TAP RALLYE DE PORTUGAL 1997
Wednesday March 26th
MITSUBISHI LANCER WITH TOMMI MAKINEN WINS RALLY OF PORTUGAL VICTORY FOR GUSTAVO TRELLES IN Group N
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart driver Tommi Makinen gave the Lancer its first major success of the season with a crushing victory on the Rally of Portugal and now leads the 1997 World Rally Championship.
The final leg of the punishing, 1,679-kilometre rally took competitors deep into the barren, treeless hills east of Arganil, to some of the most testing - and most feared - stages in the world. Drivers faced two laps over dauntingly quick and often savagely rough roads that are bordered by towering drops. It is a true test of man and machine and the Portuguese troop into the hills in their thousands to savour the spectacle. Indeed, the rally is so popular that wildly enthusiastic fans often drive into the stages the night before, lighting fires and camping overnight to be sure of a good viewing point in the morning. With Arganil behind them, the survivors still faced three more tough stages on winding roads through thick forests before the ceremonial finish, within sight of the Atlantic Ocean, in the holiday resort of Figueira da Foz.
The event was made tougher still by hot, sunny weather, which tested tyres to the limit, but also made visibility difficult in the forests, as each car trailed a long plume of dust.
A scintillating display from Makinen and fellow-Finn Seppo Harjanne had broken the back of the opposition during the second leg, when they set quickest times on every stage. With many of his greatest rivals out of the way, Makinen could afford to ease off over the final nine stages to clinch the most comfortable win on a World Rally Championship this season. The Michelin-shod Lancer ran perfectly over some of the roughest stages in Europe to give him his first win in Portugal and a useful, four-point lead in the World Championship. Speed and reliability had told on an event that few of his rivals completed unscathed.
"Today it was not so difficult. I was just concentrating on coming to the end. It is nice to win and to lead the championship, but there is still a long way to go and the rallies ahead will be tough The car has been fantastic," said a delighted Makinen.
"This was a historic win: our first this year and our first in Portugal. It shows we are back in the frame after a little bad luck on the first few rallies. Tommi drove really well, particularly in the second leg and he richly deserved his victory," commented Phil Short, the Team Manager of Team Mitsubishi Ralliart.
Mitsubishi also dominated the Group N production category. The battle for victory between Uruguayan Gustavo Trelles and youthful Austrian Manfred Stohl became one of the highlights of the rally, victory finally going to the vastly experienced Trelles (who won the Group N world title last year in a Mitsubishi Lancer) by just 10 seconds after three days and some 400 kilometres of flat-out driving. Neither man could afford to ease off for a moment - and both had absolute confidence that their rugged, showroom-class Lancers would be equal to the strain. Amazingly, Trelles set fastest time overall, against powerful Group A and heavily modified World Rally Cars, on the final stage!
"I am very happy, because this was an absolutely incredible race with Manfred. It was particularly satisfying, because I was fastest overall on the final stage," declared Trelles.
The result proved that Mitsubishi Motors engineering is equal to the toughest challenges in motorsport. A superb victory has boosted Team Mitsubishi Ralliart's confidence as it prepares for its next event.
1.T. MAKINEN/S. HARJANNE FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER 4.53.01 2.F.LOIX/S.SMEETS B/B TOYOTA CELICA 4.57.06 3. A.SCHWARZ/D.GIRAUDET D/F FORD ESCORT 4.59.34 4. G. de MEVIUS/J.M FORTIN B/B FORD ESCORT 5.05.29 5. J.P RICHELMI/T.BARJOU MC/F FORD ESCORT 5.10.17 6. M.KAMIOKA/K.GORMLEY J/GB SUBARU IMPREZA 5.10.40 7.G.TRELLES/J. del BUONO ROU/RA MITSUBISHI LANCER 5.10.54 1st in Gr.N 8.M.STOHL/P.MULLER A/A MITSUBISHI LANCER 5.11.04 2nd in Gr.N 9. A.McRAE/D.SENIOR GB/GB VOLKSWAGEN 5.12.54 10.A.LOPES/L. LISBOA P/P PEUGEOT 5.13.42 13.L.CLIMENT/A.ROMANI E/E MITSUBISHI LANCER 5.18.29 3rd in Gr.N 16.K.GOTTLICHER/P.HEIDER A/D MITSUBISHI LANCER 5.30.07 4th in Gr.N
1997 RALLYE DE PORTUGALDates : 23-26 March 1997
Length : 1684 kms
Total SS : 421 kms
Entrants : 99 (65 Group A + 34 Group N) Starters : 98 (65 Group A + 33 Group N) Cars : Ford 19, Seat 16, Renault 9, Peugeot 8, Subaru 8, Mitsubishi 7, Citroen 7, Toyota 5, Skoda 4, Mazda 3, Nissan 3, Opel 2, Volkswagen 2, Fiat 2, Alfa Romeo 1, Lancia 1, Mercedes 1, Rover 1. Nations (first drivers) : 54 P, 9 GB, 7 F, 5 E, 4 D, 3 FIN, 3 B, 3 A, 2 J, 2 CZ, 1 S, 1 MC, 1 RA, 1 ROU, 1 H, 1 AND, 1 I.
Overall winners :
1.T. MAKINEN/S. HARJANNE FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER 4.53.01 2.F.LOIX/S.SMEETS B/B TOYOTA CELICA 4.57.06 3. A.SCHWARZ/D.GIRAUDET D/F FORD ESCORT 4.59.34 4. G. de MEVIUS/J.M FORTIN B/B FORD ESCORT 5.05.29 5. J.P RICHELMI/T.BARJOU MC/F FORD ESCORT 5.10.17 6. M.KAMIOKA/K.GORMLEY J/GB SUBARU IMPREZA 5.10.40 7.G.TRELLES/J. del BUONO ROU/RA MITSUBISHI LANCER 5.10.54 1st in Gr.N 8.M.STOHL/P.MULLER A/A MITSUBISHI LANCER 5.11.04 2nd in Gr.N 9. A.McRAE/D.SENIOR GB/GB VOLKSWAGEN 5.12.54 10.A.LOPES/L. LISBOA P/P PEUGEOT 5.13.42
Stages winners : Makinen 19, Eriksson 4, Madeira 4, McRae 3, Loix 1, Schwarz 1,Trelles 1. Rally leaders : McRae 2, 4-5, Eriksson 3, 6-8, 11-17, Makinen 9-10, 18-31. World Championship for Drivers : Makinen 18, McRae 13, Sainz 12, Schwarz 11, Eriksson & Liatti 10, Burns 6, Loix 6. World Championship for Manufacturers : Subaru 33, Mitsubishi 26 , Ford 23. FIA Cup Drivers of Production Cars : Trelles 29, Stohl 14, Backlund 13, Zasada 8, Walfridsson 8, Kremer 8, Anwar 7, Climent 5, Kangas 5, Tilbury 4, Gottlicher 3, Gassner 3. Media : 561.
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