RALLIART

RALLIART TOPICS
October 16th, 2000


ERIK COMAS SWAPS TARMAC FOR GRAVEL

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Former Grand Prix star and rally rookie Erik Comas has joined forces with Mitsubishi to contest the penultimate round of the 2000 FIA World Rally Championship, Telstra Rally Australia (10-12 November).

French-born Comas, who has only previously contested three rallies, will be driving a Loctite-supported Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution in what is regarded as the flag-ship event of the series. However, despite competing in Australia previously, there will be very few similarities between his single-seater race car and the Adelaide Grand Prix circuit, and the Championship winning Lancer Evolution VI he will be powering along the narrow, tree-lined gravel stages around Perth.

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Former Formula 1 star Erik Comas will drive a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution in the next Rally Australia

"I still have a lot to learn about rallying as I’ve only done three events, and the world’s best will be in Perth", commented Erik. "After so many years of road racing, the pace notes are my handicap - it’s about trusting more than just my eyes! But I have the best car for Group N and you can be sure I’ll produce my best effort. Rallying is more emotional, while track racing is more rational. Doing both rallying and road racing will allow me to mix feelings and be an even faster driver".

Erik, who lives with his Italian wife and son in Santa Barbara, California, has an extensive track record and, having driven with a number of Japanese manufacturers, has even found time to learn to speak Japanese.

His racing career began in 1983 in karts before progressing to French Formula Renault, French Touring Cars and French Formula 3. He took the FIA F3000 World title in 1990 before moving up to Formula One with the Ligier and Larrousse teams. The Frenchman then turned his attentions to GT racing and finished sixth overall at Le Mans in 1998 and took the All-Japan Grand Touring Car Championship title the same year and also in 1999, rounding the season off with victory in the Fuji Le Mans 1000 kilometre event.

In April this year, Erik took the prized Group N trophy in his first ever rally, the Oregon Trail in the USA, in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV. In his second, but first asphalt event, the Rallye du Mont Blanc in France, he won the GT class and will be contesting Canada’s Rally de Charlevoix before competing in Rally Australia in November.


RALLIART FINLAND DRIVERS GO FOR OVERSEAS CHALLENGE

Newly-crowned 2000 Finnish Group N Champion Jani Paasonen will be competing in Rally Australia (10-12 November) - the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship - in his Championship-winning Tommi Makinen Special Edition Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. He is joined ’down under’ by Ralliart Finland protégés Juha Kangas and Kaj Kuistila, all of who will be contesting the event for the first time.

By winning this season’s Finnish Championship, twenty-five-year-old Paasonen has upheld Mitsubishi’s enviable record of taking victory in the Drivers’ Championship - with either Group A or Group N cars - every year since 1990 and the Manufacturers’ Championship since 1992. The Finn has only contested the Swedish, Spanish and Finnish rounds of this year’s World Championship, but victory in Sweden and in his home event have helped secure 11 wins from 11 outings for Mitsubishi in the highly-competitive Group N category this season.

"I’m pleased to have this opportunity to drive Rally Australia", commented Jani. "I know that it will be hard to win there, but I will try to follow in first stages the speed of the local drivers and Gustavo Trelles and Manfred Stohl and then we will make our final tactics, either go for safe points or try to push harder for the victory. I also think this is a perfect sign to all that we have a wide and competitive field of young drivers in Finland for Mitsubishi. We all want to be professional drivers and this is the best way to learn", he added.

Juha Kangas, a Ralliart Finland contracted driver between 1996 and 1998, also returns to the Mitsubishi family for Rally Australia. The twenty-six year old from Yliharma, who finished third overall in this year’s Finnish Group A Championship, will be back behind the wheel of a Group N Mitsubishi Carisma GT for one of the most spectacular events in the series.

"I have driven almost all the European rounds in the World Rally Championship, and also New Zealand, but this is a new event for me", said Juha. "I tested the Rally Rent Europe prepared group N Carisma in Finland after the rally and I have to say it is a completely different car than the Evo VI which I used in the Championship in 1996. This has much more potential and the handling is far better".

Rounding off the trio of Finnish drivers, up-and-coming star Kaj Kuistila has also been entered in a Carisma GT. Kaj only broke into the Finnish Championship this season and entry into Rally Australia represents his second event outside his homeland.

"This is a pure learning trip for me. I haven’t driven so many events yet, but I would like to learn more and more so that we can, via my company Rally Rent Europe, offer better and better service for our future customers. But of course I try to be in top six in the end", comments Kuistila.

Rally Australia will provide quite a unique challenge for the young Finns. Narrow tree lined stages leave little margin for error, and the country’s extraordinary marble-shaped gravel makes conditions exceptionally slippery. The event is based in the West Australia City of Perth and starts on Friday 10 November.

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