1998 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 5
Rallye MoviStar Catalunya-Costa Brava
Rallye de Espana (20 - 22 April)

 



1998 RALLYE CATALUNYA-COSTA BRAVA
RALLYE DE ESPANA
Sunday 19, April
COMMUNIQUE N 1

NEW MITSUBISHI LANCER AND CARISMA GT BRING NEW HOPE FOR
TEAM MITSUBISHI RALLIART ON CATALUNYA RALLY


Team Mitsubishi Ralliart is launching a new version of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Carisma GT on Spain’s Catalonia Rally to strengthen its bid for the 1998 World Rally Championship. The car was unveiled to a large, expectant crowd of pressmen on a sunny, Sunday afternoon on the terrace at rally headquarters, as Team Mitsubishi Ralliart drivers Tommi Makinen, Richard Burns and Uwe Nittel pulled the cover off the newest, most dramatic world rally contender.

The fifth round of the championship, Catalonia is one of the highlights of the rally season and the first pure asphalt event of the year. A tough, well-organised event, it always attracts a strong entry and it has a massive following with the Spanish public, with many staying to see the rally after the Easter holiday. Even the test stage, two days before the rally itself, attracted thousands of fans, eager for a glimpse of the cars and the stars. Carlos Sainz is naturally the local fans’ hero, but they beg all the top drivers for autographs and photos. In Spain, the week of the rally is a festival that takes over the host town, Lloret de Mar and the green, wooded mountains of Spain’s eastern province.

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart has high hopes that its new car will help it increase its lead in the World Championship for Manufacturers. The new machine has been thoroughly tested in Japan and Europe. Last-minute refinements to the suspension and transmission with test driver Lasse Lampi were made this week and the team’s engineers are confident that the drivers will be able to make full use of the wide-track suspension and revised engine, which has better response thanks to new, Mitsubishi-developed electronics. They also have a new range of Michelin tyres that shows great promise.

Double World Champion Makinen has had a difficult start to the season, but the Finn and co-driver Risto Mannisenmaki believe that they have an excellent chance of repeating Makinen’s sensational 1997 victory in Spain with the new Lancer.

“It feels completely different to the older car, but it is easier to drive,” said Makinen. “I have driven it for two days and it is so good. There is no need to test it any more. I have cleaned my mind and I am going to make a new start with my new car. Of course I need to finish, but I feel very confident.”

Team-mate Burns has been one of the stars of the season in his Carisma GT and currently lies third in the World Championship for Drivers. He and co-driver Robert Reid have contested this demanding event only once before, but it is one of the rallies the British driver has been looking forward to the most.


“I couldn’t remember as many of the stages as I thought, but I think this can be a good rally for Mitsubishi. The car feels comfortable to drive. It has no real vices and it seems well balanced. It’s good on the bumps and we can rev the engine more, so it’s definitely a step forward,” Burns declared.

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart has a three-car team, as Germany’s Uwe Nittel and Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner also drive a Carisma GT. Nittel has plenty of experience of the rally, but expects a tough battle in view of the strong entry.

“It is never easy to get a good result on World Championship rallies now and this will be a very fast rally. We have a good car and good tyres, but we will need to be careful sometimes, because other cars will cut the corners and bring mud and gravel onto the surface,” Nittel predicted.

“We’re very happy with the testing. Altogether, we’ve done in excess of 2,000 kilometres and the car’s been very reliable, which has allowed us to concentrate on suspension settings. We’re finding it’s a very different animal and it behaves in quite a different way,” stated Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Manager Phil Short. “Our feeling is that the car’s configuration is quite good.”

“Tommi clearly needs points after his Portugal accident, but of course, winning is now more important than ever and he showed last year that he can beat anyone in these conditions. Richard has less experience here, but he is in form at the moment and he proved in Monte Carlo that he can be fast on asphalt. This is one rally that could suit the two-wheel-drive cars and a lot is going to depend on the weather. There is a chance of rain on Monday, which would be better for four-wheel-drive cars like ours.”

“Mitsubishi has a fantastic reliability record and we aim to build on that here, but we know the pace will be very hot,” said Team Manager Ingolf Raiss.

Mitsubishi is strongly represented in the Group N production car category as well. It is the perfect demonstration of the capabilities of a showroom car and Mitsubishi has dominated the class in recent years. The clear favourite is double World Group N Champion Gustavo Trelles of Uruguay, who has one of the latest Lancer Evolutions.

The three-day, 1471-kilometre rally starts on Monday morning, with seven stages in the hills around Lloret de Mar and Vic. The first leg includes 121 kilometres of flat-out driving and, with nine factory teams represented, competition is sure to be fierce.

-Communique 3-

-Communique 2-

MICHELIN - MITSUBISHI OIL - ENKEI - NGK - OHLINS - OMP -
PIAA - PRINGLE OF SCOTLAND - SABELT

 

 

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Copyright 1998 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.