Rally Australia: Mitsubishi preview

MITSUBISHI WRC TEAM HEADS 2005 FINAL EVENT "AUSTRALIA" Rovanpera and Galli set for 2005 season's final showdown After two back-to-back European asphalt events, the FIA World Rally Championship contenders head down under for the final round of...

Rovanpera and Galli set for 2005 season's final showdown

After two back-to-back European asphalt events, the FIA World Rally Championship contenders head down under for the final round of the 2005 season. Rally Australia (November 10-13) will see Mitsubishi Motorsport field another two-car entry and Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen will once again be joined by "Gigi" Galli/Guido d'Amore for the last gravel challenge of the year.

The West Australian city of Perth will once again play host to Rally Australia and, despite the Confederation of Australian Motorsport seeking another home for the event in future years, it was recently announced the event will continue to be hosted in the city, certainly in 2006. The event is a firm favorite on the calendar and as the final round of the series, a great atmosphere reins among the teams and drivers. However, the challenge of the event is not under-estimated, as the narrow and fast roads are lined with trees leaving no margin for error. The gravel is also the most unusual the series contenders experience during the year. Shaped like ball-bearings, small round balls of gravel make the surface unbelievably slippery and like skating on ice.

Harri Rovanpera has seven Rally Australia outings under his belt and also some good results. In his first event in 1997 he won the World 2 Liter category and has since had two sixth-placed finishes (1999 and 2001) as well as two second positions (2002 and 2004).

"It's a rally, country and city I like a lot", said Harri. "It's always very nice to go to Perth and I have a lot of good memories. In previous years each leg's stages have had very different characteristics and each is difficult and challenging. Tires are very important for this rally, like everywhere, but I hope the weather will not be too hot and then we can really fight. Pirelli tires always work well here and I'm confident of a good performance, like in Wales and Japan. If we can have a trouble-free time, we will get a good result, I'm sure".

Team-mate Gigi Galli has only previously competed in Australia once, in Mitsubishi's Group N machinery.

"Last year we were leading in Group N, until a big meeting with a tree!" said Gigi. "For me that is the biggest characteristic of the event; the closeness of the trees to very fast and narrow roads and for that I don't really like this rally so much. This is my first year driving the world rally car in Australia and it will not be so easy to make the change I think. But, of course I feel confident after our performance on the last gravel rally in Japan, but once again we stick to our goal of gaining experience and learning the roads for the future. I'm confident in the performance of the Pirelli tires as they are competitive on this event and for this I don't have any worries. I think if we are able to find a good balance between performance and consistency, we can have a good result for the team at the end of the year".

Adding to the drivers' comments, Roger Estrada, Principal Rally Engineer, said: "Rally Australia is characterized by its unusual road surface which makes tire choice important. Technically, the cars will be a very similar specification to Rally Japan, where we were very competitive".

Said Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motorsport: "Harri had a good Rally Australia last year, finishing second, so I think he will show a good result for the team. Gigi has less experience of this event, just one outing in our Group N car, so I will be asking him to finish the rally and, if he can do this, then I believe he can also do well. Australia will be good for our Pirelli tires and I don't think there will be a difference to the Michelins, so I am confident we can push hard and round the season off on a high note".

2005 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship (Round 8/8)


Fourteen Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution drivers prepare to head to the antipodes for one of the favorites events on the calendar and the final round of the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, Telstra Rally Australia (November 10-13). A total of 42 crews will be competing in the category and it is sure to be one of the toughest Group N challenges of the season.

Heading Mitsubishi's assault is Fumio Nutahara who is keen to resurrect the nail-biting performance he and fellow Japanese Toshihiro Arai displayed on the last rally in Japan. The pair traded stage wins throughout the event and although Nutahara led for the first half of the rally, he will be looking to better his result after narrowly missing victory to his rival countryman.

"During this year's All Japan Rally Championship I achieved four consecutive victories and six wins in total", said Nutahara. "In the PWRC it has been a different story, both in 2004 and 2005, but I hope we can achieve fourth overall this season. I enjoyed Rally Australia last year, we have a good team of experienced people and I am hoping to mount a good challenge to round off the year".

Other Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution drivers to watch out for are Riccardo Errani and Argentina's Federico Villagra who are also driving for points for the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship. Errani will be hoping to better his result as problems on his last outing here in 2003 prevented the Italian from finishing and Villagra, who is contesting the PWRC for the first time this year, will get his first taste of Australian roads.

Australia has always delivered a lot of excellent home-grown talent and this year will prove no exception as the official PWRC runners should expect a tough fight from a number of drivers who are not registered for the Production Car WRC. Local favorites Cody Crocker and Dean Herridge, currently lying first and second in the Australian Rally Championship, could put a spanner in the works for many of the PWRC crews as they highlight their familiarity with the specialist forest surfaces that Australia has to offer.

The start of the event is, as ever, marked by the first running of Perth's super special stage at Gloucester Park, the 2.35 kilometer crowd-pleasing stage run twice on the evening of Thursday November 10. Friday, crews head south for the first of the day's seven forest stages before returning to the city for another two runs around the super special stage. Saturday's leg includes another seven stages and 122.34 competitive kilometers, the day again being rounded off with the final two stages at Gloucester Park, home to Perth's horse-racing. This leg is characterized by the famous roads in the Sotico complex, where high-speed jumps over fast downhill sections provide some of the most spectacular action of the season. On Sunday, roads to the east of Perth will host the closing kilometers of competition, the two identical loops of three stages covering 103.32 competitive kilometers. In total, Rally Australia takes in 26 stages and 355.39 competitive kilometers in a total distance of 1,345.41 kilometers.


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Series WRC
Drivers Toshihiro Arai , Harri Rovanpera , Risto Pietilainen , Gianluigi Galli , Fumio Nutahara , Federico Villagra , Dean Herridge , Cody Crocker