MITSUBISHI LANCERS DOMINATE IN GREECE WITH INCREASED WRC LEAD FOR MAKINEN AND GROUP N 1-2-3
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart enjoyed great success on the three-day Acropolis Rally which took place in Greece on June 2-4, when Finnish pair Tommi Makinen and Seppo Harjanne scored second place in their Lancer Evolution III to increase their lead in the World Rally Championship for Drivers to eight points, and Ralliart Germany pairing Uwe Nittel and Tina Thorner headed home a Mitsubishi Lancer 1- 2-3 in Group N, the class for production cars.
Makinen started the event determined to increase his five point lead in the World Rally Championship with revised suspension settings on his Lancer Evolution III and new tyres developed by Michelin for the hot, dusty and extremely abrasive stages. He quickly became embroiled in a frantic battle for the lead with Subaru's Colin McRae setting two fastest stage times over the eight rough stages, ending the day in second place at the first overnight halt in Kamena Vourla after 149 km of competitive driving in a total first-day route of 377 km.
Feeling that his suspension settings were too soft, Makinen went for harder suspension for the seven stages of the second leg, but his planned charge for the lead was delayed for three stages with a bent steering arm. He launched his attack on stage 12, reducing McRae's lead by half, from 1m 29s at its peak to just 44 seconds by the second halt in Kamena Vourla after 152 km of stages. It was a dramatic battle enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of spectators enjoying the Greek bank holiday in blistering sunshine.
A final charge over the last six stages through he dramatic Greek countryside, covering 153 km from Kamena Vourla to Athens saw Makinen close to within 22 seconds of the lead, and victory looked possible as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III driver was clearly quicker than his Subaru rival. However, excessive tyre wear on the 19th stage halted the Finn's charge, and he quickly decided to settle for second place, 50 seconds behind the leader at the finish, preferring to protect his World Championship points advantage than to risk all by chasing a rally win. By beating his nearest rival for the series, Ford's Carlos Sainz, into third place, he stretched his lead to eight points.
Said Makinen: "Of course I would prefer to win, but second place is enough for me here in Greece. I must always think of the World Rally Championship and the points, so for me this was a very good result. The Lancer worked very well in these conditions and even though it was very rough and very hot, it only needed normal routine servicing, and my Michelin tyres were very well suited to these conditions. I attacked for the lead on the last day and I thought I could catch Colin, but in the end it was better not to take any risks. Overall, I am very pleased with my result."
Mitsubishi had even more to celebrate with Uwe Nittel's superb performance in Group N in the Ralliart Germany Lancer Evolution III. The German driver, on only his second World Championship event and his first in Greece, immediately looked like a winner until a series of punctures on stages five and six dropped him to fifth in Group N. However, he recovered well on the second leg, benefiting from the cancellation of the results from stage six the previous day, and scythed his way back through the field to first place by stage 10, taking the lead from Gustavo Trelles. Nittel held on to his advantage to the finish to take his first World Championship victory on only his second event, after finishing third in Sweden earlier this year.
Trelles eventually finished second in his similar Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III, while Pascal Smets, on his first ever event outside his native Belgium, drove his Lancer to third in the category to help Mitsubishi record a dominant 1-2-3. Just 42 cars out of 93 starters finished this arduous event held over 21 stages totalling 454 km in length in an overall route of 1204 km.
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Director Andrew Cowan commented: "We are very satisfied with this result. Tommi's Lancer ran perfectly throughout the three days of this very rough and challenging event, and Tommi drove superbly, never putting himself at risk, but always putting pressure on McRae. Second place on this event allows Tommi to increase his lead in the World Championship, which was our target here in Greece, so we are very pleased. We are also delighted for Uwe Nittel. He was a World Rally Championship nominated driver for Team Mitsubishi Ralliart and he served us very well and, despite that added pressure, he won Group N and took 14th overall which gave us valuable Manufacturers' points. All round this was a superb rally for Mitsubishi."
