small amount of added grip isn’t worth the hassle.

That said, the Advan Neovas are amazing pieces of rubber. I think they’ve become my favorite non-R-compound street tire for track use. The grip level dips into R-compound territory, and with consistent, maintainable grip lap after lap after lap, I understand why most top street tire class competitors swear by this tire. It ain’t cheap, but neither is going fast.

Mitsubishi lancer evolution VIII project suspension upgrades Photo 6/8   |   One can’t argue with how good a stock-body Evo looks with some proper wheel and suspension upgrades.

Brakes are such an integral part of having confidence to dive deep into corners, and that’s why I replaced the stock Brembos with StopTech’s Big Brake kit. It’s a great feeling knowing your binders can get you out of a jam when you need them. I consistently tried to find the limits of the BBK, which meant getting out of my comfort zone and testing the boundaries of how late to brake. Not surprisingly, the StopTech six-piston calipers with race pads proved equal to the task, and despite thinking I was going to have an off-track experience, I didn’t.

This upgrade is not necessary, but if you’re looking to shave precious seconds off your lap times, then I highly recommend it.

So how fast or slow (depending on how you look at it) is Project Super VIII around the famed clockwise 13 setup at Buttonwillow? It ran a 2:04, which is not bad, but there’s much more improvement to be had. For comparison’s sake, Project Evo X achieved a 2:00 flat but with R-compound tires and a superior all-wheel-drive system.

To shave four seconds off is doable, but it all depends on the creature comforts and sacrifices I’m willing to make. There’s a fine line between having a capable track car that’s still street-friendly and going all out. Where Project Super VIII goes from here, is a question that will soon be answered.

Stop Throwing Away Your Oil Filters

The great minds at K&N have come up with a way to not only reduce waste but also make it easier to get your oil change done. Gone are the days of having to run to the store to buy oil filters, with the new reusable oil filter that can last the lifetime of your car.

The filter housing, bypass valve, and call plate are all CNC-machined from billet aluminum, while mechanical filtration is achieved with a dual-woven stainless steel microscreen that provides a substantial increase in oil flow when compared with standard disposable oil filters. The filter cartridge also contains two neodymium magnets located in the filter screens for additional capacity and debris removal. Cleaning it is truly easy, and for cars like Project Super VIII that need frequent oil changes from all the track use, this filter is the best solution on the market.

Mitsubishi lancer evolution VIII project k and n reusable oil filter Photo 7/8   |   Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII - Track Day Bonanza
Mitsubishi lancer evolution VIII project k and n reusable oil filter Photo 8/8   |   Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII - Track Day Bonanza
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By Peter Tarach
351 Articles

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