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1997 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 14
1997 NETWORK Q RAC RALLY

1997 NETWORK Q RAC RALLY
Sunday, November 23, 1997
Leg 1 - 557,91 km - 11 special stages - 59,46 km

COMMUNIQUE N 2

MITSUBISHI IN STRONG POSITION IN DRIVERS' WORLD
CHAMPIONSHIP ON RAC RALLY

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart drivers Tommi Makinen and Richard Burns are challenging the leaders strongly after the first leg Britain's RAC Rally, the 14th and final round of the 1997 World Rally Championship. Finn Makinen, the World Championship leader, has been content to hold a place in the top six in his Lancer Evolution, but Burns has set two fastest times to take a close fourth place in his Carisma GT.

The RAC has long had a massive following in Britain, to the extent that the organisers introduced a day designed for spectators to meet the demand. With the World Rally Championship being fought out on the final round, huge crowds have thronged the stages and service areas to witness the duel between Makinen and Colin McRae. The RAC is not only Britain's largest spectator event and the country's biggest motorsport contest, but a family occasion. Young and old alike have lined the stages at parks and race tracks, despite cold, foggy conditions in the morning. The event began in typical RAC conditions, on damp, slimy stages where neatness and judgement count.

Burns has driven superbly in his Michelin-shod Carisma GT, thrilling the crowds as he pushes for the lead on his home round of the World Championship. Indeed, the second stage of the day, at Blenheim Palace, was just a few kilometres from his house, but the 26-yar-old Englishman is well aware that ability, not knowledge, will be the decisive factor against top-class opposition. Two fastest stage times have proved that he is more than capable of matching the leaders. Subaru ran into immediate trouble when Swedish driver Kenneth Eriksson retired on the very first stage at Cheltenham Racecourse with engine failure - the sixth time this season the team has suffered a major engine problem.

"It's been a good day, pretty much what we wanted. I'm going quite quickly, but I'm keeping it neat. If you put a wheel on the grass in these conditions, you spin," explained Burns.

Makinen has paced himself sensibly, well aware that it is all too easy to make a mistake on the spectator stages and that all he need do is stay in touch with the leaders to make sure of a second successive world title. He is also suffering from a cold, which is preventing him from driving with all his usual flair. He also lost a few seconds when he misjudged a corner at Silverstone in the fog and crashed his Lancer Evolution into a pile of tyres.

"I wasn't feeling too good this morning and it wasn't easy to drive in the fog. It was a complete surprise when the tyre barrier appeared in the fog. I pulled on the handbrake, but it was too late and we spun. This afternoon the feeling has been better and the car is very good," Makinen declared.

"The day has gone very much to plan," said Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Manager Phil Short. "We felt that if Tommi was within a minute of the lead it would be quite satisfactory. He's now in sixth place and he's on target to get the necessary point to become World Champion. Richard's driven very well and he's in a good position to apply pressure tomorrow."

Mitsubishi has exerted its customary dominance in the Group N production category - the ultimate test of road car engineering. Led by Spaniard Luis Climent, with former British national champion Jeremy Easson second, as Mitsubishi Lancers hold the top six places in the class after the first leg.

The rally begins in earnest tomorrow morning, when competitors head for the meat of the rally in Wales. They face seven long, tough stages in the forests of mid-Wales. All told, they face 159 kilometres of flat-out driving before returning to Cheltenham for the next overnight halt.







OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER LEG 1

1.C.MCRAE/N.GRIST GB/GB SUBARU IMPREZA 37.45 Gr-A
2.J.KANKKUNEN/J.REPO FIN/FIN FORD ESCORT 37.54 Gr-A
3. D.AURIOL/D.GIRAUDET F/F TOYOTA COROLLA 37.55 Gr-A
4.R.BURNS/R.REID GB/GB MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT 37.59 Gr-A
5.C.SAINZ/L.MOYA E/E FORD ESCORT 38.02 Gr-A
6.T.MAKINEN/S.HARJANNE FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER 38.06 Gr-A
7.M.GRONHOLM/T.RAUTIAINEN FIN/FIN TOYOTA COROLLA 38.07 Gr-A
8.P.LIATTI/F.PONS I/I SUBARU IMPREZA 38.20 Gr-A
9.B.THIRY/S.PREVOT B/B FORD ESCORT >38.23 Gr-A
10.G.DE MEVIUS/JM.FORTIN B/B FORD ESCORT 38.36 Gr-A
26.L.CLIMENT/A.ROMANI E/E MITSUBISHI LANCER 41.23 1st Gr-N
27.J.EASSON/A.COOK GB/GB MITSUBISHI LANCER 41.24 2nd Gr-N
28.O.HARKKI/K.MASTALAHTI FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER 41.31 3rd Gr-N


MICHELIN-MITSUBISHI OIL-ENKEI-NGK-OHLINS-OMP
PIAA-PRINGLE OF SCOTLAND-SABELT

-Communique 4-

-Communique 3-

-Communique 1-



Copyright 1997 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.