Paasonen ninth on second 'Aussie' outing. The Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart crew of Jani Paasonen and Arto Kapanen finished the 2002 Rally Australia in ninth position at the end of 388.64 kilometres of competition. Wet weather in the opening leg...
Paasonen ninth on second 'Aussie' outing.
The Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart crew of Jani Paasonen and Arto Kapanen finished the 2002 Rally Australia in ninth position at the end of 388.64 kilometres of competition. Wet weather in the opening leg eradicated the team's potential advantage with its road position, and although the conditions got drier throughout the rally, the subsequent start order resulted in yet more of a disadvantage.
Marcus Gronholm, 2002 World Champion elect, romped to his fifth victory of the season with another commanding performance. Harri Rovanpera claimed second when Subaru's Petter Solberg lost time with a lack of grip this morning, providing Peugeot with a one-two finish, its fifth consecutive maximum points haul. In the Drivers' Championship, Gronholm now has more than double the points of his nearest rival and team-mate Richard Burns, despite retiring, remains second. The fight for second overall in the Championship will however be decided on the final round in Britain, where no fewer than six drivers will be vying for the slot. In the Manufacturers' Championship, Peugeot once again extended its advantage, but Ford retain second having claimed points with Carlos Sainz and Markko Martin.
Forty-six of the original 69 crews contesting Rally Australia left Perth early this morning for the final leg of the event. In contrast to the previous two days, clear blue skies and warm 25 degree temperatures greeted them as they headed 110 kilometres south-east of the city for the concluding four stages in the Sotico pine plantation. Large crowds are always drawn to this complex to witness the cars being launched metres into the air over the famous Bunnings jumps on a spectacular downhill sequence.
Jani Paasonen and Arto Kapanen continued to gain experience in Australia, the Finnish Lancer Evolution WRC2 drivers determined to finish their second event 'down under'.
"The car felt fine this morning after all the repairs last night, but second on the road has been difficult," commented Jani. "The stages were very slippery and soft on the edges, so if you run wide it's easy to get caught out and it could easily flip you over. A lot of the stages are new to me and it's difficult to judge the braking points and also to see where the road goes. I was talking to Juha (Kankkunen) this morning and he told me not to follow Kenneth Eriksson's line because he tends to take quite big cuts and it was a bit unnecessary at this point. I've learned a lot this weekend; it's a much more difficult event than I thought it was going to be and you have to have real trust and confidence in your notes. I'm still gaining that, because we have not so much experience here."
Adding to his comments, Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director John Easton said: "It's been a very frustrating event for us. Jani did his best with a lack of experience of the event and the fact that he was impaired by his road position in legs two and three, and of course the weather went against us on the first day. We're obviously very pleased that François and Daniel were not seriously injured in what was a very bad accident. We're also proud of the car's strength which protected both of them from what could have been a disaster. We now go forward to Great Britain on equal points with Skoda and Hyundai, and naturally we'll be working as hard as possible to ensure we emerge victorious."
Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) led the event from stage three, the flying Finn seemingly unstoppable this year and he went on to claim his fifth victory of the season. Petter Solberg (Subaru), who held second position from stage seven, slipped down to third this morning when a lack of grip in stage 21 and 22 saw him drop nearly 30 seconds. Peugeot therefore claims its ninth maximum points haul, Harri Rovanpera benefiting from Solberg's misfortune. Tommi Makinen cruised to the finish in fourth position, however the Finn's Subaru was deemed by scrutineers and marshals to be running under the minimum weight today and he was ultimately excluded. Carlos Sainz therefore inherited fourth, the Ford driver narrowly avoiding retirement after a roll in stage 22 caused by hitting a rock in a rut. Team-mates Markko Martin and François Duval were locked in a battle all day, Martin taking the advantage in SS21 and Duval in SS22. However, Duval went off the road and into retirement in SS23, handing what then became fifth position to Martin. Toni Gardemeister brought the lead Skoda home in sixth with Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) seventh. Four-time World Champion Juha Kankkunen, in the sole remaining Hyundai, was ninth until he was forced to pull off the final stage with a lack of oil pressure. Kenneth Eriksson (Skoda) therefore claimed eighth, and only nine of the manufacturers' entered cars were classified.
The final round of the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship takes the contenders to Great Britain and the forests in Wales. The Rally of Great Britain (14-17 November) is one of the oldest and most prestigious events in the series and, although it is characterised by mud, rain, fog and sometimes snow, the stages are challenging and enjoyed by many of the crews.