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2008 Mitsubishi Evo - The Road To Success - Project Evo

Project EVO is tested to its limits

In my quest to dip below the 2-minute barrier at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, I had to take the plunge and change some things on the EVO that I didn’t necessarily want to. Unfortunately, after trying very hard with the previous setup but coming up 3 seconds short of my target (during my last outing, the EVO ran a 2:03.200), it was time I sacrificed just a little comfort and streetability in hopes of reaching my goal.

As much as I liked the Falken RT-651K street tires that I was running as my track setup, I needed more grip, and that meant leaving the realm of street tires and entering the R-compound world. Because the EVO is such a heavy car, it really needs all the grip you can throw at it, and the Nitto NT01 is an ideal choice. The NT01 has been around for many years now and proved itself as one of the go-to tires for track junkies and go-fast fiends. It provides tremendous amounts of grip without the accelerated wear time that would be found on full race slicks; you can easily expect to get a season’s worth of track days out of the NT01. And while they aren’t recommended to be driven on the street, you can get away with it if need be — just hope there isn’t any rain.

Go figure, it was sunny when I left the house (on the NT01s), and as soon as I was halfway to the track, a rain storm hit hard, practically flooding the highway at some points. Thank goodness for AWD, but even then there were some scary hydroplaning moments. Bottom line, keep these tires on the track and off the streets as much as possible. Thanks to the EVO’s massive wheel clearance, I was able to fit a set of 275/35R18 NT01s on my 18x10.5-inch Volk RE30 wheels with no rubbing issues to report. Before I get to my track review of the tires, there was one other aspect of the EVO that I felt I could improve without really upsetting the way it drove and performed: the seats.

The stock Recaro seats are some of the best and most supportive on the market, but they still have compromises to keep the masses happy. The biggest downfall to the stock Recaros are how heavy they are. With built-in airbags and reclinable support, the driver side tips in at 42 lbs while the passenger side, which is equipped with an additional weight sensor, weighs in at a hefty 48 lbs. I figured I could cut the weight in half with some lightweight bucket seats. That would surely provide some benefit at the track — every pound counts!

Being that Recaro was original equipment in the EVO, I chose them for my bucket seats as well. There’s been some talk that Recaro has slowed down in the aftermarket seat business, especially in the U.S., and I’m here to tell you none of that is true. Speaking to the head director of sales and marketing, Jonathan Sieber, he quickly pointed out that Recaro is still poised and committed to aftermarket seats and continues to be a leader in that segment. It’s easy to believe that statement when you see the quality and craftsmanship that goes into one of Recaro’s bucket seats, which, by the way, are all SFI-certified and FIA-approved (meaning you can use them in any sanctioning race series).

Although I would have loved to buy some ultra-lightweight (8.8 lbs) carbon-Kevlar-backed Recaro Profi SPA seats, the price was a bit too steep. Instead, a much more affordable and almost as light (14.3 lbs) alternative is the standard Profi bucket seat. The Profi offers purpose-built shoulder and lateral support that ensures both your upper and lower body are snug and free of any considerable movements. It has a fiberglass backing that’s rigid and conforms to most slender body types. My waist size is a 33 and the Profi is very close-fitting for me. If you’re any bigger, I suggest stepping up to the Profi XL, which is 35mm or 50mm wider than the regular seat. The Profi also accepts 4-, 5-, and 6-point harness setups.

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