Tour de Corse: Mitsubishi preview

THREE MITSUBISHI CREWS HEAD TO THE TWISTY MOUNTAIN ROADS OF CORSICA After its highly-competitive outing on Japanese soil two weeks ago, the Mitsubishi Motors WRC team returns to Europe for the first of two Mediterranean-based back-to-back...


After its highly-competitive outing on Japanese soil two weeks ago, the Mitsubishi Motors WRC team returns to Europe for the first of two Mediterranean-based back-to-back asphalt events. The Rallye de France -- Tour de Corse (October 20-23) is one of the most fearsome rounds of the series and the team will once again be fielding cars for registered crews Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen and Gilles/Herve Panizzi, as well as a third Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 for "Gigi" Galli/Guido d'Amore.

The 14th round of the FIA World Rally Championship takes the crews to the picturesque island of Corsica and, as ever, will be characterized by unpredictable autumnal weather. At this time of year, dry roads and warm sunshine can all too quickly change to torrential rain with water streaming across narrow and treacherous mountain roads. As a consequence, weather crews and tire decisions are critical factors, especially over such long stages where conditions can be different at the start, mid-point and finish. Also renowned for its relentless corners, the event's nickname of 'The Rally of 10,000 corners' could not hold truer, and the tight and twisty abrasive roads are some of the most demanding and perilous in the series. It will pose an enormous physical and technical challenge for the 65 entered crews.

Harri Rovanpera has had experience over the mountainous Corsican roads three times. The Finn first competed here in 1999 and, since then, has contested the event in 2001 and 2002, where he finished 7th and 11th respectively. Rallye Deutschland, in August, represented Harri's first full Tarmac rally since 2002 and while the Finn finished 10th in the Lancer WRC05, he learned an enormous amount about the car and regained valuable experience of sealed surface competition.

"Both Corsica and Catalunya are events I drove some years ago so I have an idea of the roads and the conditions and I'm more confident with these two Tarmac rallies", said Harri. "The most important thing is that our Corsica test went well, I have a good set-up and confidence in the feeling. I would really prefer dry conditions for the rally, simply because when it is like this it's easier to get the feeling with the grip. If it's dry, I can see more but it's not necessary the best for our package. But okay, Corsica is twisty, fast and difficult; whatever the weather it won't be easy but I'm looking forward to it".

Registered team-mate Gilles Panizzi has a fine record in Corsica, the Frenchman loving the challenge of the twisty mountain roads. He has competed on the island no fewer than 10 times and has taken a World 2 Liter victory in 1997 and emphatic overall wins in 2000 and 2002. He also finished second in 2001 and sixth in 2003.

"I love this rally, it is the best Tarmac event in the world", said Gilles. "I will try my hardest and I hope that it will be like Monte-Carlo. I would like to win, obviously, but I think as always the weather is a big factor; every year it is the same and so difficult to predict what will happen up in the mountains. Sitting in the service park, making tire decisions so far ahead - maybe it can be raining, maybe storms inside the island, but I enjoy playing with those sort of conditions and hopefully the weather will be difficult, as that will help us. To go on the podium I think is possible. If this happens, I will be very very happy".

Gigi Galli has contested the Rallye de France - Tour de Corse on four occasions, always in Mitsubishi's Group N machinery. The Italian takes heart from the fact that he set a fastest time and claimed a personal best result in an FIA WRC event when he finish fifth overall in Germany - only his second outing on Tarmac in a Mitsubishi world rally car.

"I think Corsica is the most important Tarmac rally and it is very famous for its thousands of corners", said Gigi. "I think the particular thing though is that all of the stages are long. There are only six different stages and the average length is about 30 kilometers - only the last stage is 'short' at 15 kilometers. So it is going to be very tough for the car, driver and tires. Also I know how difficult the weather conditions can be. All the time it is strange and you never know which tire to use as the conditions change very quickly in the mountains. But I'm happy with the Tarmac specification we have and although it was quite difficult for me in Germany, I learned a lot and hope the feeling will be good for us".

Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports added: "Recently we have shown our car has improved performance and reliability and, for Gilles, this is home ground and our expectation is for him is to show us good pace", "We expect a consistent drive from Harri and as he has some experience here, I believe he will be able to make a good performance. Gigi did a good job in Germany and although it is his first time on Corsica in a world rally car and it will be another learning session, I believe he can show something good. Our target is for all three cars to finish and hopefully Gilles, in particular, will have a good result".

Commenting on Corsica and Rally Catalunya one week later - where not only are the engines the same, but also the car itself - Technical Director, Yasuo Tanaka added: "These two rallies are paired, which means we cannot change the engine or body shell. We will need to make careful checks in a short time between the two events, but basically the technical specification for both rallies is the same and therefore it should not be a problem for us. We had a good Corsica test after Rally Deutschland and the performance has improved again, and with a lower ride height than before, the drivers seem very happy. Overall our performance has clearly improved, so hopefully we can see some good results".

This year's Rallye de France - Tour de Corse, the 49th in its history, will be based around the newly-refurbished Palais des Congrès in the heart of the historic city of Ajaccio. The action kicks off on Thursday October 20 with a ceremonial start alongside the Port but the real competition begins on Friday when the crews contest the opening two stages, both repeated during the afternoon. Leg two, on Saturday, takes in another two loops of two identical stages over marginally the longest day of the rally. During Sunday's closing day of competition, the crews contest the only new stage of this year's event; the 15.92 kilometer Acqua Doria - Serra di Ferro stage is however set to be another Corsican classic as it winds its way over tight and undulating roads. It is the shortest stage of the rally and will be run twice, along with the 31.81 kilometer Pont de Calzola stage. In total, the 2005 Rallye de France - Tour de Corse takes in 12 stages and 341.68 competitive kilometers in a total distance of 1,023.82 kilometers.


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Series WRC
Drivers Harri Rovanpera , Gilles Panizzi , Hervé Panizzi , Risto Pietilainen , Gianluigi Galli