WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 2
THE INTERNATIONAL SWEDISH RALLY (5-8 FEB)
Saturday 7th February
LEG 2 - 532,39 km - 6 SS - 139,82 km
COMMUNIQUE N° 3
MITSUBISHI LEADS SWEDISH RALLY WITH MAKINEN
AND DOMINATES GROUP N
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart driver Tommi Makinen has taken
control on the second day of the Swedish Rally, the
second round of the 1998 World Rally Championship, and
looks poised to score Mitsubishi's third Swedish Rally
victory. Mitsubishis are looking uncatchable in the Group
N production car category, with Lancer Evolution and
Carisma GT drivers holding the top five places.
Conditions changed dramatically on the second day of the
World Rally Championship's one true snow rally.
Temperatures were up to 10 degrees warmer than they were
on the first day of the rally and the drivers had to cope
with slush and gravel as well as snow and ice. There were
fog patches on the first few stages of the morning as
well, making the rally even more testing. Swedish
spectators come prepared for bad weather though and they
thronged the stages in their thousands, well equipped
with snow boots and colourful woollen hats to ward off
the chill. Enterprising householders set up stalls
selling coffee and hamburgers in the forests, making the
most of these few days when the Varmland and Dalarna
provinces are in the spotlight.
World Rally Champion Tommi Makinen and co-driver Risto
Mannisenmaki blasted into the lead with a devastating
time on Jutbo, the longest stage of the rally. The Lancer
crew were the only competitors to complete the twisty
47-kilometre stage in under 28 minutes, making full use
of Michelin's latest GE asymetric snow tyre. They gained
a commanding lead when Toyota driver Thomas Radstrom
crashed, while Colin McRae retired his Subaru on the same
stage with electrical trouble and Carlos Sainz also lost
time after spinning his Toyota, then hitting a rock.
"My performance has never been so good on this long
stage in the past, so I put in a big effort and I am
happy for that," said a jubilant Makinen. "I
wish I had used this tyre earlier, but now we don't need
to go flat out anyway. We will just keep an eye on the
Germany's Uwe Nittel and Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner
have made excellent progress in their Carisma GT, using
their Michelin tyres to good effect. Their Mitsubishi has
performed perfectly and they stand a good chance of
scoring valuable World Championship points on one of the
most demanding rounds of the series. "It has been a
good day and I am really pleased we are moving up,"
said Nittel. "There is so much to learn about this
rally though: I was too careful with my tyres on the long
stage and I realise now that I could have gone faster
without damaging the studs. Tommi's time was incredible.
He knows everything about this rally!"
British crew Richard Burns and Robert Reid have driven
superbly in their Carisma GT, even breaking stage records
in the morning. It was an extraordinary feat on their
first attempt at the Swedish and the perfect
demonstration of the effectiveness of the Mitsubishi and
its Michelin tyres. Since his accident on the second
stage yesterday, Burns has played a valuable testing role
in evaluating tyres and helped Makinen make the right
choice as he pushed for the lead. "It's been a good
day and I can see where I can gain time in future. It's a
lot to do with the tyres and having confidence in them,
but I'm very pleased to be setting fastest times first
time through these stages," Burns declared.
"It's been a very satisfying day for us. Tommi
always felt that he could stay in touch with Radstrom and
take some time off him, but he's taken charge of the
rally after the longest stage. He doesn't need to take
any risks tomorrow, but still we need everything to go
well to be sure of winning," said Mitsubishi
Ralliart Team Manager Phil Short. "Richard has set
some very impressive times today and he's enjoying
himself." "Uwe is also driving very well today.
He's gaining confidence with each stage, and, thanks to
his past experience in the Swedish rally, he can surely
have a good result tomorrow., commented German
Manager Ingolf Raiss.
Mitsubishi has tightened its grip in Group N, but there
is little to choose between local heroes Stig-Olov
Walfridsson and Sweden's Group N king Kenneth Backlund.
The duel between the Carisma GT drivers has been one of
the highlights of the rally and either of them could
easily emerge as winner. One thing is certain: they can
place complete confidence in their machinery.
The third and final leg of the rally is the shortest,
with just 94 kilometres of stages, but in such changeable
weather conditions, nothing can be taken for granted
until the winner crosses the finish ramp.
CLASSIFICATION END OF LEG 2
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/
MICHELIN - MITSUBISHI OIL - ENKEI - NGK - OHLINS - OMP -
PIAA - PRINGLE OF SCOTLAND - SABELT
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- Communique 2 -
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