MITSUBISHI MOTORS/555 SAFARI RALLY'97



1997 555 SAFARI RALLY
Monday March 3rd
COMMUNIQUE N* 4

FANTASTIC SECOND PLACE FOR MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT ON SAFARI RALLY


Team Mitsubishi Ralliart scored an excellent second place on the Safari Rally, the third round of the World Rally Championship, achieving the best result yet for the new Carisma GT driven by British crew Richard Burns/Robert Reid.

Burns kept the pressure on the leader every inch of the way, setting fastest times on two of the third and final leg's four competitive sections, as he made a last-minute bid for his first victory at World Championship level. The car performed exceptionally well on its first Safari, which by common consent was one of the roughest and most difficult of all. Rigorous service restrictions led to a fierce retirement rate that made reliability as important as performance. It is easily the most challenging round of the World Championship.

"If you had said at the start that I was going to finish in second place, I'd have been very satisfied. The mechanics have worked very hard and we've had no serious problems," said Burns, who not only achieved the new Mitsubishi's best result, but his own highest finish on a World Championship round.

"It's been a really tough rally and it's very pleasing to get this result. Now we have the experience of driving a Group A car here, I'm sure we can do even better next year," said Reid.

"It's a very good result for Richard - I'm really pleased for him. He's done exactly what we wanted. Unfortunately, we lost Tommi Makinen yesterday and Richard's stepped very well into the role of putting pressure on Colin; one slip, and Mitsubishi could have won. The car's gone very well indeed," said Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Director Andrew Cowan.

Tension reached fever pitch as Burns closed in during the final leg, fought out over rocky, dusty roads that had suffered further damage when used in the first leg on Saturday. Blistering heat, high speeds and the constant pounding of flint-sharp stones meant that punctures were a constant hazard and even the top drivers couldn't match their times from the first leg. Despite a strong wind, Burns couldn't get quite close enough in leader Colin McRae's dust to grab the lead, but his performance was nevertheless highly encouraging on his first Safari Rally in a factory-prepared Group A car.

Running near the front of the field throughout, the Mitsubishi driver convincingly beat the vastly experienced Ian Duncan, whose Toyota was unable to match the pace of the leading duo and suffered mechanical problems during the final leg.

Huge crowds thronged the closing kilometres of the route and the finish ramp outside the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi. The Safari is Kenya's most prestigious sporting event and daily routine comes to a halt for the last event in the World Championship to be held on open roads. For more than 2,300 kilometres, drivers coped not merely with the hazards posed by rocks and holes, but normal traffic and wild animals wandering onto the road.

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart's next event will be the fourth round of the World Rally Championship, the Rally of Portugal, which starts on March 23.


FINAL CLASSIFICATION

1.C.MCRAE/N. GRIST GB/GB SUBARU IMPREZA 11.29.00 Gr-A
2.R.BURNS/R.REID GB/GB MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT 11.36.04 Gr-A
3.I.DUNCAN/D.WILLIAMSON EAK/EAK TOYOTA CELICA 11.40.18 Gr-A
4.A. SCHWARZ/D. GIRAUDET D/F FORD ESCORT 13.07.23 Gr-A
5.J.TOROITICH/I.CHOGE EAK/EAK TOYOTA CELICA 13.51.32. Gr-A
6. F.DOR/K.GORMLEY F/GB SUBARU IMPREZA 15.13.52 Gr-A
7.E.KATTO/J.OPOKA EAU/EAU TOYOTA CELICA 15.30.05 Gr-A
8.R.STOHL/J.BERTL A/D AUDI QUATTRO 15.48.17 Gr-A
9. J.HELLIER/S.ROCCA EAK/I SUBARU IMPREZA 15.48.44 Gr-N
10. K.HIRJI/F.NEKUSA EAU/EAU TOYOTA CELICA 16.31.37 Gr-A



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Copyright 1997 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.