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1997 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 14
1997 NETWORK Q RAC RALLY


1997 NETWORK Q RAC RALLY
Monday, November 24, 1997
Leg 2 - 709.69 km - 7 special stages - 158.92 km
COMMUNIQUE N 3


MITSUBISHI DRIVER MAKINEN NEARS WORLD TITLE
AS BURNS STARS ON RAC RALLY


Team Mitsubishi Ralliart driver Tommi Makinen is well on course to clinch the World Rally Championship for the second year running, but the star of the 14th and final round of the 1997 season, Britain's RAC Rally, has been Mitsubishi team-mate Richard Burns, driving a Carisma GT, who shares the lead after two days of furious competition.

The second leg of the RAC has thrown appalling conditions at competitors. Dense fog shrouded the morning's first stage in the hills of eastern Wales, but it soon gave way to high winds and heavy rain. The forest stages were caked in mud, testing driving skills to the limit on an event that is one of the greatest challenges in motorsport. The RAC is Britain's biggest spectator event and vast crowds have trekked into the forest, oblivious to the weather, to witness a day when British drivers have made most of the headlines. Rallying is part of life in Wales and its popularity brings out the fans in their hundreds of thousands.

Burns stunned his rivals with an amazing time in the fog on the morning's first stage in Radnor, taking no fewer than 90 seconds off the overnight leader, Colin McRae and passing Didier Auriol's Toyota – which had started two minutes in front of him – shortly before the finish. But the French driver rolled on stage 17 and had to retire, as well as Bruno Thiry on his Ford Escort, which caught fire. The Mitsubishi man defended his lead in spite of a fierce counter-attack from McRae, driving faultlessly in conditions that tested car and driver to the limit. He ended the leg level with his fellow Briton, setting up a thrilling battle for the final leg.

"In places, the fog was so bad that I couldn't see more than 10 metres beyond the bonnet. You just have to concentrate on your pace notes and drive. We're going pretty hard and we'll do everything we can to make sure that Tommi becomes World Champion. I'm pretty happy. Whatever the end result is, it's been a great day. I'm just concentrating on my driving and not worrying about other things," Burns said.

Makinen is showing real determination to force his Lancer Evolution into the top six places – enough to give him the one point he needs to become World Champion – but is battling a serious bout of influenza that is making it impossible for him to attack the stages with his usual flair. "I am just driving carefully to make sure I come to the finish. It is not easy to drive when you do not feel well, but luckily we don't need to go too fast to be World Champion here," Makinen said. "It's been a very interesting day and I think the World Championship is set for a great finale. Richard has done a brilliant job. He's done exactly what we wanted. He put in a blistering time on the first stage and he's not only led all day, but kept the pressure on Colin McRae," Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Manager Phil Short.

"Tommi started off feeling a little better after a few hours' sleep, but his condition deteriorated and so far as he's concerned, it's a matter of keeping going to the finish, which is all he needs to be World Champion. The key position is the car in seventh place and we are sure he can stay in front provided he and the car are in good shape. It's a bit nerve-wracking, but it's been so close all season, so we're used to it," he added.

In the Group N production category, Mitsubishi Lancers and Carismas GT hold the top seven places in the class after the second leg, led by Finnish Olli Harkki, while Spaniard Luis Climents is second.

The last leg threatens to be the toughest. Crews face another eight stages, totalling 171 kilometres, in the daunting forests of south Wales that are unfamiliar to nearly all the leading competitors.

 

 

 

 

OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER LEG 2

1.R.BURNS/R.REID GB/GB MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT 2.13.43 Gr-A
1.C.MCRAE/N.GRIST GB/GB SUBARU IMPREZA 2.13.43 Gr-A
3.J.KANKKUNEN/J.REPO FIN/FIN FORD ESCORT 2.14.59 Gr-A
4.C.SAINZ/L.MOYA E/E FORD ESCORT 2.15.28 Gr-A
5.M.GRONHOLM/T.RAUTIAINEN FIN/FIN TOYOTA COROLLA 2.17.23 Gr-A
6.T.MAKINEN/S.HARJANNE FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER 2.17.42 Gr-A
7.P.LIATTI/F.PONS I/I SUBARU IMPREZA 2.18.55 Gr-A
8.G.DE MEVIUS/JM.FORTIN B/B FORD ESCORT 2.19.42 Gr-A
9.A.VATANEN/R.FREEMAN FIN/GB FORD ESCORT 2.23.21 Gr-A
10.K.HOLOWCZYC/M.WISLAWSKI PL/PL SUBARU IMPREZA 2.24.00 Gr-A
19.O.HARKKI/K.MASTALAHTI FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT 2.28.59 1st Gr-N
20.L.CLIMENT/A.ROMANI E/E MITSUBISHI LANCER 2.29.11 2nd Gr-N
21.J.EASSON/A.COOK GB/GB MITSUBISHI LANCER 2.29.19 3rd Gr-N
22.K.ROSENBERGER/C.FRANCOIS A/F MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT 2.30.46 4th Gr-N


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

 

-Communique 2-

-Communique 1-



Copyright 1997 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.