Rovanpera on a charge after dramatic day for Peugeot Peugeot driver Harri Rovanpera aims to challenge for victory on the Cyprus Rally tomorrow, after a dramatic second leg for the French team. Harri is just 25 seconds off the lead occupied by...
Rovanpera on a charge after dramatic day for Peugeot
Peugeot driver Harri Rovanpera aims to challenge for victory on the Cyprus Rally tomorrow, after a dramatic second leg for the French team. Harri is just 25 seconds off the lead occupied by Subaru driver Petter Solberg.
The Finn had to fight rising temperatures and rough rocks to arrive safely at tonight's overnight halt in Limassol, after a day that was characterised by several high-profile retirements.
Harri said: "It's been one of the toughest days of rallying that I can remember, and on the very rough last stage I slowed down a little bit in order to keep the car in the best possible condition for tomorrow. Anything can still happen but I'm going to be trying my hardest."
The Finn won two of the day's eight special stages, and has a massive advantage of more than two minutes over Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb in third place. Harri pushed hard all day, but had to back off during the afternoon when the scorching temperatures affected his engine.
"I lost a bit of power, as the engine was switching itself onto 'safe' mode during the middle loop of stages," he explained. "I would start the stage and everything would be OK, but then the engine would get too hot, and in order to protect it the computer would take away some of the power. This was happening all the time, but in the final stages everything was OK again. Now the car is really good - I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
His team mates were not so lucky though. Reigning World Champion Marcus Gronholm was forced to retire from the lead this morning with a propshaft failure. The problem left Marcus with only two-wheel drive on the first stage this morning, before the car stopped completely on the second stage of the day.
He said: "At the beginning of the first stage this morning I heard a very loud bang from the middle of the car, and then I was left with just front wheel drive. We had to start the second stage like that, but soon we had no drive at all. I'm very disappointed as I certainly think we could have been able to win here. But that's life."
Richard Burns battled hydraulic problems, when a failure in the morning obliged him to switch to the manual gearshift system. Despite a difficult day spent as first car on the road yesterday, the Briton looked like adding more points to his World Championship lead in Cyprus. But an overheating engine on the penultimate loop of stages put an end to his rally.
Richard commented: "We'd noticed the temperatures rising during the ninth stage, and we had to drive through SS10 in road mode in order not to put too much strain on the engine. But on the road section back to service the temperatures were still high, so we had to stop a couple of times to top up the water. Eventually the engine went on to three cylinders, then two, then just one before finally stopping."
The Bozian-run 2002 specification Peugeot 206 of Gilles Panizzi also hit problems this morning, having run as high as second overall on the opening day. Gilles started the day in third place and was attacking hard to improve his position. But an engine failure on SS6 halted his charge.
He said: "It's difficult to know the exact cause of what happened. But I noticed a loss of power on the first stage of the morning, then I had a problem with oil pressure on SS6 and the engine stopped. It's a real shame as I had a very good feeling with the car. Maybe I could have done well here."
Peugeot Sport team principal Corrado Provera commented: "We've suffered from the high temperatures like some, but not all, of our fellow competitors and we cannot be happy with these technical failures. But we have one car left, in a very strong position. Harri has done an exceptional job and we will all be working to help him achieve the best possible result tomorrow."
The third and final leg of the Cyprus Rally consists of six stages, divided into two loops of three. Conditions are once more expected to be rough and hot over the remaining 83 competitive kilometres. The winner is expected on the finish ramp back in Limassol at 1520.