Auriol joined Team Mitsubishi at the last minute with the sole aim of scoring extra points and achieved precisely what the team required.
Competitors faced the most challenging conditions imaginable during the third and final leg of the 1,950-kilometre rally, heavy rain giving way to frequent showers that left the mountain roads of Liguria covered in water, fallen leaves and mud. Grip varied from one stage to the next, making it particularly difficult for Auriol to come to grips with the Lancer Evolution III on his first experience of the car on asphalt.
Nevertheless, Auriol was pleased with progress. "It's good. The car's easy to drive and it does nothing that catches you out. The stages have been very tricky today, but it shows the car has potential.
Auriol found that the Lancer Evolution III responded well to stiffer suspension settings and is looking forward to being asked to drive it again. Michelin's vast range of tyres proved well suited to twisty stages that were often abrasive, despite being wet.
"Obviously, it was always going to be difficult for Didier to come to terms quickly with the car, but we still have a chance of winning the World Championship for Manufacturers and Didier has made some very positive suggestions. Both he and Denis have made a useful contribution," said Phil Short, Team Mitsubishi Ralliart's Team Manager.
Mitsubishi scored another resounding success in Group N, Gustavo Trelles leading home Pascal Smets. Trelles not only cruised to a faultless victory, but underlined the performance of the standard Lancer Evolution III by rivalling the much more highly modified Formula 2 kit cars on asphalt roads that might have been expected to favour the lightweight, two-wheel-drive machines. Class victory for the Uruguayan and Argentine co-driver Jorge Del Buono makes them favourites to take the Group N World title. Mitsubishi is certain to win, because their only rivals are another Lancer Evolution III crew, Uwe Nittel from Germany and Sweden's Tina Thorner.
They were strongly supported by talented Belgian crew Pascal Smets and Jean-Paul S'Heeren, who were second in their Ralliart Belgium Lancer Evolution III.
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart's busy programme takes it immediately to the Far East for the Hong Kong-Beijing Rally, the final round of the Asia-Pacific Championship, which starts on Saturday. It is also preparing for the final round of the World Championship, the Catalonia Rally, which begins on November 4.
|1. C. McRAE/D. RINGER||GB/GB||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||4.26.57||2. C. SAINZ/L. MOYA||E/E||FORD ESCORT COSWORTH||+ 0.22|
|3. B. THIRY/S. PREVOT||B/B||FORD ESCORT COSWORTH||+ 2.09|
|4. F. LOIX/S. SMEETS||B/B||TOYOTA CELICA||+ 2.51|
|5. K. ERIKSSON/S. PARMANDER||S/S||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||+ 2.54|
|6. G. CUNICO/P. SCALVINI||I/I||FORD ESCORT COSWORTH||+ 3.44|
|7. G. PIANEZZOLA/L. ROGGIA||I/I||TOYOTA CELICA||+ 4.01|
|8. D. AURIOL/D. GIRAUDET||F/F||MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III||+ 4.53|
|9. A. MEDEGHINI/"MEDEGHINI"||I/I||SUBARU IMPREZA||+ 8.02|
|9. P. BERNARDINI/D. SAVIGNONI||F/F||FORD ESCORT COSWORTH||+ 8.02|