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

 



1998 RALLYE CATALUNYA-COSTA BRAVA
Tuesday 21st April
LEG 2 - 738.868 km - 6 SS 172.92 km
COMMUNIQUE N 3


MITSUBISHI LANCER AND CARISMA PERFORM STRONGLY
ON CATALUNYA RALLY

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart drivers Tommi Makinen and Richard Burns are well placed to extend Mitsubishi's lead in the 1998 World Rally Championshp for Manufacturers after an impressive performance on the second day of Spain's Catalunya Rally, the fifth round of the series. They have had strong support from Carisma GT-driving team-mate Uwe Nittel, who is confirming Mitsubishi's reputation for speed and reliability.

Competition has been exceptionally close on a hot, sunny day in the hills north of Tarragona. The roads are faster than the stages closer to the rally's base in Lloret de Mar and the surface is more abrasive, making it vital that drivers look after their tyres as well as seeking the last scrap of performance. Mere seconds divide the leading drivers and even a missed gearchange shows instantly in a drivers' stage time. The contest between the world's best cars and drivers has enthralled the vast, wildly enthusiastic crowds. Carlos Sainz (Toyota), in third place tonight, is treated as a god in his homeland, but all the top drivers are constantly in demand for autographs and photos. The Frenchman Didier Auriol and the young Belgian Freddy Loix are leading the rally and the fans line the hillsides, waving flags and banners - even crutches in some cases - as they rush past.

Reigning World Rally Champion Tommi Makinen, co-driven by fellow Finn Risto Mannisenmaki, admitted that the latest version of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution did not entirely suit his driving style at first, but small changes to the transmission electronics and a determined effort on his part have produced real rewards and he has rocketed up to a challenging fourth place after the second leg. "I have found out how this car works. It is completely different to the older Lancer, but now I have driven it for a few more kilometres, it seems good," Makinen enthused. "Tomorrow will be flat out. We are very close to Carlos Sainz, but I think we can hope to finish third at least."

Burns was slightly disappointed to end the day in fifth place, after holding third for much of the leg in his Carisma GT, co-driven by Robert Reid. However, the British star is neck and neck with his team-mate ; just half a second behind after nearly 300 kilometres of special stages – and confident that the third leg will give him a chance to improve on his third place in the World Championship for Drivers. He has made good use of his car and his Michelin tyres to set a highly competitive pace on a rally where he has less experience than his rivals. "The car's good and it's a question of knowing how hard you can push the tyres," Burns explained. "Hopefully, tomorrow will be even better. The stages suit my style, because you have to have a less aggressive approach."

Germany's Uwe Nittel, co-driven by Swede Tina Thorner, have continued to make a good impression in their Carisma GT, battling for seconds with former World Champion Colin McRae with a Subaru and leading four-times champion Juha Kankkunen on Ford. "The car has been very good and our main problem is that other drivers cut the corners, which means the road is more slippery when we get there," Nittel said.

"It's been a very hard-fought day. We're very happy that both our cars are in the top six. Tommi has moved up thanks to good times this afternoon and Richard has also driven particularly well. The cars have been very reliable and we're in a good position to make an attack tomorrow," said Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Manager Phil Short. "Uwe has driven very well and we are very pleased with the way the car is going. It has been very reliable again," added Ingolf Raiss.

Mitsubishi and Uruguay are dominating Group N, with the experience of Double World Champion Gustavo Trelles, leading the newcomer Gabriel Mendez. “We are very happy with the new car and look forward to the last day when we hope to do as good as today”, said Trelles tonight.

The final leg will be fought out over a near-identical route to the first, in the moutains north of Lloret. Another six stages, totalling 106 kilometres, stand between the drivers and the finish tomorrow afternoon.

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart has made a promising start to the Catalunya Rally, the fifth round of the 1998 World Rally Championship. The latest version of the Lancer Evolution and the Carisma GT has performed well on its first day in competition and drivers Richard Burns, Tommi Makinen and Uwe Nittel are fighting hard to extend Mitsubishi’s lead in the battle for the manufacturers’ championship.

No fewer than nine factory teams have entered cars for the event, the first all-asphalt rally of the World Championship season, and huge crowds have flocked to the stages to witness the action. Tens of thousands of people have attended the best vantage points, finding their way up tiny tracks to park their cars, or walking for kilometres up the winding mountain passes of Catalunya. The atmosphere is electrifying: the fans greet every car by cheering and sounding klaxons as they urge on their favourites. Warm, sunny weather has provided ideal conditions for driving, as the times prove: mere fractions of seconds split the top contenders.

