1996 Sanremo Rally

Sunday October 13


Team Winfield Mitsubishi Ralliart is full of confidence as it aims for the double on Italy's Sanremo Rally : it is well-placed to add the World Championship for Manufacturers to the drivers' title won by Tommi Makinen on the Rally Australia.

The Mitsubishi squad knows it faces a tough challenge, for the Sanremo Rally is one of the least predictable of the year. It is the only round of the World Championship to include stages on both asphalt and loose surfaces, the weather is highly changeable in October and it is one of the diminishing number of major rallies that Mitsubishi has never won.

However, pre-rally testing of the Lancer Evolution IIIs went well, French Sanremo expert and former World Champion Didier Auriol finding a potentially crucial improvement when he tried the car on asphalt for the first time the day before the start.

"The first time I drove the car, I didn't like the back end - it was jumping around on bumps - but that is very easy to cure with the Ohlins shock absorbers and now it is a good compromise. I can drive fast without problem and the car feels good," reported Auriol.

Auriol was delighted with the Lancer Evolution III when he first sampled it: "It's very progressive. It reacts immediately and you can do what you want with it. It is very safe."

Both Auriol and World Champion Tommi Makinen will use the same settings on all stages - a sure sign that the Lancers will be competitive and that the drivers' styles are compatible.

"Of course it's more difficult to win here, especially as I am first on the road, but there is no pressure on me. It is still important for us, because of the manufacturers' championship," said Makinen. Both men have full confidence in their Michelin tyres, the highly successful Z90 being the likely choice for the first two days.

Mitsubishi's Group A effort will get strong support from Ralliart Germany, which is running a Group N Lancer Evolution III for Uwe Nittel and Tina Thorner.

Tactical considerations will be vital. If it is dry, the first few cars will lose ground by sweeping gravel for their pursuers on the opening stages in central Italy. Makinen estimates the loss at up to one second per kilometre - but there are more kilometres of fresh gravel during the second leg than the first, even though the first leg has the greater percentage of stages.

Once the loose surface roads on which Mitsubishi has reigned supreme in 1996 are completed, the rally heads for the mountain asphalt, which none of the major teams have tried since last year. To make matters still more demanding, the weather forecast for the rally is uncertain.

93 cars left Sanremo today at 3.00 pm and will arrive in Gubbio tonight at 11.00 pm, after a liaison section of 560 kms. Tomorrow, crews face 160,02 kms in 4 special stages, all on gravel.






Copyright 1996 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.

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