1997 MONTE CARLO RALLY
Tuesday January 21
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart driver and former World Champion Tommi Makinen burst into a commanding lead on the third day of the Monte Carlo Rally, the first round of the 1997 World Rally Championship, driving his new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV.
MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION IV LEADS MONTE CARLO RALLY
Crews had to contend with patchy ice in the morning as heavy rain gave way to clear skies that allowed temperatures to sunk as low as 0°ree;C especially on the cols in the French Alps where the rally was today. The hundreds of spectators watching the rally along the special stages could see the mountains covered with snow, despite the fact that roads were getting dry. Even Makinen spun, losing a few seconds when he grabbed the handbrake a little too fiercely at a hairpin on SS10. Then, as night fell, drivers had to cope with some of the most difficult stages of the rally close to Gap, for although the ice had given way to asphalt, the narrow, bumpy stages were covered in gravel.
On a day when treacherous conditions caught out some of the world's top rally drivers, including Colin McRae, who crashed his Subaru, Toyota driver Freddy Loix, and Didier Auriol (Ford), World Champion Makinen exploited his Lancer Evo IV's performance to the full to wrest the lead from Carlos Sainz on the morning's first stage, the notorious St. Jean-en-Royans test, south-west of Grenoble.
Makinen rose to the challenge superbly, taking 14 seconds from his nearest pursuer to record a time that stunned his rivals and proved that the Lancer Evo IV is a match for the new World Rally Cars.
"It has been really good. The Lancer Evo IV is even easier to drive, because the rear suspension works so well," said Makinen. Co-driven by fellow countryman Seppo Harjanne, he was confident that he can go even quicker during the final, decisive leg on Wednesday. "Those fast stages will suit our car," he predicted.
Like his opponents, he found tyre choice awkward as conditions varied significantly from stage to stage, but Michelin's range of soft-compound rubber specially developed for the Monte worked superbly.
"We're delighted with the car. It's much closer to the pace than we have been in the past on tarmac and its reliability has been very good," said Team Mitsubishi Ralliart's Team Manager, Phil Short. "When it's as tight as this, it's no holds barred tomorrow," he warned, well aware that hundreds of kilometres lie between Mitsubishi and what could be its first Monte Carlo Rally victory.
Uwe Nittel and Tina Thorner have improved by leaps and bounds on their first rally in a Group A Lancer Evo III. The German Team Mitsubishi Ralliart driver kept something in hand as he learnt about his new car during the first and second legs, then stepped up the pace during the third leg, revelling in the car's performance on Pirelli asphalt rubber to move up to fifth place, offering Makinen strong support.
"The car is perfect, really well prepared," he reported. "I really like driving it and I think I can go faster when I have more experience."
Uruguay's Gustavo Trelles has demonstrated once more why he won the 1996 World Group N title with a finely judged performance in his Lancer Evo III. Even though neither he nor Argentine co-driver Jorge Del Buono has attempted the Monte Carlo Rally before, he has paced himself perfectly. In the category, the Mitsubishis are 1-2-3 tonight in Gap.
The rally enters its decisive phase on Wednesday in the Alpes-Maritimes, on world-famous stages such as the Col de Turini. Crews face another six stages, totalling 120 kilometres, before the finish on the seafront in Monte Carlo in the evening and competition is so close that the result could be in doubt until the very last stage, a thrilling, three-lap sprint round part of the historic Grand Prix circuit. Unfortunately, it seems that rain is forecasted for tomorrow.
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER LEG 3
1. T. MAKINEN/S. HARJANNE FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER EV. IV 3.09.17 2. P. LIATTI/F. PONS I/I SUBARU IMPREZA + 0.24 3. C. SAINZ/L. MOYA E/E FORD ESCORT + 0.27 4. A. SCHWARZ/D. GIRAUDET D/F FORD ESCORT + 3.43 5.U. NITTEL/T. THORNER D/S MITSUBISHI LANCER EV. III + 8.31 6. D. DEPPING/M. HAWRANKE D/D FORD ESCORT + 9.45 7. H. LUNDGAARD/F. PEOFRSEN DK/DK TOYOTA CELICA + 14.35 8. O. BURRI/C. HOFMANN CH/CH SUBARU IMPREZA + 14.52 9. G. TRELLES/J. DEL BUONO ROU/RA MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III 2.11 1stN 10.I. HOLDERIED/C. FRANCOIS D/F TOYOTA CELICA + 17.48 11. A. KREMER/S. BEHLING D/D MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III-GrN 2.17 12. M. STOHL/SCHNEPPENHEIMER A/D MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III-GrN + 18.56
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Copyright 1997 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.