British star Burns, co-driven by Robert Reid, has driven superbly to hold second place in the opening stages, before dropping to fifth position, swapping seconds with the lightweight two-wheel-drive cars, which are highly competitive on dry asphalt roads that provide good grip. Making good use of his Michelin tyres, he has been amongst the leaders from the start in his Carisma GT and looks to have a good chance of improving on his third place in the World Championship. Only a fourth-gear spin on the sixth stage has marred an otherwise faultless performance.

“I didn’t expect to be so fast on the first few stages, so that was a nice feeling. I think it shows we’ve made real improvements to the car,” Burns said. “We’re all trying pretty hard. I’m just driving in my usual style, trying to be smooth, which seems to suit the new car.”

Double World Champion Tommi Makinen and fellow Finn Risto Mannisenmaki have speeded up after a cautious start in their new Lancer Evolution. Once he had adjusted the suspension after the first two stages, Makinen was much happier with the handling and he has since made good use of the latest Mitsubishi’s improved roadholding and more responsive engine. He admitted that he has not always chosen the correct Michelin tyres for the conditions, but he is confident that he can match anyone when he makes the right choice. He held ninth place after the first leg, but only a handful of seconds divide the leading cars and he remains very much in contention.

“Maybe we were trying a bit too hard on that last stage, but the car is good and the differences between the cars are very small. I think we can improve tomorrow,” Makinen stated.

Uwe Nittel of Germany and Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner made a flying start in their Carisma GT, even beating Makinen on some stages. Nittel was delighted with the car and his stage times, but disappointed to lose 15 seconds when he spun on the sixth stage, which was particularly slippery.

“It was a good day. I have a good feeling about the Carisma and I hope we can do even better tomorrow,” Nittel said.

“It’s been a satisfactory day. The new Lancer and Carisma have been reliable on their first day in competition. Richard has set some very competitive times and Tommi is also very much in touch with the leaders. I think we’re in good shape to make a push for the second leg.
There is supposed to be some rain coming, but in any case, the stages are abrasive, which should suit four-wheel-drive,” reported Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Manager Phil Short and Team Manager Ingolf Raiss added :“Uwe has been driving very well and against such strong opposition, we are very pleased with our position” .

Mitsubishi has taken control of the Group N category, the class for near-standard production cars. Gustavo Trelles, the double World Champion and acknowledged master of Group N, has built up a useful lead in his new Lancer Evolution, with Austrian Manfred Stohl in second place in his Carisma GT and Gabriel Mendez, who comes from Uruguay, like Trelles in fourth place in his Lancer.

The second leg is the longest and probably the toughest of the rally. It takes competitors west of Barcelona, to the fast, abrasive stages around Tarragona. They face six long stages, including the daunting 45 kilometres of La Figuera, the longest stage of the rally, in a total competitive distance of 172 kilometres.

OVERALL CLASSIFICATION END OF LEG 2

1. D.AURIOL/D.GIRAUDET F/F TOYOTA COROLLA 3.10.01.9 Gr-A
2.F.LOIX/S.SMEETS B/B TOYOTA COROLLA 3.10.43.5 Gr-A
3.C.SAINZ/L.MOYA E/E TOYOTA COROLLA 3.11.00.9 Gr-A
4.T.MAKINEN/R.MANNISENMAKI FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER 3.11.01.2 Gr-A
5.R.BURNS/R.REID GB/GB MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT 3.11.06.6 Gr-A
6.P.BUGALSKI/JP.CHIARONI F/F CITROEN XSARA 3.11.09.0 Gr-A
7.G.PANIZZI/H.PANIZZI F/F PEUGEOT 306 MAXI 3.11.26.0 Gr-A
8.B.THIRY/S.PREVOT B/B FORD ESCORT 3.11.43.1 Gr-A
9.F.DELECOUR/D.GRATALOUP F/F PEUGEOT 306 MAXI 3.11.54.6 Gr-A
10.C.MCRAE/N.GRIST GB/GB SUBARU IMPREZA 3.12.14.8 Gr-A
11.U.NITTEL/T.THORNER D/S MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT 3.12.46.5 Gr-A
Nationality:
A=Austria/ AUS=Australia/ AND=Andorra/ E=Spain/ CZ=Czech Republic/ D=Germany/ F=France/ FIN=Finland/ GB=Great Britain/ GR=Greece/ J=Japan/ MAL=Malaysia/ NZ=New Zealand// RA=Argentine/ RI=Indonesia/ ROU=Uruguay/ S=Sweden/ T=Thailand/

-Communique 2-

-Communique 1-


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Copyright 1998 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.