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart is now preparing for the next round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, which takes place in Malaysia on June 15 - 17 where Richard Burns and Kenjiro Shinozuka will drive a pair of Lancer Evolution IIIs, while the next round of the World Rally Championship will be the Rally of Argentina on July 4-6.
Dates : June 2 - 4, 1996
Length/Longueur : 1204,40 km
Total SS/EC : 454,34 km
Entrants/Engages : 96
Starters/Partants : 94
Manufacturers/Constructeurs : Toyota 28, Ford 9, Subaru 8, Mitsubishi 6, Mazda 6, Volkswagen 5, Lada 4, Lancia 4, Nissan 4, Renault 4, Peugeot 3, Alfa Romeo 2, Citroen 2, Hyundai 2, KIA 2, Opel 2, Audi 1, Daiihatsu 1, Mercedes 1, Seat 1, Skoda 1.
Nationalities (first drivers)/Nationalites (pilotes) : Greece 69, Belgium 4, Italy 4, Japan 3, Austria 2, Finland 2, France 2, Great Britain 2, Sweden 2, Germany 1, Monte Carlo 1, Portugal 1, Argentina 1, Uruguay 1, Spain 1.
Overall winners/Vainqueurs :
1. C. McRae/D. Ringer -GB/GB- SUBARU IMPREZA 555 5.33.12
2. T. Makinen/S. Harjanne -FIN/FIN- MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III + 0.50
3. C. Sainz/L. Moya -E/E- FORD ESCORT RS COSWORTH + 3.21
4. P. Liatti/F. Ponz -I/I- SUBARU IMPREZA 555 + 4.50
5. K. Eriksson/S. Parmander -S/S- SUBARU IMPREZA 555 + 7.05
6. B. Thiry/S. Prevot -B/B- FORD ESCORT RS COSWORTH + 9.36
7. F. Loix/S. Smeets -B/B- TOYOTA CELICA GT FOUR + 10.01
8. G. Pianezzola/L. Roggia -I/I- TOYOTA CELICA GT FOUR + 15.34
9. P. Bernardini/B. Occelli -F/F- FORD ESCORT RS COSWORTH + 21.21
10.JP. Richelmi/T. Barjou -MC/MC- TOYOTA CELICA 4WD TURBO + 25.24
Gr N winner/Vainqueur Gr N :
U. Nittel/T. Thorner -D/S- MITSUBISHI LANCER EV III
Stages winners : McRae 10, Makinen 7, Sainz 3, Liatti 2
Rally leaders : McRae 1 - 21
World Championship for Drivers/Championnat du Monde Pilotes : Makinen 55, Sainz 47, McRae 42,
Liatti 33, Eriksson 31, Kankkunen 22
World Championship for Manufacturers/Championnat du Monde Constructeurs: Subaru 178,
Mitsubishi 138, Ford 128.
MITSUBISHI'S MAKINEN TO DEFEND WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD IN GREECE
FIA World Rally Championship leader Tommi Makinen heads to Greece for the
three-day Acropolis Rally, round four of the series, which starts from Athens
on June 2, where he aims to defend his five point lead in his Team Mitsubishi
Ralliart Lancer Evolution III.
Co-driven as usual by fellow Finn Seppo Harjanne, Makinen faces three legs of
the roughest and most testing stages in the World Rally Championship in
extremely high temperatures, with 21 special stages covering 454 km in a total
route of 1204 km.
After winning the first two rounds of the championship in Sweden and Kenya,
although retiring from the recent Rally Indonesia, Makinen is confident of
success in Greece which, although it is a high-speed "sprint" rally, calls for
a high degree of endurance and reliability.
He says: "The Mitsubishi Lancer is the strongest and most reliable car in the
World Rally Championship, so I know I can rely on it to bring me to the
finish. The rest is down to me and Seppo, and after winning the first two
rounds and leading in Indonesia, I think we can do it in Greece."
