Team Mitsubishi Ralliart leads the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers going into the final round, the Network Q RAC Rally strongly backing by Petronas, the national oil company of Malaysia which takes place in Great Britain on November 19 - 22. Kenneth Eriksson and Tommi Makinen will lead the Mitsubishi attack in their Group A Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IIIs, aiming to win the prestigious Manufacturers' title.
With two victories in the World Championship rallies this year and an incredibly consistent points-scoring run throughout the season putting the team two points ahead of its rivals after seven rounds, Mitsubishi is the hot favourite to lift the Manufacturers' title on the RAC. The Lancers have proved fast and reliable all year, and these qualities are in great demand on the slippery and unpredictable 2330 km final round of the World series.
Kenneth Eriksson and Tommi Makinen are both formidable drivers on gravel special stages, and the RAC Rally provides one of the toughest gravel rounds of the series, noted for the unpredictable nature of its forest tracks and the highly variable weather conditions. The RAC features 28 special stages totalling 520 km in length over four days, taking competitors through the forests of Northern England, Wales and the Scottish Borders. Eriksson, Makinen and their rivals expect everything from dry, dusty tracks to slippery mud, ice, hail, fog, and snow.
Both the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IIIs will have a sponsor for the event: Petronas, the national oil company of Malaysia. With 25 Wholly-owned subsidiaries, 13 joint ventures and 10 associate companies, Petronas is engaged in activities ranging from exploration and production to refining and marketing of crude and petroleum products, processing and distribution of gas, natural gas liquefaction, and manufacture of fertilisers and petrochemicals.
In addition to the Team Petronas Mitsubishi Ralliart Lancers of Eriksson and Makinen, Petronas will also back the Ralliart Malaysia-operated Petronas EON Racing Team entering one Proton Wira in Group N.
To prepare for the conditions, Team Mitsubishi Ralliart will have undertaken two intensive test sessions before the start in Chester on Sunday, November 19. Tyre choice will be critical, and the team carried out extensive testing on British gravel tracks in October with Michelin and test driver Lassi Lampi. The tyres used will be a development of those used in New Zealand this year, where Makinen led for the early part of the event in the Lancer. Because of the wide range of weather conditions expected, Michelin will take over 900 tyres to the UK to cover everything from thick snow to black ice and deep mud. Because of the rough nature of many stages, all tyres will be reinforced and use the ATS 'run-flat' system pioneered by Michelin. A final confirmation test will take place one week before the start.
Said Kenneth Eriksson: "The RAC Rally is a very big challenge, but I enjoy this event and I know that whatever the conditions, I can rely on my Mitsubishi Lancer and the team to perform well. I have the right tools for the job and I hope I can win."
Tommi Makinen added: "The conditions will be very difficult, but I will try my best. I think the Lancer is the best car, so we will have an advantage."
The 2330 km Network Q RAC Rally is the final round of the eight-event FIA World Rally Championship and sets the scene for a dramatic finale to a closely fought season with both the Drivers' and Manufacturers' titles to be decided in Great Britain.
Team Petronas Mitsubishi Ralliart leads the World Championship for Manufacturers by two points from Subaru, and both its Group A Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III drivers - Kenneth Eriksson and Tommi Makinen - are looking forward to the challenges that the RAC Rally presents.
Two years ago, deep snow and thick ice left many drivers stranded in Scotland and Northern England in sub-zero temperatures, yet last year it was mild weather combined with heavy rain and slippery conditions that faced competitors on the final round of the World Championship.
With such unpredictable conditions, drivers need cars that can cope with a vast range of temperatures and track conditions, and this is where Mitsubishi holds a distinct advantage with the Lancer Evolution III which is famed for its reliability and comes into its own when conditions are tough. The Michelin-shod Mitsubishis will be driven through the most unpredictable and gruelling rally of the world series, covering 520 km on mostly gravel tracks that wind through the national forests.
The RAC Rally starts from the historic Roman city of Chester on Sunday, November 19, from where the anticipated 190 starters will head into the English Midlands for the traditional Sunday run through stately homes, parklands and race tracks, designed specifically for the enjoyment of spectators. Six of these 'spectator specials', attracting crowds of up to 30,000 people on each, will be held on the first day before the surviving competitors arrive for the first overnight halt in the northern industrial city of Leeds for the first time in the event's history.
Day two will be seen by many as the start of the rally 'proper', with seven special stages through Europe's largest man-made forest - the notorious Kielder complex which is feared and respected by rally drivers across the world. The day starts early in Leeds at 05:00, but the drivers will need to have their wits about them over the narrow, slippery tracks lined by deep ditches that can trap the unwary. The survivors are due to arrive back in Chester at 21:00 on Monday, November 20.
Another early start at 05:00, this time from Chester, will greet the remaining crews as they head into the fast, flowing stages of mid-Wales for the third tough day of the RAC. Another seven stages will be covered before the final night halt back in Chester at 19:40 on Tuesday, November 21.
The final day will take the competitors back into the mountains of Wales for the final seven stages, again starting from Chester at 05:00, returning to the ancient walled city of Chester at 15:00 for the finish, not only of the RAC Rally, but the entire World Championship season. It will be in Chester where the FIA World Rally Championship Driver and Manufacturer will be crowned.
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Director Andrew Cowan commented: "It's great to be leading the World Championship going into the final round, and this has been achieved both by winning events and being consistent. The Lancers work particularly well in the difficult conditions we can expect on the RAC Rally, and in Kenneth and Tommi we have the best drivers for this type of event. Kenneth's record of finishing second three times in Britain points to his expertise on this event, and we all know that Tommi can be very quick, too. We stand a very good chance of winning the World Championship for Manufacturers which will be a fantastic achievement for Mitsubishi."
The Group A Lancers will be backed in their efforts to win the championship by Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III driver, and newly-crowned World Group N Champion, Rui Madeira(to be confirmed by FIA). The Portuguese driver, who performed superbly on the Catalunya Rally to help Mitsubishi take first place in the championship will again be the third nominated driver in the Ralliart Germany-prepared standard-class Lancer.
The RAC Rally starts in the historic Roman city of Chester on Sunday, November 19 from where 190 cars are expected to start the four day event which returns to the City on Wednesday, November 22.
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Copyright 1995 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation
Copyright 1995 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation