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1998 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 4
TAP RALLYE DE PORTUGAL (22 - 25 MARCH)

1998 TAP RALLYE DE PORTUGAL
Monday 23, March
Leg 1 - 756,49kms- 10SS - 134,66kms
COMMUNIQUE N 2

 

MITSUBISHI LANCER AND CARISMA GT MAKE STRONG SHOWING
ON RALLY OF PORTUGAL AND LEAD GROUP N


Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Carisma GT are neck and neck with the leaders after a trouble-free first leg of the Rally of Portugal, the fourth round of the 1998 World Rally Championship. Both World Rally Champion Tommi Makinen and Richard Burns are in the top six points-scoring positions after 10 stages, Makinen holding fourth and Burns sixth, while Austrian Manfred Stohl leads the Group N production class in his Lancer Evolution.

The four top teams share the lead of the rally, with Colin McRae on his Subaru ahead, followed by Kankkunen with Ford and the Spanish star Carlos Sainz on his Toyota, just in front of Tommi Makinen.All the competitors have faced a hard day's driving on the twisty hill roads of northern Portugal, but even the most remote places seeth with fans on a rally that is one of the highlights of the Portuguese calendar. Fans flock to every vantage point and the crowds have been so big that at times even main roads have been blocked by the sheer weight of traffic. There was a little fog on the first few stages of a cool morning, but it has become a hot, dusty day that has tested stamina and the tyre life to the limit.


Makinen, co-driven by fellow Finn Risto Mannisenmaki, admitted that it has taken him a few stages to re-adapt to driving on loose surfaces, as he has not driven his Lancer Evolution in these conditions since last November's Rally Australia. He also admitted that he should have chosen a softer choice of Michelin tyre early in the morning, but a mere handful of seconds divide the leading cars and he remains in good spirits with the bulk of the rally still ahead.

"It is a long time since I have driven on a proper loose-surface rally like this. The car and the tyres have been good and things can change very fast on this rally, because the stages are so varied. We will see what happens tomorrow," Makinen said.

Driving a Carisma GT, British crew Richard Burns and Robert Reid have often been as quick as their more experienced team-mates and the red-headed Englishman looks on course for his best-ever result in Portugal, even though he felt that he hadn't been driving his best on the tricky stages around Fafe in the morning.

"We're trying as hard as we can, but the competition is tough here. Reliability has been good and I feel sure we can improve as the rally begins to take its toll," he suggested.

German ace Uwe Nittel and Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner have made it three Mitsubishis in the top 11 places after a fine start to the event. Nittel was relieved to get away with a big spin in his Carisma GT on the second stage that cost more than 10 seconds, but he has settled 3rd fastest time in sixth stage, since then to give his Team Mitsubishi Ralliart team-mates strong support.

"The stages are quite rough in places, but the car is brilliant in these conditions and we're enjoying it," Nittel commented.

"We haven't had any major problems. It's just that neither of our drivers has found a good speed yet. We hope tomorrow will suit us and the cars have been reliable," said Team Manager Phil Short. "Colin's got a lead of a minute on Tommi, but we don't see that as insurmountable."

"Today has been hard work of course, with many difficult, rough stages. We are in a good position now and we think the rest of the rally will suit our Carisma," said Team Manager Ingolf Raiss.

There is no more exacting test of a production car than the Group N category . Austrian star Manfred Stohl has taken an impressive lead in his Mitsubishi Lancer, and a mixture of Lancer Evolutions and Carismas hold the first three places in their class after the first leg.

The second of the three legs is the longest and perhaps the toughest of the rally, for it includes the much-feared Arganil stages, south of tonight's rest halt at Viseu. The 10 stages total more than 140 kilometres and only the most determined drivers will make it back to Porto on Tuesday evening.

`

OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER LEG 1

1.C.MCRAE/N.GRIST GB/GB SUBARU IMPREZA 1.33.25.5 Gr-A
2.J.KANKKUNEN/J.REPO FIN/FIN FORD ESCORT 1.34.09.7 Gr-A
3.C.SAINZ/L.MOYA E/E TOYOTA COROLLA 1.34.15.1 Gr-A
4.T.MAKINEN/R.MANNISENMAKI FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER 1.34.21.8 Gr-A
5.F.LOIX/S.SMEETS B/B TOYOTA COROLLA 1.34.37.1 Gr-A
6.R.BURNS/R.REID GB/GB MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT 1.34.39.0 Gr-A
7.P.LIATTI/F.PONS I/I SUBARU IMPREZA 1.34.46.4 Gr-A
8.T.RADSTROM/L.BACKMAN S/S TOYOTA COROLLA 1.35.02.6 Gr-A
9.A.VATANEN/F.GALLAGHER SF/SF FORD ESCORT 1.35.28.7 Gr-A
10.G.DE MEVIUS/JM.FORTIN B/B SUBARU IMPREZA 1.35.59.4 Gr-A
11.U.NITTEL/T.THORNER D/S MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT 1.36.20.0 Gr-A
18.M.STOHL/P.MULLER A/A MITSUBISHI LANCER 1.42.28.8 1stGr-N

COMMUNIQUE 1


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

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Copyright 1998 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.