1998 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 4
TAP RALLYE DE PORTUGAL (22 - 25 MARCH)
TAP RALLYE DE PORTUGAL
Monday 23, March
Leg 1 - 756,49kms- 10SS - 134,66kms
COMMUNIQUE N° 2
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
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
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.
CLASSIFICATION AFTER LEG 1
MITSUBISHI OIL - ENKEI - NGK - OHLINS - OMP -
PIAA - PRINGLE OF SCOTLAND - SABELT