Mitsubishis ready to attack. The 2002 Rally Australia got underway this evening in the centre of Perth, the traditional super special stage at Langley Park hosting what is now legendary competition in the heart of the city. The ...
Mitsubishis ready to attack.
The 2002 Rally Australia got underway this evening in the centre of Perth, the traditional super special stage at Langley Park hosting what is now legendary competition in the heart of the city. The purpose-built dual-lane circuit, created and dismantled especially for the rally on parkland by the banks of the Swan River, thrills up to 15,000 people over the course of the weekend and is one of the highlights of rally entertainment throughout the year.
The rally kicked off under the cover of darkness, the full field of 69 competitors running in reverse order providing hours of entertainment for the fans. However, before the top seeded World Championship contenders contested the stage, each completed a parade lap in a chauffeur-driven classic car, affording spectators the opportunity to cheer on their heroes.
Subaru's Petter Solberg takes the early lead going into the penultimate round of the 2002 World Rally Championship, the Norwegian just three-tenths of a second ahead of Marcus Gronholm, in the Peugeot 206 WRC.
The Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart crew of Francois Delecour and Daniel Grataloup were 7th fastest, a mere 1.5 seconds adrift of the lead, however the French crew then incurred a 10 second penalty for jumping the start. "My left foot just slipped off the clutch and the car jumped forward a bit, and although I braked immediately we then lost more time. It was a stupid thing to happen, but hopefully at this stage it won't have any affect on our event".
Jani Paasonen and Arto Kapanen hold 15th position, a mere 2.9 seconds behind the overnight leader. "Yes, everything was perfect for us", said Jani. "It's nice when you run on stages like this with so many spectators; it's a real party atmosphere. We always think about them - when we went over the jump we flashed our lights, just to give them something extra!"
In the battle for early Group N honours, Australia's own Dean Herridge takes the advantage, closely followed by Mitsubishi's former World Champion, Manfred Stohl.
With the action and fireworks over for the evening crews return to their beds, the first full day of competition beginning in earnest tomorrow. The leg, including this evening's super special, includes nine stages and 135.68 kilometres of competition based around a new service area at Dwellingup, south of Perth.