Scandinavian flick: the Tommi Mäkinen homologation specials
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 Tommi Mäkinen and the Toyota GR Yaris. Two rally-inspired, road-going specials, each with its own unique ties to quadruple World Rally Championship title-holder, Tommi Mäkinen. They are separated by almost two decades of automotive development, so what are the similarities, and indeed the differences between these utterly bonkers rally cars for the road?
Well, firstly, the similarities are numerous. Obviously, they are Japanese in origin, both are in essence, road-going rally cars, both are fitted with a whining turbocharger and both feature exquisite four-wheel drive systems. And, owing to those features, they are both raucously good fun to drive.
Then comes the thread that ties these perfectly imperfect homologation cars together, the man himself, Tommi Mäkinen. At the wheel of the Evo III, IV, V and VI, Mäkinen won four world championships from 1996 to 1999 in the WRC which, at the time, made him the series’ joint-most successful driver alongside countryman Juha Kankkunen.
The Evo remained competitive in an era (post-1996) comprised of purpose-built rally cars and although Mitsubishi only claimed one manufacturers' title (1998) during that period, Mäkinen’s profound levels of success were cause enough to create 2,500 limited-run commemorative road cars. Thus, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 Tommi Mäkinen Edition went on sale in early 2000.
Fast forward 16 years and Mäkinen is appointed Team Principal of the WRC Toyota Gazoo Racing factory entry and, in 2018 he became the first person in the championship’s history to win titles as both a driver and representative for a manufacturer.
With Mäkinen having had a hand in the creation and the development of the Toyota GR Yaris, it endured an entirely different conception to the Evo. Modern regulations state that manufacturers in the WRC are required to produce 25,000 road-going models in an uninterrupted 12-month period for a car to be eligible to compete.
Not only that, but there are also modification restrictions in the WRC, so if a manufacturer hopes to be competitive, they must bolt on some pretty serious components to their road car. As a result, automotive enthusiasts are the ones who truly benefit.
So in short, the Yaris was born from necessity as opposed to celebrating a dominant run of success. Of course, the Evo was also originally created for the same series so both cars were prepared for, and eligible to race in one of the toughest championships on the planet, giving them some seriously robust DNA.
Prices when new were also remarkably similar for two examples separated by such a large stretch of time. The Evo, in 2000, went on sale for £32,835 whilst the Yaris starts from £32,110 excluding any additional performance packs.
Performance yield from these near-identically priced cars is remarkably similar as well. A 0-62mph run is achieved in 5.5 seconds by the Yaris whilst the Evo, when new, could hit 60mph in 4.3 seconds (as is often the case with older cars, a few of those highly strung horses may have escaped the stable since launch). 276bhp propelled the Evo to a top speed of 150mph and 258bhp took the Yaris up to 143mph. As we said, it’s pretty close.
The way in which they go about delivering said performance, however, is very different. So widespread and illustrious was the Tommi Mäkinen Edition’s reputation that it is often referred to, simply as TME. In addition, the myriad improvements made to the VI for the tribute model earned it a second, and more ominous nickname, the Evo 6.5.
Unlike many of the ‘special edition’ commemorative cars to bear the name of a renowned motorsport champion – that are largely all talk and no trousers – the TME was actually raced and endorsed by the driver himself, providing this car with some extra oomph when compared to its contemporaries.
Ride height was dropped by 10mm over the original and an ultra-quick steering rack fitted, the twin-scroll turbocharger was honed as well as inclusion of Mitsubishi’s inspired Active Yaw Control (AYC) system and limited-slip differentials on either end. It also received an excess of branded elements such as Brembo brakes, Enkei wheels, Recaro seats, and a Momo steering wheel, all of which adds to the authentic racing driver feel as you get behind the wheel.
The Yaris on the other hand, underwent a very different set of factory modifications to become ‘rally ready’. The headlights, taillights, and radio antenna are the only components that have been lifted from the standard model highlighting its dramatic makeover.
Toyota had lofty ambitions for the WRC and naturally, a no-limits approach was taken with the chassis’ construction. The front of the standard Yaris worked perfectly for the requirements. The rear section, however, was removed and replaced with the GA-C platform from the Prius to help accommodate the four-wheel drive system, clutch assembly and limited slip differential.
With those changes in place, the Yaris was able to fully utilise its stubby wheelbase to great effect. Its nimble chassis, combined with BBS wheels, grippy low-profile rubber, carbon fibre elements and aluminium panels throughout help to really get your blood pumping when cornering at speed.
For even more poke, the circuit pack is an optional extra which includes larger brakes, forged BBS wheels surrounded by Michelin PS 4 tyres, stiffer suspension and locking differentials on each axle.
We find ourselves ending on another similarity between the two cars. Both the Yaris and the Evo are deemed to be superb investment cars. Naturally, that is in part down to the limited supply for each. More specifically, the Tommi Mäkinen Edition Evo is seeing dwindling numbers of unmodified examples in addition to approaching that all-important 25-year USA import mark, whilst the prolonged wait times for a new GR Yaris bolster its second-hand market value.