Press Release


MAKINEN AIMS TO MAINTAIN WORLD LEAD WITH MITSUBISHI

FIA World Rally Championship leader Tommi Makinen faces what could be his toughest challenge th year when he tackles the second round, the Safari Rally which starts in Nairobi, Kenya, on Friday April 5, 1996, driving the Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Lancer Evolution III.

Winner of the first round of the series, the Swedish Rally, Finland's Makinen will be co-driven as usual by the experienced Seppo Harjanne, but this will be his first attempt at arguably the most famous and certainly the longest modern World Championship rally.

The Safari Rally runs over three days with an overall route length of 2,995 km and an awe-inspiring 1,912 km of competitive sections - over three times as long, in terms of competitive distance, as a normal World Championship round. The event also promises some of the harshest terrain in rallying, with competitors facing everything from fast, rough tracks through the plains to deep mud holes, twisting gravel roads through pine forests and wide open desert-like rocky plateaux. Makinen will have to rely heavily on the legendary reliability of his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III and the superb back-up provided by Team Mitsubishi Ralliart.

Says Makinen: "This will be my biggest challenge yet. But I have completed some good testing with the Lancer and it feels very good. I have every confidence that we can be competitive. This is an endurance event and I will have to learn to drive accordingly."

Although this will be Makinen's first attempt at the Safari, and this will also be the first visit by Ralliart Europe, the whole team will benefit from years of experience provided by Japanese ace Kenjiro Shinozuka, who will drive for Mitsubishi Lancer Dealer Team the Tusk Engineering-prepared Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III, using the same parts and components as Makinen's Lancer.

One of the favourites in this year's Safari, Shinozuka has competed successfully for Mitsubishi in Kenya for many years, finishing second on the event in 1994 and 1995, and is sure to be a front-runner with his controlled and intelligent driving style.

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Director Andrew Cowan will also bring a great deal of experience to the team's efforts this year, having competed successfully himself in a Mitsubishi during the 1970s, finishing as high as third in 1976 when Mitsubishi Lancers finished first, second and third with Joginder Singh winning for the second time with Mitsubishi. Team Manager Phil Short reports: "We have completed two tests, the second in Kenya when Tommi and test driver Lassi Lampi covered over 1500 km in an exact replica of the rally car, and we experienced relatively few problems. The suspension, body and engine worked extremely well, and the Michelin tyres we tested performed superbly. This testing is critical, since the event is run in high temperatures and at high altitude, which can affect the engine's performance. Together with Ralliart Europe, Tusk Engineering and eight mechanics from Ralliart Australia, I think we have a very strong team. It is impossible to predict what will happen on the Safari, because weather conditions can change rapidly and create unexpected developments, but with Tommi's ability and Kenjiro's excellent track record here, I'm sure we stand a very good chance of success."

The general opinion is that the Safari Rally is often won or lost in the service areas, and that consistency from the drivers and good teamwork are the keys to success. With each of the three legs longer than an entire World Championship event, and just 10 to 15 minutes of service between competitive sections, Mitsubishi's chances will rest with the proven reliability and durability of the Lancer Evolution III and the expertise of the team. Two helicopters will be employed, one each for Makinen and Shinozuka to provide airborne service and support, and to warn of hazards on the road ahead and provide safety cover.

The 1996 Safari Rally starts on Friday, April 5 at 09:30 from Nairobi, finishing back in the capital on Sunday, April 7.

THE UNIQUE CHALLENGE OF THE SAFARI



Now widely respected as the FIA World Rally Championship's longest and most arduous event, the Safari Rally presents a unique challenge which, this year, presents a vivid contrast to the previous round, held in the ice and snow of Sweden.

The Safari Rally is the second round of this year's world series and takes place from Friday, April 5 to Sunday, April 7 in Kenya, taking competitors over a gruelling 2,955 km route, 1,912 km of which will be tackled competitively through deserts, mountain tracks, deep mud holes, plains and savannah making it over three times as long and infinitely tougher than a "normal" World Championship event.

The Safari loops in modern "clover leaf" style around Nairobi, returning to the capital each evening. The first leg, to the south west of Nairobi starts at 09:30 and heads out towards Mombasa, sweeping through farmlands and the Kilungu Hills before passing Hunters Lodge and heading out into the Nyiri Desert and the Kapiti Plains of the Masai herdsmen. The competitors will then strike out along the eastern wall of the spectacular Rift Valley, before heading through the Kedong Valley and into the hottest place in Kenya, the Magadi soda lake. The survivors, who will have completed five competitive sections covering 527 km at speed will be expected in Nairobi at 18:40 in the evening.

The longest leg, with 725 km of competitive sections, takes place on day two, starting out again through the Rift Valley floor, skirting the bird sanctuary at Lake Naivasha before the rutted and often muddy climb through the Mau Escarpment, the western wall of the Rift. From there they will cross the Equator at the sisal plantations of Mogitio and then along the Kerio Valley to the extremely hot and dry stony section around Lake Baringo, famed for its Hippos and crocodiles. One of the most hazardous sections will be the twisting tracks through the greenery of the Cherangani Hills and then on to the Flurospar mine where they will have to negotiate 22 hairpin bends in 22 km before reaching Nairobi at around 18:45.

Leg three will start with a near repeat of the first day featuring a high speed blast through the Athi Plains before zig-zagging once again through the Kedong Valley. A loop through the Mau hills will be followed by the appropriately-named Hell's Gate, a deep and dramatic rocky cleft with hot springs and geysers. The last competitive section crosses the Rift once again before snaking around Suswa Volcano, emerging finally from the Rift at the Ngong Hills before finishing in Nairobi at 17:30.

Unusually for a World Championship rally, the Safari features no special stages, with old-fashioned but no less challenging "competitive sections" to provide a test of driving skill, speed, and ultimately, endurance of both man and machine. The Mitsubishi Lancer has a long history of success on the Safari with the likes of Singh, Cowan and Shinozuka, and with the latest Lancer Evolution III's proven reliability and the excellent organisational and support skills of Team Mitsubishi Ralliart, there is every chance that Mitsubishi will once again write itself into the history books of this famous rally.


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Copyright 1996 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.

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