The 45th Swedish Rally is the first of nine rounds in the 1996 FIA World Rally Championship, and Makinen has his sights firmly set on the World Drivers' crown with Mitsubishi. A win in Sweden would be the best possible start for the ambitious young Finn and he believes that the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III will give him the best possible chance over the 27 ice and snow-covered stages of the three day rally.
Says Makinen: "Last year this car was by far the best for the conditions, and it will be the same again this year. I am very confident of a good result."
Extensive testing has been carried out by Team Mitsubishi Ralliart to prepare for the snowy and icy conditions expected on the rally. Working with Michelin, the team conducted tyre and suspension tests last December, and a final shakedown will be undertaken in the Lancer between the reconnaissance period and the start of the rally.
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Manager Phil Short reveals: "Tommi was delighted with the car during testing. Reports at the moment suggest that there is not as much snow as last year, but with several weeks to go, anything can happen so we're prepared for the worst. Obviously we will be using studded tyres on the Swedish and we have been working very hard with Michelin on their new snow and ice tyre which I believe will work very well."
After a memorable 1-2 victory for Mitsubishi last year, Short is confident that the team can repeat that success. He adds: "Our chances are very good. We have a Scandinavian driver and a car that we know is very competitive, especially in these conditions. Our priority this year is for Tommi to win the FIA World Championship for Drivers, and from the start in Sweden we will be putting everything behind him."
During the 1995 season, Team Mitsubishi Ralliart won a total of 6 events; Sweden and Australia in the World Rally Championship and a astounding 4 out of 6 rounds in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship ! Mitsubishi's spectacular performance ultimately led to the FIA Asia Pacific titles in both the Drivers' and Manufacturers' categories. The team is aiming to build on that success with Makinen in the World Rally Championship this year, and in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship where British driver Richard Burns will lead the attack.
Last year, Mitsubishi was by far the most successful manufacturer in Group N - the class for standard production cars - in the World Championship, winning all but one (Monte Carlo) of the eight rounds to take the FIA Group N World Championship for Manufacturers, while Portuguese driver Rui Madeira won the FIA Group N Cup for Drivers in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III. Mitsubishi is confident of success again this year, and the marque is again prevalent on the first round, the Swedish Rally, with no fewer than 18 Group N Mitsubishis entered headed by last year's category winner, Swede Kenneth Backlund in a Mitsubishi Ralliart Sweden Lancer Evolution III.
Backlund is again favourite for victory in Group N, but will face stiff opposition from Team Mitsubishi Ralliart entry Uwe Nittel, also in a Lancer. The promising young German will be co-driven by Tina Thorner, who partnered Isolde Holderied to the Ladies' crown last year for Mitsubishi.
Just over 100 cars are expected to take the start in Karlstad at at 08:00 on Friday, February 9 to tackle 27 special stages totalling 496 km in an overall route of 1643 km over three legs, finishing back in Karlstad on Sunday, February 11, at around 15:09.
Along with the 100 other competitors who have entered, Team Mitsubishi Ralliart driver Tommi Makinen has been hard at work recently to prepare for the wintry conditions that transform Sweden's picturesque countryside into a winter wonderland for up to four months of the year.
Traction, suspension and tyres will be the biggest factors in the battle for victory over the Swedish Rally's 27 icy stages, and Team Mitsubishi Ralliart believes that the Lancer Evolution III, with its Michelin tyres, will again prove the best package in the treacherously slippery conditions.
The narrow snow tyres provided for Mitsubishi by Michelin are covered in hundreds of long metal studs to maximise grip, and are of key importance on the Swedish Rally. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III also benefits from an advanced traction control system which ensures that power and torque is delivered in exactly the right quantities to all four driven wheels, maximising grip in even the most icy conditions. The Lancer is also renowned for its superb handling, and the Team Mitsubishi Ralliart engineers have been hard at work over the winter fine-tuning the already superb suspension to suit Makinen's driving style.
The 1643 km three day Swedish Rally starts from Karlstad on Friday, February 9 at 08:00 with nine stages covering 200 km in the first leg as the event heads north through the Varmland region and into Dalarna and Falun. The leg is due to finish in Falun at around 22:20.
Leg 2 contains 13 special stages covering 187 km, including the spectacular Vassjon stage which winds its way across a frozen lake. This is one of the most popular stages of the event, and many of the 300,000 or more spectators who will watch the event will crowd into the area near the town of Torsby to see the action as the world's top rally cars slither their way across the ice at high speed. The second leg is due to finish back in Karlstad at approximately 21:23.
The final leg of the Swedish Rally will be one of the toughest, with an early 06:00 start for the leading car. Five stages covering 113 km will be tackled before the winner reaches Karlstad at around 15:09.
The Swedish Rally, with 496 km of competitive driving over the World Rally Championship's coldest and iciest rally, is one of the most spectacular events of the year, with powerful rally cars spraying great plumes of fine snow high into the air behind them, while their drivers grapple with their machines, sliding around corners at impossible angles and bouncing off the soft snow banks in an effort to find the fastest line. The Swedish Rally will make a superb opening round for the 1996 FIA World Rally Championship, and Tommi Makinen will be hoping to celebrate the first of many victories this year in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III.
Copyright 1996 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.
Back to INDEX