1997 INTERNATIONAL SWEDISH RALLY
Saturday February 8
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart's World Rally Champion, Tommi Makinen, finished the first leg of the Swedish Rally, the second round of the World Rally Championship, in fifth place, while a fleet of Mitsubishi Lancers dominated the Group N production category, holding the top five places in Group N. Kenneth Backlund - Sweden's Group N master - co-driven by Tord Andersson has pulled out a small lead over Finn Juha Kangas and fellow Swede Stig-Olov Walfridsson, who is unwell.
STRONG PERFORMANCE FOR THE MITSUBISHI LANCERS ON THE SWEDISH RALLY
Makinen was third overall after the last stage of the day ; but, due to unfortunate difficulties during routine maintenance, he occurred a penalty of 1'20" at the last control, after an encouraging performance on the first leg.
73 crews started the rally in exceptional dry and sunny conditions, with temperatures climbing up to 6 degree;C, which is unusual in this country in February. The sun shined all day, which allowed tens of thousands of enthusiastic Swedish spectators to witness a battle royal between Makinen and the Subaru drivers, Kenneth Eriksson and Colin McRae. On the longest day of the rally, no more than a handful of seconds covered the leading four crews and Makinen forced his way into the lead on the sixth stage. Co-driven by fellow Finn Seppo Harjanne, the World Rally Champion spent the morning adjusting the suspension and the four-wheel drive system to his liking, softening the rear suspension to good effect. Crews have faced exceptionally tough conditions, for although there has been little snow, rutted ice and gravel has made the surfaces unpredictable - and there have been no snowbanks to save the drivers from the consequences of a minor error. Unusually high temperatures have posed a stern challenge to Michelinand Makinen has found tyres with shorter studs to be more effective in the prevailing conditions.
"The car has been very good today. I don't mind if I start first or not tomorrow. If the snow comes, it may be better not to be first. I think it will be a good fight with the others,"Makinen said.
"We're quite happy with the way the car went. This long stage was a bit of a set back, but not an overwhelming one. Tommi had a couple of small spins towards the end of it. We aim to fight back tomorrow . The car only needs routine maintenance", Phil Short, Mitsubishi Ralliart's Team Manager, added.
Uwe Nittel made good progress in Team Mitsubishi Ralliart's other Lancer, prudently deciding not to take undue risks on his first true winter rally in a Group A car.
"I am going step by step. I am being too careful to save the studs and there is so much grip that I find I can go two gears faster on some corners," he reported.
"It has been good today, but there is still a long way to go and you can never relax," Backlund said.
Even if the weather remains dry and sunny, more snow is expected tomorrow as the rally returns to Karlstad via Torsby and the hilly stages close to the Norwegian border. Crews face another nine stages, totalling 150 kilometres.
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER LEG 1
1.K. ERIKSSON/S. PARMANDER S/S SUBARU 1.35.26 2.C.MCRAE/N. GRIST GB/GB SUBARU 1.35.33 3.C. SAINZ/L. MOYA E/E FORD ESCORT 1.35.56 4.T. RADSTROM/L. BACKMAN S/S TOYOTA CELICA 1.36.13 5.T. MAKINEN/S. HARJANNE FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER 1.37.13 6.A. SCHWARZ/D. GIRAUDET D/F FORD ESCORT 1.37.22 7. M.JONSSON/J.JOHANSSON S/S FORD ESCORT 1.37.32 8. T. JANSSON/P.O.SVENSSON S/S TOYOTA CELICA 1.37.43 9. M.GRONHOLM/T.RAUTIAINEN FIN/FIN TOYOTA CELICA 1.38.04 10. S.BLOMQVIST/B. MELANDER S/S FORD ESCORT 1.38.18
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Copyright 1997 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.