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1998 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 2
THE INTERNATIONAL SWEDISH RALLY (5-8 FEB)



Friday, 6 February
LEG 1 - 491,99 km - 8 SS - 147,28 km
COMMUNIQUE N 2


TEAM MITSUBISHI RALLIART MAKES GOOD START TO SWEDISH RALLY


Team Mitsubishi Ralliart driver Tommi Makinen has forged into an impressive second place on the first day of the Swedish Rally, the second round of the 1998 World Rally Championship, while Uwe Nittel is fighting strongly to hold a top 10 place in his Carisma GT. Mitsubishi has also taken control of the Group N production category, in which Carismas hold the top three places.

Drivers have faced classic Swedish Rally conditions, with temperatures dipping to 11 degrees below zero and fresh snow during the day made the stages particularly slippery, making good tyre choice crucial. Speeds have remained high, with stage records tumbling on practically all day, proving just how competitive the World Rally Championship has become. Healthy crowds, waving banners and national flags, have thronged the forests to witness the drivers averaging up to 120 km/h as they balance cars on the limit of adhesion on narrow, icy tracks, sometimes leaning on snowbanks to place the car for the next corner.

Makinen has driven within his vast capabilities, while making good use of the Lancer Evolution’s impressive performance in exceptionally tricky conditions. He is well ahead of his main championship rivals, Toyota driver Carlos Sainz, Subaru man Colin McRae and Ford’s Juha Kankkunen, and in an ideal position to attack leader Thomas Radstrom during the second leg. He stepped up the pace as darkness fell and is sure that he can go faster still when he has adjusted the rear suspension to his liking.

“It’s been a good day, with nothing too dramatic for us. The car has been good and our Michelin tyres have worked well, but for sure it’s going to be difficult to catch Radstrom. He is driving very well, but there is a long way to go and anything can happen,” said Makinen.

Germany’s Nittel has swapped times with the other works drivers in Carisma GT to fight his way into the top 10 – a considerable feat in itself on such a testing rally. He has made full use of past experience to set a string of encouraging stage times and establish a good position for the second leg.

“I was very pleased with our start and I think we could have had an even better result today if I hadn’t taken the wrong tyres for the third and fourth stages. My target for this rally was to get the best result possible for Mitsubishi and it’s fantastic to be amongst the leaders already when everyone is still fighting. We hope to do even better tomorrow,” he said.

Richard Burns has shown real promise on his first attempt at the Swedish, but the British Carisma GT driver spoilt his chances by sliding into a ditch for nine minutes on the second stage of the rally. The car was undamaged and Burns has seized the chance to gain further experience of this uniquely demanding event.

“We were lucky to get out of the ditch and there’s no point in trying to set lots of fastest times after losing so much. Since then, our times have been quite good and I am very happy with the car. We’ll try to be the best newcomers and enjoy ourselves!” Burns declared.

“We’re very much in contention,” said Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Manager Phil Short. “Tommi’s very close to the lead and reports no problems. He’s going well and I am sure he can do better still tomorrow. Everything depends on the weather on this rally and fresh snow can be a handicap. As far as Richard’s concerned, we’re naturally disappointed about the accident, but we’re quite happy with his performance on other stages.”

“Uwe is doing exactly what we wanted, driving sensibly and we have no problems with the car. This is one of the hardest rallies in the world for a young driver and we hope we can have a really good result here. You can never be sure of anything though, because the conditions can change so fast. We have already had snow, ice, gravel and fog, so who knows what can happen tomorrow?” said Team Manager Ingolf Raiss.

Mitsubishi Lancers and Carismas have dominatedthe production class in rallying for years and the Swedish Rally is no exception. Local hero Stig-Olov Walfridsson leads after the first leg, but he will have a hard time beating second-place man Kenneth Backlund, who has won Group N for the past five years – always in Mitsubishis!

More snow is forecast for the second leg, which takes crews north towards Borlange. Crews face another six stages, totalling 139 kilometres, including the longest stage of the rally, the daunting 47 kilometres of Jutbo.

 

 

 

OVERALL CLASSIFICATION END OF LEG 1

1.T.RADSTROM/L.BACKMAN S/S TOYOTA COROLLA 1.19.42.0 Gr-A
2.T.MAKINEN/R.MANNISENMAKI FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER 1.20.06.6 Gr-A
3.C.SAINZ/L.MOYA E/E TOYOTA COROLLA 1.20.52.5 Gr-A
4.M.GRONHOLM/T.RAUTIAINEN FIN/FIN TOYOTA CELICA 1.20.53.2 Gr-A
5.C.MCRAE/N.GRIST GB/GB SUBARU IMPREZA 1.21.08.2 Gr-A
6.J.KANKKUNEN /J.REPO FIN/FIN FORD ESCORT 1.21.13.6 Gr-A
7.D.AURIOL/D.GIRAUDET F/F TOYOTA COROLLA 1.21.14.3 Gr-A
8.K.ERIKSSON/S.PARMANDER S/S SUBARU IMPREZA 1.21.23.5 Gr-A
9.U.NITTEL/T.THORNER D/S MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT 1.22.18.6 Gr-A
10.B.THIRY/S.PREVOT B/B FORD ESCORT 1.22.55.1 Gr-A
13.S.WALFRIDSON/G.BARTH S/S MITSUBISHI LANCER 1.24.01.4 1stGr-N
14.K.BACKLUND/T.ANDERSSON S/S MITSUBISHI LANCER 1.24.12.6 2ndGr-N
16.J.KANGAS/J.LAKKSONEN FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT 1.25.30 3rdGr-N
31.R.BURNS/R.REID GB/GB MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT 1.30.34.40 Gr-A
Nationality:
A=Austria/ AUS=Australia/ AND=Andorra/ E=Spain/ CZ=Czech Republic/ D=Germany/ F=France/ FIN=Finland/ GB=Great Britain/ GR=Greece/ J=Japan/ MAL=Malaysia/ NZ=New Zealand/ RA=Argentine/ RI=Indonesia/ ROU=Uruguay/ S=Sweden/ T=Thailand/


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

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Copyright 1997 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.