Marcus Stretches His Advantage in Cyprus
Marcus Gronholm is targeting victory on the Rally of Cyprus tomorrow after finishing leg two of the event with a 22 second lead. Less than 100 competitive kilometres stand between Marcus and the first victory with the 307 WRC. His team mate Harri Rovanpera ends the leg in fifth, after dropping time with a gearbox problem.
Conditions in Cyprus today were even hotter than yesterday, but the roads were as rough and rocky as always. Today's action consisted of six challenging stages split into two loops of three, although SS11 was cancelled due to spectator overcrowding problems.
Marcus started the leg with an advantage of 10 seconds, having taken the lead on stage four yesterday. His 307 WRC was entirely reliable throughout the day, although two tyres came off the rim during the morning's loop of stages - a problem suffered by many competitors. Marcus drove quickly yet reliably in order to be sure of maintaining his lead into the final day.
"It's been a very good day," said Marcus. "This is not my favourite sort of rally - the roads are very slow, twisty and hot. But the car has felt good throughout the event and I hope we can hang onto our advantage tomorrow. This rally is so tricky that you can never take anything for granted until the finish, so tomorrow we have to try not to make any mistakes, and look after the car as much as possible. At the same time we have to make sure we keep up a good pace to stay in front - it's not easy."
Harri started the day in the runner-up slot after an excellent run through leg one. But he was affected by a gearbox problem from the opening stage of the day that meant he could not always select second gear. He got the car back to service, but unfortunately incurred a 30-second penalty for leaving service late following a gearbox change.
The cancellation of the long stage in the afternoon deprived Harri of the opportunity to make up ground, but nonetheless he remains in a strong fifth place and is determined to continue his impressive performance tomorrow.
"It was a real pity that we had the problem, as otherwise I'm confident that we had the speed to hang onto second place," said Harri. "Although I'm disappointed, everything is not yet lost. Tomorrow we have an important job to do, as we have to try and score the maximum points possible."
The final leg of the Rally Cyprus, round five of the World Rally Championship, has an early start at 0515. Crews then cover the final six demanding stages, before the winner crosses the finish ramp in Limassol at 1415.