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1998 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 1
MONTE CARLO RALLY (18-21 JAN)


Monday, 19 January
LEG 1 - 473,72 km - 6 SS - 119,59 km
COMMUNIQUE N 2


TEAM MITSUBISHI RALLIART LEADS MONTE CARLO RALLY


Team Mitsubishi Ralliart driver Tommi Makinen has given Mitsubishi a superb start to the 1998 World Rally Championship by taking an impressive lead on the first day of the Monte Carlo Rally in his Lancer. With strong support from Carisma drivers Richard Burns and Uwe Nittel, Mitsubishi is in good shape after the first of the three days.

The Monte Carlo Rally is renowned as one of the most demanding rallies in the world and the weather was particularly awkward, competitors encountering snow, slush, rain, black ice and even sunshine as the event headed from the opulence of Monaco into the Alps in the depths of winter. Snow and torrential rain did nothing to deter tens of thousands of spectators, who trudged into the mountains to catch a glimpse of the most famous rally of them all. All nationalities – Spaniards, Belgians, Germans, Italians, Finns and even Poles as well as French – are to be found lining the stages, waving flags and sounding klaxons as their heroes speed past. World Championship rallying has become so competitive that special stages are now timed to the nearest tenth of a second.

Another bout of ’flu has done nothing to slow World Rally Champion Makinen and new co-driver Risto Maanisenmaki. Team Mitsubishi Ralliart engineers have concentrated on improving the car’s performance on the Monte’s unique combination of wet asphalt, snow and ice, and the latest revisions to the Lancer have worked brilliantly. Makinen singled out Michelin for special praise; tyres are a more important element in winning the Monte Carlo than any other rally and the Finn was happy to reveal that they had given him the edge. A brilliant time on the icy final stage of the leg carried him well clear of his pursuers after a bravura performance.

“It has been a really good day. That last stage was incredible. I tell you, there was quite a lot of ice and at the beginning I thought we had made a real mistake. It is good to be in front, but in these conditions, anything can happen,” declared Makinen.

British team-mates Richard Burns and Robert Reid have played a starring role on their first Monte Carlo Rally.
It is widely acknowledged to be one of the most specialised rallies in the world, yet Burns has belied his lack of experience to exploit the Carisma GT’s performance to the full, humbling an array of Monte Carlo specialists in the process – but even he admitted that he was surprised to have run as high as third place, before consolidating fourth place overnight, despite spinning on the Col de Turini, then skidding into a field on an unexpected patch of ice on the sixth stage.

“I’m not going flat out. I’m just driving really neatly and looking for the ice. It was bad in the snow this morning, but we had a really good tyre choice and the car’s going well. I’m quite happy: this is better than I expected,” he said.

“We’re very satisfied with both crews. Tommi is still not feeling well – he’s not 100% recovered – but once he was into his stride he set fastest times and his last time was superb. Richard is exceeding our expectations. He’s stayed pretty close to the leading bunch and we’re in a strong position for tomorrow. This rally is very unpredictable though and things can soon change. There’s a long way to go,” said Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Manager Phil Short.

Uwe Nittel of Germany, co-driven by Sweden’s Tina Thorner
is giving a good account of himself on his first rally in a Group A Carisma GT to make it three Mitsubishis in the top 10.

“Today has been tough with these conditions, but we are pleased so far and we are enjoying this new car. We are getting more experience all the time,” Nittel said.

Mitsubishi is completely dominating the group N production category with promising Austrian Manfred Stohl leading three other Lancer Evolutions.

The second leg loops into the High Alps before the long, hard drive back to Monaco. Competitors face another seven stages, totalling 148 kilometres, during the longest leg of the rally.

OVERALL CLASSIFICATION after LEG 1

1.T.MAKINEN/R.MAANISENMAKI FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER 1.26.57.50 Gr-A
2.C.SAINZ/L.MOYA E/E TOYOTA COROLLA 1.28.06.00 Gr-A
3.P.LIATTI/F.PONS I/I SUBARU IMPREZA 1.28.15.60 Gr-A
4.R.BURNS/R.REID GB/GB MITSUBISHI CARISMA 1.28.39.10 Gr-A
5.C.MCRAE/N.GRIST GB/GB SUBARU IMPREZA 1.28.48.00 Gr-A
6.J.KANKKUNEN /J.REPO FIN/FIN FORD ESCORT 1.29.07.00 Gr-A
7.B.THIRY/S.PREVOT F/F FORD ESCORT 1.30.02.90 Gr-A
8.U.NITTEL/T.THORNER G/S MITSUBISHI CARISMA 1.30.34.40 Gr-A
9.H.LUNDGAARD/F.PEDERSEN DK/DK TOYOTA CELICA 1.32.10.50 Gr-A
10. F.DELECOUR/D.GRATALOUP F/F PEUGEOT 306 MAXI 1.32.15.50 Gr-A
...        
M.STOHL/P.MULLER   MITSUBISHI LANCER 1.35.01.00 1stN
L.CLIMENT/A.ROMANI   MITSUBISHI LANCER 1.38.10.10 2ndN
C.BARONI/D.SAVIGNONI   MITSUBISHI LANCER 1.40.30.70 3rdN
M.DUEZ/G.THIMONIER   MITSUBISHI LANCER 1.40.59.40 4thN

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/



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



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Copyright 1997 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.