WRC

Rally Australia: Mitsubishi pre-rally shakedown

Mitsubishi revved up down under. Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart completed its final preparations for Rally Australia this morning when the team's registered crews ran the Lancer Evolution WRC2s for the final time ahead of tonight's start and ...

Mitsubishi revved up down under.

Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart completed its final preparations for Rally Australia this morning when the team's registered crews ran the Lancer Evolution WRC2s for the final time ahead of tonight's start and opening super special stage in the centre of Perth.

The shakedown test, 60 kilometres to the south-east of Perth at Langford Park, was however the culmination of the team's pre-event testing, both François Delecour and Jani Paasonen having undertaken a four-day test prior to the start of the recce. With more than 550 kilometres run on representative roads, combined with fine-tuning over the 3.4 kilometre shakedown road this morning, both drivers are confident they have found the optimum set-up for the 388.64 kilometres of competition ahead. Despite hot and dry weather earlier in the week, blanket cloud this morning, temperatures around 15 degrees and light drizzly rain are threatening wet conditions tomorrow, which could throw the usual advantage running at the back of the field into disarray.

"The nature of the roads is very unique here and the test focused on setting up the car for the particularly slippery conditions," commented Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart chief engineer Bernard Lindauer. "The drivers also spent a lot of time concentrating on the suspension and differentials to get maximum traction and performance."

François Delecour starts his sixth Rally Australia tonight and the Frenchman, co-driven by Daniel Grataloup, is buoyed by the team's progress on gravel and has a better feeling with the car than in the previous round in New Zealand.

"I am learning that I have to change the way I drive the car to make it work better for me," commented François. "Normally I like to play with the car, but I can't do that. It needs to be on the line, not sideways and I've also made changes to the brakes and diffs to suit the way I'm now driving. We have changed the master cylinder for the brakes, which is making them much much harder, and normally I like the diff to be freer at the front, but we've changed that as well and although it means the car is stiffer and a bit more nervous to drive, it has to be like that. I have a good feeling though and am looking forward to the start."

Team-mates Jani Paasonen and Arto Kapanen were sensationally quick in New Zealand and the Finns are confident they can match the pace in Australia, despite only previously contesting Rally Australia once.

"For me it's the same feeling as New Zealand, maybe better, so I feel very happy," said Jani. "I really learned how the car needs to be driven and then I've spent a couple of weeks in England with the team and did some more testing and that has helped me a lot. Every time I get in the car, I trust it more and more. After the GB test, Lasse also looked at my settings and made some more suggestions and there is a little bit more of a difference again. The spec is pretty much the same as New Zealand, although the diffs are a bit different and the suspension slightly higher, but we are looking forward to it. Now, the only unknown is the weather and I am praying that it stays dry, which will suit our starting position."

Adding to their comments, Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart team director John Easton said: "The specification on both cars is exactly the same, we're making pleasing progress and feel confident if the conditions remain dry. Obviously if it's wet we'll have to see, although we did have one wet day of testing so that knowledge will be of some benefit."

The 2002 Rally Australia kicks off this evening with the famous super special stage at Langley Park in the heart of the city, which draws in excess of 15,000 spectators over rally weekend.

-mitsubishi-

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Series WRC
Drivers Daniel Grataloup , François Delecour , Jani Paasonen