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

1998 TAP RALLYE DE PORTUGAL
Sunday 22, March
SS 1 - 137,29 kms - 1SS - 3,88 kms
COMMUNIQUE N 1

MITSUBISHI 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 Evolution.

"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," Nittel said.

"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.

 

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OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER SUPERSPECIAL

1.D.AURIOL/D.GIRAUDET F/F TOYOTA COROLLA 3.06.9 Gr-A
2.T.RADSTROM/L.BACKMAN S/S TOYOTA COROLLA 3.07.1 Gr-A
3.C.MCRAE/N.GRIST GB/GB SUBARU IMPREZA 3.07.7 Gr-A
4.C.SAINZ/L.MOYA E/E TOYOTA COROLLA 3.07.8 Gr-A
5.M.GRONHOLM/T.RAUTIAINEN SF/SF TOYOTA COROLLA 3.07.9 Gr-A
6.P.LIATTI/F.PONS I/I SUBARU IMPREZA 3.08.2 Gr-A
7.J.KANKKUNEN/J.REPO FIN/FIN FORD ESCORT 3.08.5 Gr-A
8.T.MAKINEN/R.MANNISENMAKI FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER 3.08.9 Gr-A
9.F.LOIX/S.SMEETS B/B TOYOTA COROLLA 3.09.2 Gr-A
10.R.BURNS/R.REID GB/GB MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT 3.09.4 Gr-A
...        
12.U.NITTEL/T.THORNER D/S MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT 3.10.7 Gr-A
14.A.VATANEN/F.GALLAGHER SF/GB FORD ESCORT 3.12.8 Gr-A
25.G.TRELLES/M.CHRISTIE ROU/RA MITSUBISHI LANCER 3.18.9

1stGr-N


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

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Copyright 1998 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.