At the end of the opening leg of Rally Argentina, the eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of Kristian Sohlberg and Kaj LindstrÃ¶m hold fifth position in the lead Lancer WRC04. Team-mates Gilles...
At the end of the opening leg of Rally Argentina, the eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of Kristian Sohlberg and Kaj Lindström hold fifth position in the lead Lancer WRC04. Team-mates Gilles and Hervé Panizzi held eighth position this morning however their charge was slowed with gearbox and turbo problems during this afternoon’s repeated stages.
Rally Argentina got underway last night with the traditional crowd-pleasing super special stage at the Pro-Racing motorsport complex on the outskirts of Villa Carlos Paz. This morning, however, the 69 competing crews left at 07:07 hrs for two loops of four stages in the Punilla Valley, north of the rally base, before returning for another two runs through the super special stages.
Kristian Sohlberg, who has felt unwell during the leg, has maintained a consistent pace, although changes to the suspension set-up during the mid-day service aided the Finn’s charge. He and co-driver Kaj Lindström have climbed from tenth after this morning’s first stage to fifth by the end of the leg, fifth fastest time in stage nine their best performance.
"I wasn’t really getting to grips with the suspension set-up this morning but the changes we made to the rear in the middle of the day improved the balance of the whole car", said Kristian. "We have yet to find the right compromise though, as either traction or handling is sacrificed depending on the direction we take with the settings. In some places this afternoon the roads were pretty nasty with big ruts and you had to be careful not to roll, but our aim is to maintain this pace and not push to the limit, otherwise there is always a risk of breaking something. At the moment I’m happy with the way things are going".
Gilles and Hervé Panizzi claimed stage times within the top ten during this morning’s four stages however the pair incurred two punctures and were then forced to swap tires from left to right, thereby with the tread running in the wrong direction for two stages. Michelin’s anti-deflation system nevertheless kept the tires inflated, despite the right rear coming off the rim. This afternoon however their charge was halted with gearbox problems and a turbo failure, dropping them down the leaderboard from eighth to 18th.
"This morning was not so bad, even though the suspension settings were not quite right for the conditions", said Gilles. "As a result, the traction was not so good and the gear selection also became less smooth. It’s impossible to know if the modifications we made for this afternoon were right, as we lost fourth and fifth gears in stage eight, and then the turbo in the following stage".
The second leg of Rally Argentina starts at 06:17 hrs on Saturday morning and takes the crews over another nine stages and 129.39 competitive kilometers, mixing flowing stages in the southern Calamuchita Valley with those around the Punilla Valley.
News from our rivals...
Marcus Grönholm has claimed the overnight advantage however the Finn has been locked in an intense battle with Carlos Sainz throughout the day, the Spaniard briefly claiming the lead for Citroën after stage eight. Back in Villa Carlos Paz tonight however, Grönholm has maintained a slim 8.4 second lead for Peugeot. Sébastien Loeb holds third in the second Citroën Xsara WRC while François Duval is fourth in the sole remaining registered Ford Focus. Behind Sohlberg in fifth, Mikko Hirvonen is sixth, the Finn losing time earlier in the day when his Subaru came to a halt after a water splash in stage nine. Harri Rovanperä has also experienced problems throughout the leg, the Peugeot driver slowed with a broken hydraulic pump all afternoon.
The two leading retirements of the leg include Markko Märtin, who rolled end-over-end after a jump in the 16.76 kilometer Villa Giardino-La Falda stage (SS5). The crew escaped serious injury, although both Märtin and co-driver Michael Park were taken to hospital for scans and x-rays. Reigning World Champion Petter Solberg was also forced onto the sidelines for the first time this season, the Norwegian initially experiencing problems after a water splash and then with a fire, both in stage nine.