1996 Hongkong-Beijing Rally

555 Hong Kong-Beijing Rally
Thursday, October 17th, 1996
Communique 1


Three Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Lancer Evolution IIIs are ready to tackle the biggest challenge in special stage rallying - the 1996 Hong Kong - Beijing Rally - which starts from Stonecutters Island, Hong Kong, on Saturday, October 19. The weather was hot and sunny for scrutineering, which took place today,

The trio of Lancers will be crewed by Japanese ace Kenjiro Shinozuka, partnered by Australian co-driver Fred Gocentas, Finn Ari Vatanen and his French co-driver "Tilber", and New Zealand Rally winning pair Richard Burns and Robert Reid from Great Britain.

The event, the longest and most arduous in the rally calendar at 3,840 km over seven days with 26 special stages totalling 485 km, is the deciding round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, and the three Mitsubishi Lancers are aiming for the Manufacturers' crown. Mitsubishi was the champion manufacturer in 1995 when Kenneth Eriksson dominated the series in the Lancer, and the team is determined to retain the honour.

Favourite to lead the Lancers into Tian an Men Square in the Chinese capital is Richard Burns who said at scrutineering today : "I'm pretty confident. The Lancer is excellent and after the shakedown before scrutineering it felt very good. This is the same car in which I won the Rally New Zealand, so you could say it's my lucky car !"

Ari Vatanen, who rejoins Team Mitsubishi Ralliart after finishing second this event last year is equally determined, commenting : "I haven't completed the recce because I was driving in the Paris-Moscow-Beijing Rally at the time, but the route is almost the same as last year. Yes, I will be slightly handicapped but I am more determined than ever to win this event again. The car is very confidence-inspiring, so I feel very comfortable."

For top Japanese driver Kenjiro Shinozuka, who drives the Lancer Dealer Team car, the 1996 Hong Kong - Beijing Rally is tinged with sadness, however. He said : "This will be the last running of this event, because next year it will become a normal special stage rally with a short route, and for that I am sad because this is the last of the "proper" rallies. I love the real challenge of long, tough rallies like this and it will be said to see it die out. But I have a very good feeling of confidence and hope, so it would be nice to win the last such event in my Lancer."

The Hong Kong - Beijing Rally is truly an adventure and requires massive ressources and effort from Team Mitsubishi Ralliart. The Ralliart family has pooled its talent from across the globe, with 12 nationalities represented in the 83 team members from as far apart as Africa, Japan and Finland, headed by Ralliart Europe from Great Britain, Ralliart Australia and Ralliart Hong Kong. Indeed, five mechanics from Japan will be enjoying their first taste of rallying adventure after being carefully selected from Mitsubishi across Japan by a series of arduous aptitude tests.

A total of 52 cars have been entered for the event, of which 18 are Mitsubishis. In Group N, the class for standard production vehicles, top Asia-Pacific class contender Yoshihiro Kataoka and his co-driver Satoshi Hayashi, both from Japan, are favourites to win after an already successful season in the category in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III.

The Hong Kong - Beijing Rally starts Saturday, October 19 at 10.30 am local time with a short, sharp blast around Stonecutters Island, covering just 2.2 km, before heading out to Nam Kwan Mountain for the first serious test at 20.31 km, crossing the border into mainland China, from where the convoy strikes north towards the capital. Just two stages will be completed before the overnight halt in Conghua after the opening 388 km leg.









Copyright 1996 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.

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