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1998 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 3
SAFARI RALLY KENYA (27 FEB.-2 MARCH)

SAFARI RALLY KENYA ‘98
Friday 27, February
COMMUNIQUE N 1

MITSUBISHI LANCER AND CARISMA GT AIM FOR
SAFARI RALLY KENYA SUCCESS



Team Mitsubishi Ralliart is well prepared for one of motorsport’s legends, the third round of the 1998 World Rally Championship, the Safari Rally Kenya. World Champion Tommi Makinen will drive a Lancer Evolution, while Richard Burns will use a Carisma GT.

The Safari is the World Rally Championship’s supreme challenge. This year’s route is the shortest ever thanks to heavy rain just before the event, which led to the cancellation or shortening of some sections, but it promises to be exceptionally tough no matter what the weather. Dry, hot conditions for the last week mean that there is little mud left, but the roads are rougher than ever, because parts of Kenya have had five times their usual rainfall in the past four months. If it stays dry, it will be a punishing week for suspension and tyres, but rain is forecast for tonight and competitors are praying that it is a passing shower and not a deluge that will turn the countryside into a sea of mud. The weather and the terrain ensure that the Safari challenge is still very much intact. Few rallies are less predictable than the only World Rally Championship round held in Africa.

Makinen produced an astonishing performance to give Mitsubishi its third Safari win two years ago and, partnered by new co-driver Risto Mannisenmaki, he is in good shape after a hard recce. The 33-year-old Finnish superstar believes that the pace will be faster than ever, no matter how rough it is.

“Hopefully, it can go like two years ago, when I won the Swedish Rally and this one. I hope it is the same! It is shorter than previous Safaris and it will be very close, like European rallies. Even though it is Kenya, we will have to go fast. ” said Makinen. “We have useful experience with this car. It is quite similar to the car we had last year and we had no problems with the car then. Michelin has worked hard too and I think the tyres are even better.”

British team-mates Burns and co-driver Robert Reid are in a strong position, as they have more experience of the Safari than almost any other top rally.
With three previous attempts and second place last year behind him, Carisma GT driver Burns believes that he is a good chance of taking his long-awaited first win at World Rally Championship level after a successful recce, in which he practised every section four times.

“I went fairly hard at our shakedown and the car stood up well. I think I can go one better and win, but so much depends on luck here. I’m running sixth on the road and it’s so easy just to find a rock over a crest. It has changed a lot since I first did it and it is more of a speed rally, but there is still an element of Safari luck,” Burns commented.


“If the rain stays away, getting through the sections won’t be the problem it was on the recce. It’s still going to be very rough. If you survive, you’re going to be in with a good chance at the finish,” said Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Manager Phil Short.

The Safari is one of the toughest rallies for tyre companies, not simply because it is rough and hot, but also because speeds are so high. Accordingly, Michelin feels it is better not to use its renowned ATS puncture-resistant tyres at all times, saving them for sections close to dusk and dawn, when ambient temperatures are lower.

The rally starts in Nairobi on Saturday morning with a demanding six-section leg to the south and west of Nairobi. Drivers face a total of 563 kilometres on Saturday, of which 343 will be competitive.


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

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Copyright 1998 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.