Team Winfield Mitsubishi Ralliart has consolidated its position on the second day of Spain's Catalunya Rally, the final round of the World Rally Championship. The Lancer Evolution III drivers have faced long, demanding stages west of Tarragona on the longest, most exacting day of the event, which is the only round of the 1996 World Championship held entirely on asphalt. Warm sunshine and long, abrasive corners through mountain ranges clad with olive groves and vineyards have imposed a stern test of driving skill and tyres, which the Mitsubishi crews have passed with flying colours.
World Champion Tommi Makinen and co-driver Juha Repo made a flying start to the day in their Group A Lancer Evolution III, setting fastest time on the first stage, the longest of the leg, then settling into a swift yet steady pace that has kept them in touch with the leaders on their first rally together. Completing the leg in fifth place, they are ideally placed to exploit the least slip by their rivals during the closing stages.
"The car has been very good since we adjusted the suspension yesterday, but I think we can still improve," declared Makinen, who made particular mention of his Michelin tyres. The second leg has pushed tyres to the limit thanks to unusually warm weather.
Burns nursed his Lancer Evolution III skilfully through the last stages of the afternoon when he ran into a problem with a gearbox bearing that had been starved of oil.
The British driver, navigated by Robert Reid, nevertheless felt there had been plenty of positive aspects of the day. "I'm happy with the times we're doing: they're reasonable, I think. Where it's really twisty - just one corner after another - you've got to get the right line in the first one, or you make a mess of them all," he said.
"It has been a day when tyre choice has been very important. " said Team Winfield Mitsubishi Ralliart Director Andrew Cowan. "The cars have gone very well and Tommi's done some very good times. Richard has also set good times on his first attempt at this sort of rally."
One of the highlights of the rally has been the ferocious battle for the Group N World Cup for production cars between Ralliart Germany's crew, Uwe Nittel and Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner, and the South American duo, Gustavo Trelles and Jorge Del Buono.
Nittel set a blistering pace to overturn his four-second deficit overnight and pull out a 55-second lead on Trelles : "My Lancer Evolution III has gone very well and we can now drive at the same speed as Gustavo, but we cannot slow down, because he is going like the wind," said the German. One of the two will win the Group N title and the pressure has mounted by the stage.
The rally will be decided over the 101 kilometres of mountainous stages in the third and final leg tomorrow. All five of the stages were used during the first leg, guaranteeing a flat-out sprint for points and prestige before the finish on the seafront in Lloret de Mar on Wednesday afternoon.
OVERALL POSITIONS AT THE END OF LEG 2
1.P. LIATTI/F. PONS I/I SUBARU IMPREZA 555 3.08.50 2.C. McRAE/D.RINGER GB/GB SUBARU IMPREZA 555 + 0.03 3.F. LOIX/S. SMEET B/B TOYOTA CELICA GT FOUR + 0.32 4.B. THIRY/S.PREVOT B/B FORD ESCORT COSWORTH + 0.46 5.T. MAKINEN/J. REPO FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III + 1.13 6.P. BERNARDINI/D. SAVIGNONI F/F FORD ESCORT RS COSWORTH + 2.13 7.K. ERIKSSON/S. PARMANDER S/S SUBARU IMPREZA 555 + 2.19 8.O. GOMEZ/M. MARTI E/E RENAULT MAXI MEGANE + 3.04 9.R. MADEIRA/N. DA SILVA P/P TOYOTA CELICA GT FOUR + 3.40 10.A. MEDEGHINI/"MEDEGHINI" I/I SUBARU IMPREZA 555 + 4.34 11.R. BURNS/R. REID GB/GB MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III + 5.43 ........................................................ ............. ........................................... ................. 16.U. NITTEL/T. THORNER D/S MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III +13.45（1stN） 17.G. TRELLES/J. DEL BUONO ROU/RA MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III + 14.40（2ndN）
*Carlos Sainz was forced to retire during ss2
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Copyright 1996 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.