MITSUBISHI'S HARRI ROVANPERA SLIPS TO FIFTH Galli maintains competitive pace to hold seventh overnight The Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 crew of Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen held off a mounting challenge from Marcus Gronholm in the second...
MITSUBISHI'S HARRI ROVANPERA SLIPS TO FIFTH
Galli maintains competitive pace to hold seventh overnight
The Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 crew of Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen held off a mounting challenge from Marcus Gronholm in the second leg of Wales Rally GB, but ultimately lost out to their fellow Finn when a gearbox problem dropped them from third to fifth in the penultimate stage. Team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido d'Amore have set consistent times in their debut competitive outing in the event and the Italians have moved up the leaderboard into seventh position.
"It's a shame we had the gearbox problem on Harri's car, but tomorrow is a long day and fourth place is a realistic goal for us", said Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports. "Harri is just 0.7 seconds behind Duval and if all goes according to plan, I'm confident he can take fourth tomorrow".
Today, the crews headed to the north-east of Swansea for another seven stages totaling 103.86 competitive kilometers before returning to Cardiff for an all-new 1.1 kilometer special stage in the world-famous Millennium Stadium. With the sliding roof closed at the international sporting venue, Cardiff's stage represents the first indoor timed section in FIA World Rally Championship history. Again, clear conditions were a welcome sight this morning and the thousands of spectators who poured into the Welsh forests enjoyed spectacular competition in ideal autumnal weather conditions.
Harri Rovanpera kept on the pace this morning, the Finn fifth fastest through the opening 19.47 kilometer Crychan stage before dropping some time in the following stage with a broken EMI (mousse) in the front right tire. In the final stage before service he was nevertheless back on the pace, fifth fastest, to hold off Marcus Gronholm, who once again had the podium in his sight. After the mid-leg service Harri maintained his speed, but in the penultimate stage he lost third gear, more than 30 seconds and two positions on the leaderboard. After the short stage in Cardiff - where a crowd of 20,000 witnessed great action - the Finn overnights in fifth after a fine performance during the first two legs of the 12th round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
"About 5-7 kilometers into the stage we lost third gear", said a disappointed Harri. "We could've dropped more time, but the nature of the stage was reasonably kind to us. The other problem was that normally when you lose a gear you can shift through it, but I had a problem getting over third and was worried the whole gearbox would break. But it's been okay and overall we've had two very good days, with this really being our only problem. Of course we will fight again tomorrow and hopefully take fourth".
Team-mate Gigi Galli has also been setting some impressive times in his debut competitive outing on Wales Rally GB. The Italian was never outside the top eight this morning and moved up the leaderboard following the misfortune of others. He set a fourth fastest time in SS11, put on a spectacular show in the Millennium Stadium, and overnights in seventh.
"I have been staying focused on the road and our notes, because this is my first Rally GB and I have to learn to work myself, not the car, in this situation", said Gigi. "The whole day has been good and with the drier conditions, this makes things 'easier'. I'm happy with our performance for our first time here and we have compared favorably with a lot of other drivers with much more experience of these stages".
Adding to the drivers' comments, Roger Estrada, Principal Rally Engineer, said: "It was a good performance all day long and a real shame we had the gearbox problem on Harri's car late this afternoon. It lost him time and a couple of positions and that's obviously disappointing. But, overall, the day has been good and the tires have worked well all day".
The final leg, on Sunday, moves directly east of Swansea for the closing four stages - two run twice - before the finish back in Cardiff at 14:00 hrs (local). Even so, the leg takes in 113.62 competitive kilometers.
News from our rivals
Positions at the top of the leaderboard remain largely unchanged with Sebastien Loeb extending his lead over Petter Solberg to 44.7 seconds. Following Harri's gearbox problem, Gronholm moved into third with Francois Duval fourth in the second Citroen. Markko Martin moves two places up the leaderboard into sixth. Overnight, Toni Gardemeister was excluded for an under weight car and during the day Christopher Atkinson was the leading retirement of the leg, the Australian Subaru driver off the road in the first stage of the leg. Henning Solberg, brother of Petter, also lost more than a minute in SS 7 with a spin.
MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION DRIVER ERRANI SET FOR RALLY GB POINTS
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver Riccardo Errani continued a steady drive on the second leg of Wales Rally GB, poised to score FIA PWRC points on the final day. A further five Mitsubishi crews hold top ten positions overnight among the Group N contenders, with British youngster Stuart Jones still leading the pack of Lancers.
The second leg was the shortest of three, with two loops of three stages in the forests north-east of the Swansea service park before crews headed to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium for a spectator-friendly purpose-built figure of eight special stage. The bright sunshine continued from leg one keeping the stages dry and fast, covering a competitive distance of 103.86 kilometers.
FIA PWRC Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver Riccardo Errani's clutch problems continued throughout the day as a hangover from leg one but his plan to drive steadily rather than take any risks is keeping the Italian on course for the finish he is aiming for.
"The clutch is still not working properly but I think a change is too big a job for us during one service so we are just keeping the clutch clean using some Coca-Cola", he explained. "But this is a really good rally; it's easy for the car but very difficult for a driver for the first time. I think the gap between those drivers with experience and those doing it for the first time is bigger than on a rally like Cyprus where experience is less crucial".
Stuart Jones is still leading the Mitsubishi Group N contenders who are not registered for the FIA PWRC and holds fifth overall in the category, followed by Austrian youngster Andreas Aigner and reigning British Rally Champion David Higgins.
British 20-year-old Jones said: "I'm happy enough with my performance although if I hadn't made some wrong tire choices I think we would have been a place or two higher. Looking at our times today, when the roads are flat and twisty we are quite competitive but we struggle a little uphill. The stage in the Stadium was a lot of fun though; there was a great atmosphere in there!"
Local favorite David Higgins, also driving a privately-run Lancer, has ruled out the possibility of a category win but is happy enough with his performance despite a few hiccups and lies seventh in Group N overall.
"Yesterday we dropped way down the order with a puncture and today we are still doing our best to catch up", said the 31-year-old Manx driver. "This morning we bent something on the rear tracking so I had to be a bit cautious; we made up some time but then I overshot a junction this afternoon after getting caught in dust and we lost the time we had just made up, but we have moved up a position from yesterday".
The third and final leg includes two identical loops of two stages in the forests east of Swansea, before crews reach the Cardiff finish ramp at 14:00 hrs.