1998 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 4
TAP RALLYE DE PORTUGAL (22 - 25 MARCH)
TAP RALLYE DE PORTUGAL
Sunday 22, March
SS 1 - 137,29 kms - 1SS - 3,88 kms
COMMUNIQUE N° 1
LANCER AND CARISMA GT MAKE GOOD START
TO RALLY OF PORTUGAL
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart's Lancer Evolution and Carisma
GT have made a solid start to the Rally of Portugal, the
fourth round of the 1998 World Rally Championship, with
both World Rally Champion Tommi Makinen and Richard Burns
in the top 10 after the first special stage, with Uwe Nittel giving strong support in his Carisma GT.
Based in Porto for the first time, the rally began with a
traditional feature, a stage at the Lousada rallycross
track. The four-lap, 3.88-kilometre contest has always
been a crowd-pleaser and a superb entry for the event
attracted thousands of ecstatic fans, waving banners and
sounding horns, or begging the drivers to sign everything
from caps to T-shirts as well as scraps of paper. A band
of drummers and a parascending display added to the
carnival atmosphere on a hot, sunny afternoon.
The rally begins in earnest with the renowned Fafe stages
on Monday morning and sensibly, Finnish crew Makinen and
Risto Mannisenmaki bided their time on a short stage that
gave little opportunity to gain much advantage. Although
he is in eighth place, Makinen is just two seconds behind
leader Didier Auriol and fully capable of repeating his
crushing 1997 victory in his Michelin-shod Lancer
"I slid off on the first hairpin. I was a bit too
fast and it was more slippery than I expected, but there is no damage and it doesn't matter. We
have had a good test here and we know that this rally is
good for the car," said Makinen. "Even though I
have not driven on a loose-surface rally since November,
I felt good as soon as I tried the car."
British team-mates Richard Burns and Robert Reid, the
winners of the recent Safari Rally, settled into 10th
place in their Carisma GT, just two car lengths and half
a second behind their Team Mitsubishi Ralliart colleagues
after a duel that had the crowd roaring its approval.
"That was good fun," said Burns with a grin.
"Tomorrow will be a bit different. It's quite rough
- maybe worse than last year - and I think it's going to
be hard on tyres in a few places. The surface is very
loose in places and I think dust could be a problem as
well, but I'm looking forward to it."
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart has another car very much in the
running, the Carisma GT of German star Uwe Nittel and
Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner staking their claim to
12th place after the first stage.
"This rally is going to be rough, but I don't think
that's a problem in a stable car like the Carisma. The
competition is incredibly strong and I think it's going
to be an incredible battle from start to finish,"
"It has been very dry in practice and it's forecast
to stay dry for the rally, which means it's going to be
dusty, but the ground is going to be hard as well,"
said Team Manager Phil Short. "It's going to be a
tough rally. The feeling is that the second part of the
first leg and the beginning of the second leg is going to
be hardest. We think we're well prepared, but I'm sure it
wll be close."
"It must be years since there were so many
four-wheel-drive cars on a major rally, but Portugal is a
hard rally even to finish and I think we can get a good
result," said Team Manager Ingolf Raiss.
The Group N category is the ultimate test of
production-line engineering and fruitful territory for
Mitsubishi. Double World Group N Champion Gustavo Trelles
instantly grabbed the lead in his Lancer Evolution and
Mitsubishi Lancers and Carisma GTs held eight of the
first 10 places after the first stage!
The first leg re-starts at 05.00 on Monday, with another
nine stages, totalling 134 killometres, before a welcome
overnight halt in Viseu.
CLASSIFICATION AFTER SUPERSPECIAL
MITSUBISHI OIL - ENKEI - NGK - OHLINS - OMP -
PIAA - PRINGLE OF SCOTLAND - SABELT