WRC

Rally Japan: OMV Peugeot leg one summary

Successful first day for OMV Peugeot Norway WRT * Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor in fourth place after ten of 27 SS * Difference between private and works team also makes difference to podium * Fight for seconds at the top between Grönholm and...

Successful first day for OMV Peugeot Norway WRT

* Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor in fourth place after ten of 27 SS

* Difference between private and works team also makes difference to podium

* Fight for seconds at the top between Grönholm and Loeb

The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team passed the first day of the "Rally Japan" with flying colours. Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor rejoiced over fourth intermediate place at the end of the leg. A top performance that was made possible by faultlessly completing the special stages for there were no retirements at the top so far. Even Petter Solberg (Nor/Subaru), winner in Japan in 2004, or WRC shooting star and Citroen works driver Daniel Sordo (Spa), currently third in the WRC, are no match for the OMV duo.

Difficult conditions - no problem

The Rally Japan 2006 is showing its erratic side. While the sun is shining in the service park in Obihiro rain is falling on the special stages 70 kilometres up north. No easy task for the teams of the FIA World Rally Championship. But the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team couldn't be bothered. Manfred Stohl was fully focussed when he completed the four special stages on Friday morning. Still, co-driver Ilka Minor had a lot to do. Since the OMV duo was competing in Japan for the first time, several pace notes had to be corrected during the stages. Stohl: "Maybe we were a little bit too cautious in several passages. But now we know that we can go faster and will be able to attack on the second turn." Said, done. The weather didn't improve - but Stohl did. Thus he was able to break away from Petter Solberg, Daniel Sordo or Subaru-works driver Chris Atkinson (Aus). Stohl: "I am especially happy that we are in front of Atkinson. He is very fast here in Japan and even had the lead last year after three special stages. Now it is important to defend fourth place during the next two days. And I'm sure that we can go even faster in the course of the rally."

Advantages for works teams

To OMV driver Manfred Stohl, the difference between fourth place and a place on the podium is the very difference between private and works teams. Stohl: "There you can see the difference that continuous testing makes. Furthermore, the three drivers in front of me also competed here during the last two years. That helps when you have to decide whether to put your foot down or to be more cautious at given points. Still, these gentlemen shouldn't feel too safe for each mistake will be punished instantly here. But one can't overlook the fact that Ford (first and third intermediate place) has a perfect set-up for Japan. And Loeb - well, he is a special case."

Fight for seconds at the top

Marcus Grönholm (Ford Focus WRC) and Sebastien Loeb (Fra/Citroen Xsara WRC) are the dominating drivers of the third WRC-edition of the Rally Japan. Of the ten special stages on day one Grönholm took six. Loeb was the fastest four times. Thus last year's winner from Finland lies 10,5 seconds ahead. Countryman and teammate Mikko Hirvonen holds third place, already over one minute behind.

-credit: omv peugeot norway

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Manfred Stohl , Mikko Hirvonen , Ilka Minor , Daniel Sordo , Chris Atkinson
Teams Citroën World Rally Team