Peugeot driver Marcus Gronholm has ended the opening leg of the all-asphalt Catalunya Rally in a fighting third position, less than half a minute off the lead. The northern Spanish event is the penultimate round of the World Rally Championship...
Peugeot driver Marcus Gronholm has ended the opening leg of the all-asphalt Catalunya Rally in a fighting third position, less than half a minute off the lead.
The northern Spanish event is the penultimate round of the World Rally Championship this year, characterised by wide and sweeping asphalt roads with uncertain weather. Overnight rain made the stages wet and slippery in the morning, but conditions progressively dried out as the day went on. The opening leg's action consisted of six challenging stages, split into two loops of three with a service halt at Vic in between.
Marcus struggled on the slippery surfaces in the morning, but still managed to set top-three times in order to reach midday service less than eight seconds off the overall lead. The two-time World Champion has never yet won an asphalt event, but he made his intentions clear during the afternoon with another series of top-three stage times, putting him on course to challenge for victory over the remaining two days of the rally.
"It's been a good day," said the Finn. "Conditions were very difficult in the morning, and we had to think hard about our tyre choices. My feeling with the car is not bad, although we still have a few little problems to sort out. However, our 307 has been completely reliable and we have shown that we are able to set times very close to the leaders. There is still a very long way to go, but our performance so far has been encouraging. Tomorrow I need to keep the pressure on those in front and see if we can fight for the lead."
His team mate Freddy Loix was not so lucky. The Belgian had an electrical problem at the end of the second stage and he finally stopped on SS3. "It was very disappointing," said Loix. "After we had the problem, I knew we could only keep driving for an hour or so with the power left in the battery. Sure enough, we stopped on the following stage and there was nothing more we could do."
Peugeot Sport has decided that he will not start the following day under the Super Rally regulations, as Freddy's road position would place him at too much of a disadvantage. The team regrets that his last rally with Peugeot has ended so prematurely and wishes Freddy all the best for the future.
Tomorrow is the longest day of the rally, with the crews covering 162 competitive kilometres over eight more asphalt stages. The first car has an early start from Parc Ferme at 0600, before returning to Lloret de Mar at 1931.