mPre-eventn


TEAM MITSUBISHI RALLIART BIDS FOR
RALLY OF PORTUGAL VICTORY



The TAP Rally of Portugal promises to be the most important round of the 1997 World Rally Championship so far this season and Team Mitsubishi Ralliart is confident of success. It will send a Lancer Evo IV for its Finnish crew, reigning World Champions Tommi Makinen/Seppo Harjanne, and a Carisma GT for Britons Richard Burns/Robert Reid.

After three highly specialised rallies that require unique preparation and tyres, the Rally of Portugal is the first event run on the loose-surface stages characteristic of most World Championship rallies and the result will therefore be a good guide to form for the rest of the season. Team Mitsubishi Ralliart is well-prepared, after extensive testing in central and northern Portugal with Makinen, Burns and test driver Lasse Lampi. The latest Mitsubishi has led every round of the 1997 World Rally Championship and, aided by close co-operation with its tyre supplier, Michelin, stands an excellent chance of victory on one of the toughest, most prestigious rallies in the world.

Makinen has already notched up two third places this year and has consistently been one of the pace-setters. "The car is very good - very reliable and the engine is very strong. We had a good test, so I think we can win in Portugal," he predicted.

Burns is also full of confidence, following his excellent second place on the Safari Rally. "I tried the car in the north of Portugal and it felt really good. It was a power-sapping surface, but it still felt quick in a straight line. I've done the event before, so I think the experience should help. I'm looking forward to it," he enthused.

"We've led all three events so far through Tommi and had every chance of winning, so I hope we can convert this into a victory in Portugal. We tested near Arganil and Fafe and that went very well. I think this rally will give a more accurate indication of the rest of the World Championship than any of the first three rounds," said Team Mitsubishi Ralliart's Team Manager, Phil Short. "Portugal is always one of the tougher rounds of the series. We're generally going quite long distances on roughish roads, which are going to test car reliability and tyres.

"Tommi is clearly a potential winner. We're very pleased with Richard's performance on the Safari and he's done quite a lot of testing, so I think he can get another good result. It's hard to know where he'll finish against such a strong entry, but I'd like to think he could be in the top three or four," he concluded.

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart faces stern competition from the teams of Ford ,Subaru and Toyota.

The organisers have revised this year's route to conform to the demanding service rules now applied to World Championship rallies, but the outline will be familiar to anyone who has followed this classic event. It covers a total of 1,679 kilometres, of which 422 will be on special stages. After a new spectator stage on the afternoon of March 23rd, the event leaves the coastal resort of Figueira da Foz at 06.00 the next morning for a long, arduous drive north to Povoa. 13 stages total 173 kilometres and, for the first time in years, the famous stages east of Fafe - including the enormous jump at Lameirinha - will be run at night. Vast crowds are sure to be attracted to one of Portugal's sporting highlights.

The third and final leg returns to Figueira da Foz via Arganil. The legendary stages in the barren hills south of Viseu have settled the outcome since the unforgettable duels of the 1970s; long, fast and rough, they remain a daunting test of any rally car. Two laps of Arganil form the meat of the last nine stages, which span 126 kilometres. The Portuguese fans will trek into the stages the night before, camping in the open and creating an atmosphere found nowhere else.

This year's Rally of Portugal will be subtly different, because it takes place two weeks later than usual. That should eliminate the slender possibility of snow, but March is one of Portugal's wettest months and heavy showers could make the event as slippery as ever. On current form, the outcome will be in doubt until the last of the 31 stages.



1997 TAP RALLY OF PORTUGAL

TIMETABLE

Sunday 23 March - 1st LEG : FIGUEIRA DA FOZ-MORTAGUA-LOUSADA-P. VARZIM

15.00Start from Figueira
SS1Figueira Da Foz


Monday 24 March

SS2Poiares
SS3Tabua 1
SS4Mortagua 1
SS5Vila Pouca 1
SS6Tabua 2
SS7Mortagua
SS8Vila Pouca 2
SS9O. Frades / Ladario
SS10Sever / Albergaria
SS11Santa Quiteria 1
SS12Fafe / Lameirinha 1
SS13Luilhas 1
23.20Arrival in Povoa de Varzim


Tuesday 25 March - 2nd LEG : P. VARZIM-LOUSADA-V. MINHO-LIXA-VISEU

08.00Start fromPovoa de Varzim
SS14Lousada
SS15Santa Quiteria 2
SS16Fafe / Lameirinha 2
SS17Luilhas 2
SS18Vieira / Cabeceiras
SS19Vizo / Celorico de Basto
SS20Seixoso
SS21Aboboreira
SS22Viseu
21.28Arrival in ViseuViseu


Wednesday 26 March - 3rd LEG : VISEU-ARGANIL-FIGUEIRA DA FOZ

07.00Start fromViseu (S. mateus Fair)
SS23Alvoco das Varzeas
SS24Arganil / Coja 1
SS25Salgueiro / Lomba 1
SS26Gois
SS27Arguanil / Coja 2
SS28Salgueiro / Lomba 2
SS29Lousa / Relvas
SS30Pedrogao Grande
18.30Arrival of therally in Figueira da Foz
Podium



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