1997 NESTE RALLY
Mitsubishi Lancer driver Tommi Makinen has become the first driver to win the Rally Finland four times in a row and more than doubled his World Championship lead in the process after a flawless victory on the 10th round of the World Rally Championship. On a hugely successful weekend for Mitsubishi, Jouko Puhakka dominated the Group N production category in his Mitsubishi Carisma GT and Uruguay's Gustavo Trelles built up an insuperable lead in the Group World Championship.
Makinen's superb record on home ground has made him "Mr. 1000 Lakes" - echoing the rally's old name - and enormous crowds flocked to the stages to witness a classic Rally Finland duel between Makinen and fellow-Finn Juha Kankkunen, driving a Ford. The final section of the rally was lined with fans holding banners proclaiming their support for Makinen, enjoying the warm sunshine on one of the rally's closest ever finishes.
Makinen coolly pulled away over the final, eight-stage leg and was able to ease off a fraction on the final stage to clinch a historic victory for Mitsubishi and his 10th win at World Championship level.
"It is a fantastic feeling. This was quite a lot tighter than my other victories here and I must admit that I was a bit worried yesterday when Carlos Sainz and Juha were so fast, but I knew that today would suit me and I was always confident. The car and our Michelin tyres have been very good and we are now in a strong position in the World Championship," said a delighted Makinen.
"It must be one of the drives of all time. Tommi was under pressure because of the New Zealand accident. He knew he had to score points here and on top of that there was the pressure of being in Finland and trying to break the record for the number of wins. There are still four events to go, but when you have a car as reliable as it's been here and a driver who can control his pace in the most extreme conditions, you are in a strong position," said Team Director Andrew Cowan.
Uwe Nittel of Germany displayed admirable consistency on a tough event with a high retirement rate to score his best ever result in Finland, sharing his Mitsubishi Lancer with Sweden's Tina Thorner.
"The stages are wonderful, but so difficult and I am very pleased to get this result," he said.
"Uwe has driven very well. It is never easy to compete against the Finns and our seventh place is a good result," said Team Manager Ingolf Raiss.
The Fords and Toyotas failed to match Mitsubishi's consistent speed, Carlos Sainz retiring with transmission trouble, while Toyota driver Marcus Gronholm pulled out with fuel system problems.
Mitsubishis crushed the opposition in the Group N production category once again in an impressive demonstration of speed and reliability. Puhakka led the category throughout in his Carisma GT to score one of the best results of his career.
"It is a special moment for any Finn to get a good result on this rally, so I am very happy," he stated.
"It has been perfect and we are very happy. I really appreciate the fantastic support that we get from Ralliart to develop this car. We are very proud to get this first World Championship success for the latest Mitsubishi," said Team Manager of Ralliart Finland Pekka Koski.
Mitsubishi Lancer driver Gustavo Trelles has made certain of the Group N world title for the second year running after a superbly judged performance.
"I am so happy that this season has gone so well. It looks as though we will win the Group N World Championship for the second year running and I think that shows how good the car is, because it has performed so well in such a range of rallies," Trelles stated.
|5.T.JANSSON/P O.SVENSSON||FIN/FIN||TOYOTA CELICA||3.21.12||Gr-A|
|9.J.PUHAKKA/K.EEROLA||FIN/FIN||MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT||3.27.59||Gr-N|
Updated 31th August,1997 - 20h55
Dates :28 - 31 August 1997
Length :1171,79 kms
Total SS :381,55 kms on 22 SS
Entrants :105 (55 Group A + 50 Group N)
Starters :103 (54 Group A + 49 Group N)
Manufacturers :Mitsubishi 23, Opel 17, Ford 9, Toyota 8, Subaru 7, Skoda 7, Volkswagen 7, Nissan 5, Peugeot 5, Renault 4, Honda 2, Lada 2, Seat 2, Audi 1, Citroen 1, Daihatsu 1, Lancia 1, Mazda 1, Rover 1, Vauxall 1.
Nationalities (first drivers) : FIN 61, S 7, GB 6, A 4, F 4, CZ 3, D 3, E 3, EE 3, I 3, AUS 1, B 1, CI 1, J 1, RA 1, RI 1, ROU 1, RUS 1.
MITSUBISHI LANCER 3H16M18S
2 J. KANKKUNEN/J. REPO FORD ESCORT 3H16M25S
3 J.KYTOLEHTO/A.KAPANEN FORD ESCORT 3H18M18S
4 S.LINDHOLM/T.HANTUNEN FORD ESCORT 3H18M53S
5 T.JANSSON/P.SVENSSON TOYOTA CELICA 3H21M12S
6 P.HAGSTROM/T.GARDEMEISTER TOYOTA CELICA 3H22M48S
7 U.NITTEL/T.THORNER MITSUBISHI LANCER 3H25M15S
8 D.AURIOL/D.GIRAUDET TOYOTA COROLLA 3H26M57S
9 J.PUHAKKA/K.EEROLA MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT3H27M59S
10 H.ROVENPERA/V.SILANDER SEAT IBIZA 3H28M21S
Gr N winner :
9 J.PUHAKKA/K.EEROLA MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT 3H27M59S
Stages winners : Makinen 7, Kankkunen 5, Sainz 4, Gronholm 3,, Eriksson & Kytolehto 2
Rally leaders :1-2 Sainz, 3 Sainz, Gronholm, 4-7 Gronholm, 8 Sainz, 9 Sainz ,Kankkunen, 10-13 Sainz, 14-22 Makinen.
World Championship for Drivers :Makinen 52, Sainz 34, McRae 32, Eriksson 24, Liatti 18, Kankkunen 16, Burns 12, Schwarz 11.
World Championship for Manufacturers: Subaru 74, Mitsubishi 66, Ford 61.