Rally of Great Britain: Mitsubishi preview

Mitsubishi flat out for season finale. Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart heads to the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship determined to end the season on a high. After a disappointing outing in Australia, the Rally of Great Britain ...

Mitsubishi flat out for season finale.

Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart heads to the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship determined to end the season on a high. After a disappointing outing in Australia, the Rally of Great Britain (14-17 November) is home territory for the team and both François Delecour and Jani Paasonen are keen to make a mark in a rally where everyone will be all-out for victory, being that both Championships have already been sewn up. Since team-mate Alister McRae is still not fully recovered from a mountain bike accident, taking his and co-driver David Senior's place will be 2002 British Rally Championship runner-up Justin Dale, partnered by co-driver Andrew Bargery.

The Rally of Great Britain is one of the oldest and most prestigious rounds of the World Rally Championship and this year it is being run for the 58th time. It is still an event that every driver and manufacturer wants to win and one that is guaranteed to attract huge crowds from all over the country. Weather conditions are however one of the biggest talking points and as Britain heads into its long winter, rain, mud, fog and possibly even snow all generally feature heavily on the final round of the series. Even so, the gravel stages in Wales provide some spectacular action for thousands of fans, underlining the rally's status as Britain's biggest sporting event. And, with this year's Championship titles secured in New Zealand, spectators will be treated to a straight fight for Rally GB honours.

François Delecour has competed in Britain's round of the World Championship on six previous occasions, with mixed results. The Frenchman has however claimed three top six finishes, fourth his best result in 1993. Last year François was sidelined from the event after his and Daniel Grataloup's Rally Australia accident and again, this year, Daniel will miss the season finale as he continues his recovery from the pairings second consecutive accident 'down under'. François will therefore enter the event partnered by Dominique Savignoni, former co-driver to Frenchmen Patrick Bernardini and François Chatriot, and gravel crew to François for the last two and half years.

"I have a very, very good feeling with Dominique, no problem at all," commented François. "We have competed together in the past and finished the 1999 Rallye Monte Carlo in fourth position in a privately entered car. His English is maybe not so good for me and the team, but he will learn very fast, he has been trying hard all year. I like Rally GB a lot because it's muddy, exactly like my country when I was born. I know the conditions and the spirit. For sure I don't like the fog, anyone who says they do is probably lying, but driving in the wet and mud is ok; the stages are very, very nice actually."

Jani Paasonen and Arto Kapanen will be driving the second Lancer Evolution WRC in Wales and, although the Finnish pair has never previously competed in Great Britain, substantial testing in Wales before Australia has given Jani a taste of what's to come.

"This year's Rally GB will be my first," said Jani. "I know the weather can be changeable and of course I hope it snows - it will be much better for me! Seriously, what I really hope is that it's either completely wet or dry, because as we saw in Australia the conditions can be very difficult when it's not consistent. I've already done one test with the team and we're planning a bit more before the start of the event. Obviously the aim will be to try and score some points for Mitsubishi, but for sure it will be difficult with so many good drivers pushing for personal victories."

Piloting the third Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution WRC2 will be the 2002 British Rally Championship runners-up and winners of the Super 1600 category, Justin Dale and Andrew Bargery. Justin has a wealth of experience in the British forests, having been competing in the UK since 1992. He has also worked with Mitsubishi, carrying out development testing for the team and representing it at a variety of levels.

"For me, this is a fantastic opportunity," said Justin. "It's something every rally driver dreams of - competing on a world championship event with a works team. There will obviously be a bit of pressure on us but we'll deal with that. I think realistically we can't hope to be on the same pace as Francois and Jani to begin with but our goal will be to learn the car and support them, as well as the team and hopefully bring some points home for Mitsubishi."

Adding to their comments, Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart team manager Derek Dauncey said: "We have no doubt that Dominique Savignoni will work well with François; they have competed together in the past very successfully and have worked together for the last couple of years on World Championship rallies. We'll be looking for Jani to get experience on a rally where conditions should hopefully suit his driving style. Due to Alister not being able to compete, we've given Justin the opportunity to represent the team on his home event. Competing in the British Championship for many years will have provided him with very good knowledge of the stages and conditions, and as we've seen in the past with British drivers, this gives them a definite competitive edge.

"The Rally of Great Britain itself always throws up unique challenges, which can include fog, snow, ice and rain - the crews can face almost any conditions - so we'll be studying the long-range weather forecast in the run-up to the event to ensure we're as well-prepared as possible," added Dauncey. "The team's looking forward to the final round of this year's Championship, especially as it's on home soil."

Based in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, the rally takes place from 14-17 November and covers 1,637.86 kilometres, with 17 stages covering 390.57 competitive kilometres. The event kicks off with a spectator stage in Cardiff on the evening of Thursday 14 November, but it will be won and lost on a compact route in the forests of south and west Wales, run in a series of loops based around Swansea, although it returns to Cardiff each night. The first full day of competition on Friday includes six stages totaling 133.58 kilometres and concludes with a second run at the Cardiff super special. The second leg includes the longest, 54.69-kilometre stage of the rally, with a total of 117.04 competitive kilometres. The last leg is the longest and concentrated nearer Swansea and, with a second run at the long Resolfen stage, the final day of competition promises drama-filled action.


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Series WRC
Drivers Daniel Grataloup , François Delecour , Alister McRae , Jani Paasonen , David Senior , Dominique Savignoni , Andrew Bargery , Justin Dale