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FOR SUCCESS IN CATALUNYA RALLY
Inspired by its resounding victory on the Rally of Portugal, Team Mitsubishi Ralliart is aiming for a repeat performance on the fifth round of the World Rally Championship, the Catalunya Rally commences on April 14th from Mediterranean resort coast "Lloret de MarÓ, situated between the Pyrennees and Barcelona.
To achieve its aim, it has assembled a powerful Mitsubishi Ralliart contenders, in Gr-A category, consisting of the World Championship leaders, Tommi Makinen and fellow-Finn Seppo Harjanne, and Germany's Uwe Nittel, partnered by Swede Tina Thorner, both crews driving Mitsubishi Lancers.
Makinen grabbed the World Rally Championship lead by winning in the Rally of Portugal and has long shown an impressive turn of speed on the twisty roads of north-eastern Spain, on one of the few pure asphalt rallies at the sport's highest level. His confidence, already boosted by his Portuguese win, has been raised further still by encouraging tests of the latest Lancer on asphalt.
"I think we can do very well on this event like Rally of Portugal. I like these roads and I think our car is now very good in tarmac conditions," he stated.
Nittel is also confident, following his longest test to date in a Group A Lancer. "It was good to get some more kilometres in the car and I hope I can score some more points for Mitsubishi in Spain," he commented. And last November he finished a close second in Group N on the 1996 Catalunya Rally.
"It's hard to judge where we are against the opposition on tarmac. Our car performed reasonably well last year and our testing would indicate that the 1997 car is better in these conditions: the rear suspension is better and the sequential gearshift is definitely better," declared Phil Short, the Team Manager of Team Mitsubishi Ralliart. "We suspect that the World Rally Cars, which have a wider track than our Group A car, will be particularly effective on tarmac, but it's like the Monte Carlo Rally: until we do the rally, we don't know.
"The testing has gone very well. Both Tommi and our test driver, Lasse Lampi, commented on how much better the car is. Nittel has done some testing now and I think he'll do himself justice. The wild card for this event will be the two-wheel-drive cars. If it's dry, they could do well, but you can never be sure of the weather. There can be quite heavy showers at this time of year," Short concluded. It will be the first time the rally has been held in April since earning World Rally Championship status.
Although it only joined the World Rally Championship in 1991, the Catalunya Rally has rapidly established itself as one of the most popular and demanding rounds of the series. Impeccably organised, it makes abundant use of the mountain roads north of its base, Lloret de Mar, and Barcelona. The stages are often wide and smooth, but extremely twisty, stretching a car's handling capabilities to the full.
The route covers 1,359 kilometres, with the first and last legs using familiar terrain from the rally's European Championship days immediately to the north of Lloret de Mar, while the second leg heads well to the south-west, using faster roads in the arid hills around Prades and Escaladei. The second leg promises to be the toughest, with 171 kilometres of flat-out driving, split into seven stages. The first and third legs are identical apart from one stage. The six stages of the first leg cover 115 kilometres, while the five of the second span 101 kilometres. With three stages comfortably exceeding 30 kilometres, the event promises to be a stern test of a car's speed and durability.
1997 Catalunya RALLYITINERARY
Monday 14 April - 1st LEG
Tuesday 15 April - 2nd LEG
Wednesday 16 April - 3rd LEG