1997 INTERNATIONAL SWEDISH RALLY
Sunday, February 9
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart driver Tommi Makinen has set the pace for most of the second leg of the International Swedish Rally, the second round of the World Rally Championship, to force his Mitsubishi Lancer into a challenging fourth place. The event has taken place in unusually mild conditions, but it has been no less testing for that : crews have faced rain and fog as well as snow, ice and slush - and the crowds have loved it. Vast crowds of warmly wrapped fans, all sporting umbrellas, skit jackets and outlandish fur and woollen hats, have walked kilometres into bleak forests, oblivious to the weather when a thrilling sporting contest is being fought out in front of them. Mitsubishis have been the pacesetters in the Group N production category as well, where Sweden's Kenneth Backlund has extended his lead.
MITSUBISHI LANCER DRIVER MAKINEN FIGHTS BACK ON SWEDISH RALLY
None of the factory cars have retired, making the event a raw test of speed and courage, often on roads where standing, let alone driving is a challenge.
Makinen and fellow-Finn Seppo Harjanne wasted little time in making up ground after their unfortunate delay during the first leg. It took just five stages for the Team Mitsubishi Ralliart crew to force their way past Toyota driver Thomas Radstrom and grab fourth place. When it snowed on the hilly, twisty stages close to the Norwegian border, Makinen was in his element, setting four consecutive fastest stage times in a breathtaking demonstration of the latest Lancer's capabilities. He had a narrow escape on SS11, when he charged across a ditch and hit a large rock, yet still shared fastest time.
"I have been doing a snow dance today!" he joked. "The car has been very good and Michelin has been a real help to us. I hope there is more snow tomorrow. This rally is not over yet!"
Uwe Nittel lost time when he stopped to change a wheel on the longest stage of the leg in the second Team Mitsubishi Ralliart entry, but has otherwise made encouraging progress on only his second rally in a Group A Lancer.
"I have changed my driving technique a bit. I am changing up the gears earlier to make use of the engine's power and I find the car easier to drive," he said.
"We've made good progress. The car and the tyres have been perfect all day, and some of Tommi's times have been absolutely electrifying. A lot depends on the weather, but third place has to be feasible : if Tommi can gain one-third of a second per kilometre, he can do it," said Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Manager, Phil Short:
Mitsubishi Lancers hold the top six positions in Group N and the stage is set for a thrilling battle between the top local drivers, Backlund and Stig-Olov Walfridsson, during the final leg, with rising Finn Juha Kangas and World Group N Champion Gustavo Trelles of Uruguay in hot pursuit.
"The car has been very good again, but it has been a difficult day. There has been so much water on the ice that we have been aquaplaning," explained Backlund.
Crews face another six stages, totalling 94 kilometres, before the finish in Karlstad on Monday afternoon. They include some of the most famous and demanding stages in Sweden; they promise to be a real sting in the tail.
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION END OF LEG 2
1.C. SAINZ/L. MOYA E/E FORD ESCORT 2.59.54 2.C.MCRAE/N. GRIST GB/GB SUBARU + 0.12 3.K. ERIKSSON/S. PARMANDER S/S SUBARU + 0.27 4.T. MAKINEN/S. HARJANNE FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER + 0.54 5.T. RADSTROM/L. BACKMAN S/S TOYOTA CELICA + 2.03 6.A. SCHWARZ/D. GIRAUDET D/F FORD ESCORT + 3.03 7. T. JANSSON/P.O.SVENSSON S/S TOYOTA CELICA + 3.15 8. M.GRONHOLM/T.RAUTIAINEN FIN/FIN TOYOTA CELICA + 3.37 7. M.JONSSON/J.JOHANSSON S/S FORD ESCORT + 4.07 10. S.BLOMQVIST/B. MELANDER S/S FORD ESCORT + 5.13 11.K. BACKLUND/T. ANDERSSON S/S MITSUBISHI LANCER 1st N + 9.15 12. S.O.WALFRIDSSON/G.BARTH S/S MITSUBISHI LANCER + 9.58 13. J. KANGAS/J.LAAKSONEN FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER + 10.30 14.U. NITTEL/T. THORNER D/S MITSUBISHI LANCER + 12.36
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Copyright 1997 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.