RALLYE CATALUNYA-COSTA BRAVA
RALLYE DE ESPANA
Sunday 19, April
COMMUNIQUE N° 1
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
Spains 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 Spains 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 teams 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 Makinens 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 couldnt 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. Its good on
the bumps and we can rev the engine more, so its
definitely a step forward, Burns declared.
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart has a three-car team, as
Germanys 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.
Were very happy with the testing. Altogether,
weve done in excess of 2,000 kilometres and the
cars been very reliable, which has allowed us to
concentrate on suspension settings. Were finding
its 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
cars 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
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.