Mitsubishi Lancer and Carisma aim for Safari Rally victory
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart has high hopes for its toughest test of the season, "The Safari", which takes place in and around Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. The only World Championship rally in Africa, "The Safari" remains a rally of superlatives. It is the fastest, roughest, longest, highest and very often the hottest rally in the 14-round campaign of the 1997 season and it is perhaps the most prestigious event of all. It is an unparalleled test of speed and reliability that dominates the news in Kenya - and Mitsubishi has a splendid record, including a superb win in 1996 for Tommi Makinen and Seppo Harjanne.
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart is preparing two cars: a Lancer for World Champions Tommi Makinen/Seppo Harjanne and a Carisma GT which will be the name of the Evolution IV in Europe for Britain's rising stars, Richard Burns/Robert Reid. Thorough testing has been carried out on the ultra-rough roads at Chateau-Lastours in southern France and a further test is planned in Kenya just before the recce starts.
"Last year the rally was very good for us and I like the 1997 car very much, so I think we can win again," declared Makinen after his pace-setting performance on the Swedish Rally.
"The Safari is a very tough rally physically, so I've been concentrating on improving my fitness. It is one of the World Championship rallies I know best and I think I can get a good result," Burns said.
Phil Short, Team Mitsubishi Ralliart's Team Manager, has no illusions about the severity of the challenge. "It's the most difficult event in our programme. It's easier this year in that the layout of the route is simpler to service and it's slightly shorter; on the other hand, servicing within competitive sections is forbidden, so you have to have a very reliable car. The other problem is there's only 10 minutes of lateness, so if you have a major problem, you can very easily go out of the rally.
"The drivers can work on the cars themselves of course, so we are giving them a few vital spares to carry and they will both be trained to carry out simple repairs themselves. Our plan is to approach the rally in the same way as last year and we're pleased that the reliability of our new car seems good," he added.
"Tommi drove brilliantly to win last year and we are sure he is capable of doing so again. We think Richard can do very well. We would want him to play a cautious role from the start," he said.
The rally is particularly hard on tyres. It is so fast and so hot that Michelin's renowned ATS puncture-resistant system cannot be used. Moreover, the service restrictions and the ban on using helicopters make it still more important to avoid punctures. Mitsubishi will enjoy full technical support from Michelin. The French company has an excellent Safari record and is aiming for its seventh successive victory.
The 1997 Safari is one of the shortest yet, lasting three days and returning to Nairobi each night. However, each day includes as much competitive distance as an entire European event and the longest section spans no fewer than 155 kilometres. The first and third legs are identical, looping south of Nairobi and including four competitive sections that total 406 kilometres. The second leg heads deep into north-western Kenya and offers five competitive sections, none less than 78 kilometres, with a total competitive distance of 555 kilometres. All told, competitors must negotiate 2,349 kilometres on open roads. The winner of this highlight of the motorsport calendar will need skill, determination and a slice of luck.
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1997 555 SAFARI RALLYITINERARY
Saturday 1st March - LEG 1
09.30 Start from Nairobi SS1 Timbuctoo 72,30 km SS2 Olkejiado 1 155,75 km SS3 Corner Baridi 62,35 km SS4 Olepolos 115,70 km 17.53 Arrival in Nairobi
Sunday 2nd March - LEG 2
05.00 Start from Nairobi SS5 Elburgon 153,90 km SS6 Barina 92,30 km SS7 Eldama Ravine 88,75 km SS8 Mogotio 78,65 km SS9 Kongoni 141,50 km 19.20 Arrival in Nairobi
Monday 3rd March - LEG 3
05.30 Start from Nairobi SS10 Timbuctoo 2 72,30 km SS11 Olkejiado 2 155,75 km SS12 Corner Baridi2/TD> 62,35 km SS13 Olepolos 2 115,70 km 14.30 Final of the rally in Nairobi
Copyright 1997 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.