The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crews of Gilles Panizzi/Hervé Panizzi and Kristian Sohlberg/Kaj Lindström were both forced into retirement during the opening stages of the second leg of the Cyprus Rally.
Kristian Sohlberg was the first to be blighted by engine problems, the Finn forced to slow and ultimately stop in the second stage. Although partial emergency repairs were made to the Lancer WRC04 by the crew enabling them to continue, they eventually pulled over and retired for safety reasons after smoke appeared under the bonnet.
Team-mates Gilles and Hervé Panizzi, who had climbed to seventh overall this morning, experienced similar engine problems in stage nine and although they managed to complete the stage, delays on the road section making repairs ultimately forced them over the time permitted.
"We now know that Kristian's problems were connected with the anti-lag system, but this is not where the trouble began", commented Technical Director Mario Fornaris after both cars had arrived back in the service park. "It is nothing specially associated with this event, like the high temperatures and low speeds, because I am quite happy with the work we achieved with the engine mapping and we weren't on the limit at all. We are still investigating the problem with Gilles' car because this is something slightly different and the details are unclear at the moment, but it is something related to the same area".
Adding to his comments, Sven Quandt, Head of Motorsport at Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports said: "The further we go the more knowledge we gain, and the only thing I can say is that we learn from that. We sorted some of the issues we have had in previous rallies, but we know we still have a long way to go. We are missing test kilometers and we have to continue working on the problems".
The second leg of the Cyprus Rally took in two loops of three stages to the north and northwest of the coastal resort of Limassol and with temperatures nearing 30 degrees again, the 30 crews who re-started this morning endured another grueling day of competition.
Local man Andreas Tsouloftas has judged the conditions well and the Cypriot Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver holds a fine 11th overall in Group A machinery. In the battle for Group N honors, Lancer Evolution drivers reign supreme with no fewer than three crews heading the top of this leaderboard, Yiotis Hartoupalos taking the advantage.
Tomorrow's final leg covers another two loops of three stages and is the shortest, although the rough and rocky 95.34 competitive kilometers are sure to throw up more surprises for the remaining crews.
News from our rivals...
Marcus Grönholm continues to lead at the end of the second leg however Peugeot team-mate Harri Rovanperä dropped from his overnight second and now holds fifth after intermittent problems with second gear and penalties incurred in service with a gearbox change. Sébastien Loeb has powered up into second in the lead Citroën while Markko Märtin is hot on his heels in third, delighted with the performance of the Focus in these conditions. Carlos Sainz has climbed one place up the leaderboard into fourth and with Rovanperä fifth, Mikko Hirvonen rounds off the top six in the first Subaru. Team-mate and reigning World Champion Petter Solberg has powered to eighth after setting a blistering pace and claiming three fastest times in the five stages that ran competitively (notional times were given to all the leading crews in SS11 after the stage was cancelled for safety reasons).