MITSUBISHI READY FOR WET & WINDY WALES Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart concluded its final preparations for the Rally of Great Britain today in advance of the start of the last round of the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship. The team's preparatory...
MITSUBISHI READY FOR WET & WINDY WALES
Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart concluded its final preparations for the Rally of Great Britain today in advance of the start of the last round of the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship. The team's preparatory work for its home event has proved more important than ever, as François Delecour will be competing with a new co-driver and Justin Dale is deputising for the convalescing Alister McRae. Jani Paasonen and co-driver Arto Kapanen remain a constant in the team however, and the Finns will be piloting the third Lancer Evolution WRC2 in Wales.
The shakedown test, 75 kilometres to the west of Cardiff, was the culmination of the team's pre-event testing, both Jani Paasonen and Justin Dale having undertaken a three-day test prior to the start of the recce. With more than 440 kilometres run on representative roads, combined with fine-tuning over the 6.3 kilometre shakedown road this morning, both drivers are confident they have found the optimum set-up for the 390.57 kilometres of competition ahead. As Britain moves into its winter months, typically overcast and wet weather greeted the teams this morning making conditions on the shakedown stage as treacherously slippery as ever.
François Delecour will be competing in Britain with a new co-driver, fellow countryman Dominique Savignoni standing in for Daniel Grataloup, who has now returned to France following injuries sustained during Rally Australia. François is also still recovering from their accident ten days ago and admits he is not one hundred percent fit.
"I am maybe on 85 per cent at the moment," said François. "My foot is okay, but my ribs are hurting quite a bit and I am wearing a body brace to try to ease the pain. I notice it more at the end of a stage, obviously, so we will have to see how it goes. The accident was only ten days ago and I think another week for my recovery would have made a difference. For Dominique it is obviously going to be a very tough rally but he has been working hard and we know how important it is that we try our best for Mitsubishi."
2002 British Super 1600 Rally Champion Justin Dale is driving the second Lancer Evolution WRC2 in place of the recuperating Alister McRae, the Scot still in Australia following on-going tests. While Justin has extensive knowledge of the British forests, his experience in four-wheel drive machinery is limited, however his relationship with the team was one of the deciding factors in him being offered a dream opportunity.
"When I got the call it was an amazing feeling and a driver's dream to be competing in the World Championship with a factory team," said Justin. "I've been doing some test and demonstration work with the team this year so although I don't have so much experience in a world rally car, I do at least have some knowledge and have about 500 kilometres of testing under my belt. It's still a huge transition though and a new style takes time; every kilometre I do is valuable. My role here is to back-up François and Jani and certainly during the opening leg I'll be playing myself in and seeing what happens. Hopefully we'll be able to pick up the pace on the second and third legs, but it also depends what happens with my team-mates. If needs be, we'll be there to push for the team."
Jani Paasonen and Arto Kapanen are competing together in the Rally of Great Britain for the first time in their careers, however the Finns have proved themselves adaptable and will be gunning for points in the final round of the season.
"For sure with this type of wet weather the roads get worse and worse, but I have been surprised that the conditions have not been as bad as I'd expected," commented Jani. "The profile of the stages is quite similar to Finland and New Zealand and there are some nice sections; I have been enjoying it a lot so far. I'm probably as confident as I can be under the circumstances. My goal is to make no mistakes and if things go well, maybe fifth or sixth would be possible. I have to drive hard but carefully though, the team needs us to do well for the Championship; that is very important."
Adding to the drivers' comments, Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart team manager Derek Dauncey said: "François visited one of the FIA's approved hospitals in Paris last week and was given the all-clear, which is good news, but he is in some discomfort and didn't do the pre-event test, giving him more time to recover. If he can hang in there, history shows that patience can pay off here. Justin has been working with the team over the course of the year and he was our first choice for a third car; we wanted to give him a chance and his knowledge of the roads is good. Sure, he needs more experience and we're not expecting miracles. The rally will be an education for Jani. We'd always looked at this rally being part of his programme and from what we've seen in Sweden, Finland and New Zealand the typically British conditions should suit him."
The Rally of Great Britain kicks off in Cardiff this evening at 18:30 hrs with a ceremonial start in the busy city centre. Crews then head to the purpose-built super special stage in the docks for a quick blast around the dual-lane circuit before returning for the overnight halt. The forestry action begins in earnest on Friday morning when the crews tackle a total of seven stages and 135.03 competitive kilometres in south Wales.