Team Winfield Mitsubishi Ralliart rounded off its season by clinching second place in the World Rally Championship for Manufacturers on the final round, Spain's Catalunya Rally, as Lancer Evolution III drivers Gustavo Trelles and Uwe Nittel took first and second places in the World Cup for Group N production cars. The only round of the 1996 World Championship held entirely on asphalt, it proved to be a tough event, long stages and warm weather pushing cars and tyres to the limit.
After a superb season in his all-conquering Lancer Evolution III, World Champion Tommi Makinen, co-driven for the first time by Juha Repo, drove faultlessly to take fifth place, which performed with its usual reliability. The Finnish crew recorded highly competitive stage times that kept them in touch with the leaders as they smoothly completed the last leg, held close to Lloret de Mar on stages often made treacherous by unexpected wet patches in otherwise dry conditions.
"The rally has gone very well and I am pleased with the car. It has been really difficult to choose the right tyres in these conditions, but we have had a lot of help from Michelin," declared Makinen.
Tens of thousands of passionately enthusiastic, flag-waving spectators thronged the mountain stages north of the Costa Brava to witness the final day of a hotly fought World Championship season, in which Colin McRae scored a narrow victory for Subaru.
Makinen's team-mate, Britain's Richard Burns was unlucky to leave the road on the final stage, when he misheard a pace note from co-driver Robert Reid.
"Tommi drove very well and we're very satisfied with our position after a fantastic season. We've learnt something about the conditions for next year's event and armed with this knowledge, we are sure we can do better with our new car next year," said Andrew Cowan, the Director of Team Winfield Mitsubishi Ralliart.
The battle for the Group N title was one of the highlights of the rally, the advantage swinging constantly between Germany's Uwe Nittel, co-driven by Tina Thorner of Sweden, and Uruguayan Gustavo Trelles, navigated by Argentina's Jorge Del Buono.
The vastly experienced Trelles finally made sure of his first world title after Nittel got a puncture and lost a minute on the penultimate stage of the rally when leading comfortably.
"I am very happy, because we put in a big attack today and we have been driving flat out all through the rally. I must say thank you to my team, Race Rent Motorsport, but also to Ralliart Germany for making my Lancer Evolution III so reliable. It will be a big party in Uruguay!" Trelles predicted.
Nittel made sure of second in Group N and second in the points table after an encouraging first season at World Championship level.
It wasn't just Group N that was dominated by Lancer Evolution III drivers. Tommi Makinen crushed all opposition as he swept to his first World Championship, winning five of the nine rounds of the series, including two events that the team had never contested before, making certain of the title with two rallies to spare.
The Lancer Evolution III established itself as the fastest and most reliable car over the course of the season, for the widest possible range of drivers. Its successes include not just two world titles, but the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship for Manufacturers. After Mitsubishi's best ever season, its cars have become the standard by which others are judged.
1.C. McRAE/D.RINGER GB/GB SUBARU IMPREZA 555 4.14.20 2.P. LIATTI/F. PONS I/I SUBARU IMPREZA 555 +0.07 3.B. THIRY/S.PREVOT B/B FORD ESCORT COSWORTH + 1.18 4.F. LOIX/S. SMEET B/B TOYOTA CELICA GT FOUR +1.35 5.T. MAKINEN/J. REPO FIN/FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III +1.52 6.P. BERNARDINI/D. SAVIGNONI F/F FORD ESCORT RS COSWORTH + 3.10 7.K. ERIKSSON/S. PARMANDER S/S SUBARU IMPREZA 555 + 3.41 8.O. GOMEZ/M. MARTI E/E RENAULT MAXI MEGANE + 4.02 9.R. MADEIRA/N. DA SILVA P/P TOYOTA CELICA GT FOUR + 4.59 10.A. MEDEGHINI/"MEDEGHINI" I/I SUBARU IMPREZA 555 + 6.38 ........................................................ ............. ........................................... ................. 14.G. TRELLES/J. DEL BUONO ROU/RA MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III + 19.28（1stN） 16.U. NITTEL/T. THORNER D/S MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III +20.01（2ndN）
*Richard Burns was forced to retire during ss18
*Carlos Sainz was forced to retire during ss2
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Copyright 1996 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.