Makinen will be backed in his efforts by two young, up-and-coming drivers
nominated by Mitsubishi Ralliart in the team's hunt for FIA World Rally
Championship for Manufacturers points. Germany's Uwe Nittel, co-driven by Tina
Thorner, will drive a Mitsubishi Ralliart Germany Lancer Evolution III in
Group N specification in the category for standard production vehicles. Nittel
performed superbly in Sweden at the start of the season where he finished
second in the category. Belgian driver Pascal Smets joins the team for the
first time, co-driven by Jean-Paul S'heeren in a Moorkens Car Division
Mitsubishi Dealer Team Lancer Evolution III, again in the standard Group N
category. Smets is the reigning Belgian Rally Champion in the class.
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Manager Phil Short comments: "We've completed a great
deal of endurance testing for this event for Tommi's car, and we will be in
good shape. The stages in Greece are very rough and abrasive so we will be
using some Safari-specification parts such as the sump guard. Unlike the
Safari, these stages are driven at higher speeds and the stresses and strains
are more intense, so it will be very tough on everyone. The Championship
fights this year always seem to be between Tommi and Colin McRae, so we are
expecting a good battle between these two. As far as the Group N Mitsubishis
are concerned, we are expecting good results. Uwe Nittel surprised everyone
with his second place in the class in Sweden where he performed very well.
This will be Pascal Smets' first World Championship Rally, but he is a driver
with great potential and we will be watching him very closely. Tommi is happy
and relaxed, he's leading the championship and very confident, therefore we
are looking forward to a good Acropolis Rally."
MITSUBISHI EXPECTS HOT COMPETITION
IN GREECE FOR THE ACROPOLIS RALLY
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart faces one of its toughest challenges this season on
the Acropolis Rally, which starts from Athens on June 2, 1996. The event,
which is famed for its rough stages and hot, testing conditions in searing
temperatures and blistering sunshine, forms the fourth round of the FIA World
Rally Championship which is led by Finns Tommi Makinen and Seppo Harjanne in
their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III.
The Acropolis Rally is a unique event which combines the rough conditions of
the Safari, with the intense pace and stress of a European "sprint-type"
event. It is a rally which demands high levels of both performance and
endurance, to which the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III is uniquely suited.
This year's Acropolis Rally has been modified to make it even more
concentrated and intense, with 21 special stages contested over three days,
with 454 km of competitive driving in an overall route of 1204 km. A number of
notoriously rough stages such as Tarzan have been dropped, but many new and
challenging sections have been added. The Rally will also be head quartered in
the coastal resort of Kamena Vourla for two overnight halts at the end of legs
one and two for the first time in many years.
The first day of the Acropolis Rally will take the competitors north from the
historic and spectacular Acropolis in Athens for eight special stages covering
149 km before reaching Kamena Vourla for the first overnight halt. The leg
will start at 08:30 and finish at around 18:30.
Leg two restarts from Kamena Vourla for for a further seven stages of 152 km
in total length, starting at 08:30 and returning to the coastal resort at
The final leg will take the surviving competitors south again for the last six
stages, including the spectacular and famously tough Stiri, before the finish
back in Athens at the Peace and Friendship Stadium after 153 km of competitive
driving. The final leg is scheduled to start at 08:30 from Kamena Vourla, with
the finish in Athens at 19:15.
For Tommi Makinen and Seppo Harjanne, who hold a five point championship lead
in their Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Lancer Evolution III, the Acropolis Rally of
Greece offers the challenge of making it three victories out of four events so
far this year, allowing them to stretch their lead in the race to become World
Rally Champions with Mitsubishi. And for the Group N runners nominated by
Mitsubishi Ralliart to score points in the Manufacturers' Championship, Uwe
Nittel and Pascal Smets, the Acropolis represents the ultimate test for the
standard production versions of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III.
Mitsubishi is confident that Makinen, together with his new team mates Nittel
and Smets, could push Mitsubishi from second place back to the top of the
Manufacturers' table in Greece.
Copyright 1996 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.
Back to INDEX