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Mirage Fighters

The run-down on one of Australia's newest racing formulas - the Logical Mirage Series...

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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Mitsubishi's Mirage hatch. They are good for more than just trundling down to the shop or for use as a pizza delivery vehicle - believe it or not, they can make a fun, affordable little racecar. The latest Australian one-make racing series - the Logical Mirage Series - sees a field of up to 30 imported MIVEC Mirages scuffling and bumping panels vying for a top position. But these aren't your average Mirages - they've actually been specially brought in from Japan in full Ralliart race-trim. All the cars in the series have previously competed in Japan in '97/98 as well as the Hong Kong/Singapore series, and it was Ralliart's Bob Riley who picked out the best 30 vehicles from a field of 140.

The chosen vehicles were shipped to Australia and were then made available to Aussie competitors for the sum of $22,000 (car only). On top of that, a total administration fee of $23,500 is required for the year and drivers must also hold at least a CAMS C3 license (C4 for Bathurst). It's anticipated that the Mirage series will run until 2001 (making it three years running in total).

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We spoke to one driver (Dean Evans) and series coordinator (Bill O'Gorman) to get the goss on the cars and the series...

These virtually identical little beasties are purpose-built as racecars, using a Japanese market Mirage Type RS as the base. Being a factory bare-bones race special (just like a Lancer Evo RS) there's no power windows, power steering, air con nor even the luxury of a heater. A factory lightweight special it most certainly is!

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Under the bonnet lurks the 1.6 litre MIVEC 4G92 with its high 11.0:1 compression, which (in standard form) punches out 129kW at 7500 revs and 167Nm of torque at 7000. That's nearly twice the power of the local 1.5 litre Mirage - but don't forget, these engines have also been hyped-up by Ralliart.

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Each car now has a Ralliart computer, 4>1 extractors, high flow exhaust and air filter. An oil catch can is fitted as well. Running on regulation fuel, the kilowatt total is now close to around the 135kW mark and the 4G92 will willingly wind all the way out to 8200 rpm. Although, Dean (who's experienced in racing Super Minis) says it does drop off torque at about 8000.

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The rules on engine modifications are strict - there're absolutely none allowed! This explains the use of lock wires on the rocker cover - tamper with them at your peril. Competitors aren't even allowed to perform their own tuning. Sutherland Mitsubishi (in Sydney) does the servicing and maintenance, as well as storing the cars - so the potential for a little backyard tweaking doesn't even exist.

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Unlike other MIVEC Mirages (such as the Cyborg R) the Type RS also sports a limited-slip front differential, which aids in getting the power down much more capably. Close ratio gearing also helps it on the way to a top speed of about 235km/h (which Dean says is likely to be reached at Bathurst). Dean tells us about the only reliability issue is in regard to the gear synchros - and that's often because many competitors have a love for flat changing!

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Ralliart's racing preparations also includes a FIA-approved roll cage, window net, extinguisher, harness, racing seat and a safety fuel cell. Suspension-wise, the cars use front and rear strut braces and KYB coilovers with adjustment for both ride height and damping. They're all set-up mightily firm too, coz they are 100% track driven only. Tyre pressures are up to the individual competitor, but (other than strut adjustment) that's it for permitted suspension alterations.

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The MIVEC Mirage racers are anchored powerfully by a set of Evolution IV four wheel discs with Pagid RS4-2 pads. Dean confirms that brake fade is rarely a problem in these sub-1000kg cars. Competitors don't waste any time browsing through rim catalogues, because a control-size 15-inch Auscar is mandatory. To aid grip (and ensure the field sticks close together) a 195/55 Yokohama A032R control tyre is used on all the vehicles - there's no need for dedicated (and expensive) dry and wet tyres.

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On the track, the Mirages are impressively quick. To give you an idea, they're generally 6 seconds a lap faster around Oran Park's South circuit than the Swift GTis that competed in the one year of the Suzuki Cup. According to Dean, they're reasonably easy to drive, reliable and consistent. Other than the speed, one of the main attractions of the series is the relatively modest cost and the hassle-free operation that it gives. "That's something that attracts many first-time racers," Dean tells. "You pay for the vehicle and your admin fee and the cars are maintained, stored and transported to and from events - all that's up to you is to roll up with a race suit, helmet and your CAMS stuff. You just turn up and drive."

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And it's also ultra-competitive, because all of the cars are so evenly matched. Other than strut and tyre pressure adjustment, the only permitted differences are a different seat, steering wheel, gear knob and gauges. Dean (who supported by Momo) uses a Momo seat, wheel and knob and his roll cage has recently been modified as well. His helmet is pretty flash too... So given this rigid modifications structure, success 99% comes down to the ability of the driver - no excuses. Plus, as a bit of extra motivation, there's $36,400 in total prize money up for grabs, which will certainly make this a very affordable racing category for the better drivers!

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It's anticipated that there will be 8 rounds of the Mirage series for the year 2000 (subject to change). Go and check them out - it's worth it!

Round 3

May 28

Oran Park

Round 4

July 9

Oran Park

Round 5

July 16

Winton

Round 6

August 27

Winton

Round 7

October 22

Bathust Mt Panorama

Round 8

November 12

Mallala

For further information, phone Bill O'Gorman (Series Coordinator) on +61 2 95 45 7901 or email him at mirageseries@hotmail.com

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