WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 1
MONTE CARLO RALLY (18-21 JAN)
Sunday, 18 January
COMMUNIQUE N° 1
MITSUBISHI RALLIART SET FOR TOUGH MONTE CARLO RALLY
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart is preparing for the Monte Carlo
Rally, one of the toughest challenges in motorsport, for
although the event is the shortest ever in the World
Rally Championship, the first round of the 1998 season
promises to be exceptionally tough thanks to bad weather.
Three cars will run under the Team Mitsubishi Ralliart
banner a Lancer Evolution for Tommi Makinen and
Carisma GTs for Richard Burns and Uwe Nittel.
Traditionally, the Monte Carlo Rally is one of the most
unpredictable of the major rallies, because the weather
can change in a matter of hours. Competitors meet with
anything from dry asphalt to deep snow, with rain, fog or
ice all possibilities. In such conditions, drivers need
judgement just as much as speed, as there can be more
than 10 different types of tyre to choose from and every
chance that the tyres are not ideal for every situation,
because conditions can change by the kilometre.
Mitsubishi is well equipped, thanks to thorough testing
with Michelin in recent weeks. Snow is forecast for
Sunday evening and it seems inevitable that the opening
stages on the twisty roads of the Alpes-Maritimes will be
especially slippery. The spectacle is sure to attract
vast crowds from throughout Europe, thronging the
mountainsides to catch a glimpse of top drivers pushing
highly sophisticated machinery on the limit.
As the World Rally Champion with Mitsubishi for the past
two years, Finlands Tommi Makinen and new co-driver
Risto Maanisenmaki are naturally amongst the favourites
in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, even though Makinen
is suffering a little from flu. Makinen who
set an electrifying pace to lead much of last years
Monte Carlo Rally is bidding to become the first
driver to win the World Championship three times running.
On this rally, you have to be as careful as
possible, because of the conditions. The car is very well
developed now and we had a short test just before the
recce, when I drove it for 100 kilometres, said
Makinen. Risto is one of the most experienced young
co-drivers from Finland and we have been working very
well during the recce. I dont think we will have
any problem. I think a Monte Carlo victory would be a
good way to start our relationship!
British team-mates Richard Burns and Robert Reid are
contesting the Monte Carlo Rally for the first time and
realise that they have plenty to learn. Burns admits that
he would like dry conditions, but knows that a mixture of
snow and asphalt would be good experience and excellent
preparation for his next rally, the Swedish.
I think its probably confirmed what I
thought: we are starting the year with one of the most
difficult rallies. Weve seen quite difficult
conditions in the recce snow, black ice, slush
and there will be quite a few tyre compromises. My
objective is to get round in one piece. There are a lot
of fresh things for me, said Burns.
We dont really know whats going to
happen with the weather, but were as well prepared
as we can be, said Team Mitsubishi Ralliart
Director Andrew Cowan. The Monte Carlo is always an
unpredictable rally, partly because of the weather and
partly because you never know how much development other
teams have done since the end of last season. Team
Mitsubishi Ralliart has made some refinements to the
highly successful Lancers and Carismas, concentrating on
suspension and tyres to make them easier to drive and
effective in as wide a range of conditions as possible.
Uwe Nittel of Germany and Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner
are delighted to be driving one of the latest Carisma GTs
and aim to make the most of the experience gained on
previous Monte Carlo Rallies.
Its a brilliant car. We havent tested
it much, but were really hoping for a good
result, Nittel enthused.
Mitsubishi is hoping to exercise its usual dominance of
the Group N category, the most convincing demonstration
of the speed and reliability of the standard production
Lancer. Uruguays Gustavo Trelles, a double Group N
Champion with Mitsubishi, is the clear favourite in his
Lancer Evolution, but he faces stern opposition from
French Mitsubishi drivers such as former European
Champion Cesar Baroni, Frederic Schmit and Didier
Competitors face a total of 20 stages, covering 359
kilometres, during the three-day rally. Competitors head
from Monaco to Gap on Monday, attempting six stages which
span 119 kilometres.
MICHELIN - MITSUBISHI OIL - ENKEI - NGK - OHLINS - OMP -
PIAA - PRINGLE OF SCOTLAND - SABELT