WRC

Tour de Corse Preview/Team Notes

FIA World Rally Championship 3 - 6 May 1998 42nd Tour de Corse - Rallye de France The sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the 42nd Tour de Corse-Rallye de France, brings the competitors in the beautiful French ...

FIA World Rally Championship 3 - 6 May 1998 42nd Tour de Corse - Rallye de France The sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the 42nd Tour de Corse-Rallye de France, brings the competitors in the beautiful French island for the second of the three pure asphalt rallies in the series. With five different winners on the five events disputed so far, it is a hard task to make any prediction, although Didier Auriol of Toyota, coming from a success in another tarmac event, the Rallye of Spain, approaches the rally where he claimed victory six times with high hopes.

" I won in Corsica my first world championship event, ten years ago and, before Spain, my last win was here in 1995, therefore this is a place I like a lot," said Auriol.

"The big challenge will be in tyre-choice" continued the Frenchman.

"Often the weather can be very different when you choose the tyres from when you go through the stages and, with two stages together, you might have to compromise your speed in one stage to be quick in another."

The regular championship competitors, Ford, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Subaru, will face once again the challenge of 2-Litre Kit cars, specially the works cars of Peugeot and Citroën, which will try to profit from this rally's asphalt route.

The rally being very tough on brakes, with the cars accelerating and slowing incessantly, the lighter two-wheel-drive racers have a better weight-to-power ratio, although balanced by worse traction, than the heavier 4WD cars and they are expected to score some fastest times, specially on dry asphalt.

1998 edition of Rallye de France features a new route, moving back to the hills north east of Corte, on tricky narrow stages, although the three legs will return every night in Ajaccio, as successfully experienced in the past two years.

Contested over 18 special stages, with the first and last leg run on the same route, the Tour de Corse will cover, from Monday May 4th, to Wednesday May 6th, just more than 1100 kilometres, including about 400 kilometres of special stages, all on twisty, bumpy and narrow asphalt roads. Mitsubishi

The Tour de Corse will be only the second rally for the new Lancer Evo5 and Carisma GT, but the team has high hopes, given the performance increase provided by wide-track suspension and more responsive engine. Richard Burns is the only top driver new to the event, but he has an amazing reliability record, having finished his last ten rallies. "I've only been in Corsica once before, when I was in a gravel crew, so it's going to be fairly new for me," said the young Briton, "but I know this is going to be one of the toughest rallies this year."

Team-mate Tommi Makinen is contesting the rally for the third time and agrees on the demands it makes. "The stages are among the more twisty in the world and the high cornering forces impose quite a strain on the crews," said Makinen. "We didn't have time to do any testing, which would be nice, as the car is very new, but it already showed it can be good, so we can hope to score a good result." Subaru

Last year's winner, Colin McRae, believes that the Corsican rally is one of the most demanding on tyres, as the succession of up and downhill curves, rarely broken by straight stretches, causes high rubber temperatures. "You have to search for maximum resistance as well as optimum performance," said the Scot" and don't forget the weather, which can often be the deciding factor."

Team-mate Piero Liatti returns to Corsica for the fourth time and, although his highest position is fifth (1997), the Italian revels in the specialist nature of this rally. "I love Corsica because it is technical and a very distinct asphalt rally, that suits me a lot," said Liatti. "This year fifty percent of the stages have changed and I don't know them well, but everyone will be in the same situation." Ford

Bruno Thiry proved in Catalunya that the Escort runs well on asphalt, winning the first stage. Fully recovered from his ribs injury, the Belgian is confident of producing a good performance in the rally he came so close to win in 1995. "That was a bitter-sweet experience," remembers Thiry, who retired before the last stage, "the rally was just 50 km too long then! "

After the disappointment of Spain, where he was never on the pace, Juha Kankkunen is looking forward to scoring a good result in Corsica. "We have to improve Ford's position in the manufacturers' championship and my own standing in the drivers' series," said the Finn, who is currently lying third. "I must concentrate 100 per cent on making the most of the engine improvements that the team has made to the Escort." Toyota

Two Toyota Corolla WRCs have been entered by the Koln-based team, driven by recent Rally Catalunya winner Didier Auriol and FIA World Rally Championship leader Carlos Sainz.

"Corsica is a very special place for me and after Spain, where we didn't have a single problem with the car, I feel very confident," said Auriol. "In fact, I will be quite happy to take the car from Spain, leave as it is and start this rally," joked the Frenchman. Team-mate Carlos Sainz, second here last year, looks forward to increasing his advantage in the championship.

"I want to get a good result in Corsica. The car certainly has the speed, we showed that in Spain and I think we are in a good position," he said. Other Teams

Peugeot has entered two 306 Maxis for Frenchmen François Delecour and Gilles Panizzi.

Rival Citroën, will run three Xsara Kit Car for Frenchmen Philippe Bugalski, Patrick Magaud and Fabien Doenlen. Renault is represented by two Maxi Meganes run by the British team, driven by Finn Tapio Laukkanen and Briton Martin Rowe, both debuting in this event.

The main debate in Group N should concern three Mitsubishi drivers: reigning champion Uruguayan Gustavo Trelles and Spaniard Luis Climent will challenge the leader Manfred Stohl from Austria.

Only three teams have entered here for the FIA Teams' Cup: Uruguay en Carrera, with Trelles and the two Toyota Teams of Turkey and Saudi Arabia, with Volkan Isik and Abdullah Bakhashab. STATISTICS

The 42nd Tour de Corse - Rallye de France is the sixth of 14 events in the 1998 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers and Manufacturers. Entries: 80 (44 Group A + 36 Group N) Nations (first drivers): F 56, GB 5, I 3, FIN 3, NL 3, E 2, ROU 1, A 1, MC 1, T 1, SA 1, D 1, CZ 1, B 1. Cars: Peugeot 24, Renault 16, Mitsubishi 14, Subaru 5, Toyota 5, Ford 4, Citroen 4, Skoda 1, Honda 1,Hyundai 1, Fiat 1, Nissan 1, Lancia 1, Opel 1, Rover 1. RALLY TIMETABLE Monday 4 May

Leg 1 leaves from Ajaccio, Margonajo Harbour, at 08h30 and covers 329.45 km, including 134.65 km, on 6 special stages. The first car is expected in Ajaccio, Margonajo Harbour, at 18h25. Tuesday 5 May

Leg 2 starts from Ajaccio, Margonajo Harbour, at 07h00 and covers 486.79 km, including 129.88 kms on 6 special stages. The first car is expected in Ajaccio, Margonajo Harbour, at 20h10. Wednesday 6 May

The third and final leg starts from Ajaccio, Margonajo Harbour, at 07h00 and covers 329.45 km, including 134.65 km on 6 special stages. The first car is expected on the finish podium of Ajaccio, Margonajo Harbour, at 16h00. Totals

The rally covers 1145.69 km, including 399.18 kms on 18 special stages (seven run twice). All stages are on asphalt public roads, closed to other traffic. TOMORROW

Monday 4 May Leg 1 leaves from Ajaccio, Margonajo Harbour, at 08h30 and covers 329.45 km, including 134.65 km, on 6 special stages. The first car is expected in Ajaccio, Margonajo Harbour, at 18h25. Weather forecast Cloudy, some showers.

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Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Richard Burns , Gilles Panizzi , Didier Auriol , François Delecour , Juha Kankkunen , Gustavo Trelles , Martin Rowe , Manfred Stohl , Piero Liatti
Teams Citroën World Rally Team