Peugeots Fast and Reliable in Australia
Peugeot driver Harri Rovanpera has finished the final day of the Rally Australia and 2004 World Rally Championship in a strong second place overall, scoring valuable points for himself and Peugeot.
The Finn ran rapidly and reliably all day, underlining a solid performance in which his 307WRC was faultless throughout all three legs of the event. Australia is one of the toughest rallies on the entire championship, characterised by warm temperatures in excess of 30 degrees centigrade and fast and flowing gravel roads.
Today's action consisted of six special stages run to the south east of rally headquarters in Perth, incorporating the world-famous Bunning's Jumps. Having started the day with a considerable gap to the lead, Harri was taking no risks to ensure a well-deserved podium finish.
He said: "It's been a very good rally for us. The main thing is that the car has been very reliable, which has allowed us to push with confidence and fight at the front. We've had no problems at all on this rally, apart from a couple of small mistakes which cost us a little bit of time. Today was quite a tough day because of the high temperatures and tricky stages, but we just concentrated on keeping our position. After a difficult year, it is good to end on a positive note!"
His team mate Marcus Gronholm led the rally until the second morning, setting five fastest stage times. Unfortunately, the Finn was forced to retire after skating off the road and into some trees. Although the accident damage was not excessive, he was unable to start the engine because the impact had trapped the alternator belt. Nonetheless, Marcus was able to re-start the final day under the trial of the 'super rally' system but he crashed out on SS24.
"What happened on the second day was a real pity," he said. "The ride height on our car was too low, so we just caught the sump guard on some ruts and we couldn't steer so we went off. I'm very disappointed, because our car clearly had the speed and reliability to win here. But the main thing is that all the hard work with the 307 WRC is beginning to pay off. We finally have a car that is quick and will also be reliable. That's a very good sign for next year, when we are going to be pushing flat-out in order to win the championship!"
Peugeot Sport boss Corrado Provera commented: "As has nearly always been the case this year, good things have been accompanied by bad things on this rally. We finally have the speed and reliability to win, but the problem for Marcus on the second day has given the victory to our rivals. Harri has driven magnificently to claim second place, and we would like to thank him for everything he has done for us. This is a season that needed to be over quickly for us; now we can put it behind us in order to come back winning in 2005!"
The World Rally Championship resumes in 2005 with the prestigious Monte Carlo Rally from January 20-23th .