AN UNLUCKY MARCUS FIGHTS BACK Peugeot driver Marcus Gronholm set off like a rocket to win the first stage of Wales Rally GB, round 12 of the World Championship, but his charge was halted by a serious problem on the following stage: no brakes.
AN UNLUCKY MARCUS FIGHTS BACK
Peugeot driver Marcus Gronholm set off like a rocket to win the first stage of Wales Rally GB, round 12 of the World Championship, but his charge was halted by a serious problem on the following stage: no brakes. Having fixed the fault, Marcus quickly fought back to an impressive fourth place overall. His team mate Markko Martin opted for a cautious approach, and ends the leg eighth.
After 20 hours of solid rain over Wales, the sun finally came out for the start of the rally, rapidly drying the sodden stages. Marcus was convinced he would be able to fight for the lead, which was confirmed by his fastest time over the opening stage. At the start of the following stage, his brake pedal hit the floor and he had to complete the rest of the stage with no brakes. Before stage three, he noticed a brake fluid leak from the temperature sensor on the front-left brake calliper. The Peugeot engineers advised him to cut off the brake circuit to that wheel and complete the remaining 28-kilometre stage before service with braking only to the three other wheels. Despite this handicap Marcus set fifth-fastest time, just 18 seconds slower than Sebastien Loeb who was quickest. His gap to the lead after this first loop of stages was a minute and a half, dropping him to 17th overall.
Marcus made an astonishing comeback over the next loop of stages, which were a repeat of the three run in the morning. He set two fastest times and one second-fastest time, boosting him to fourth place: 1m11s behind the leader Loeb.
Marcus Gronholm: "Today has been good apart from the brake problem this morning. Without that, we could certainly have been fighting for the lead of the rally. The car and the tyres have been extremely good, despite the fact that conditions have been very difficult and changeable. The roads were slippery in the morning and then they dried out a bit in the afternoon. I realised we had a brake problem at the end of the first stage, but I was not able to try and fix it until after the second stage. The time lost on stage two was very costly, but let's see what we can do tomorrow."
Markko Martin: "I've struggled today. I have no real confidence in the car in these conditions, which is a problem I've had since the start of the year. On the last loop of stages, I was able to find a slightly better feeling by locking the diffs, but this made the car very difficult to drive in the tight corners. My co-driver was having to adjust the diffs in the middle of the stage as I told him to lock or unlock them, depending on what was needed! My objective now is just to get to the end and score as many points as I can."
Jean-Pierre Nicolas: "There are two factors to the start of our rally: on the one hand, the brake problems suffered by Marcus on SS2; on the other hand his excellent performance, together with that of the Peugeot 307 WRC and our Pirelli tyres. A brake fluid leak from a front-left calliper temperature sensor deprived Marcus of brakes on SS2, meaning that he could only rely on the handbrake throughout the stage. He fixed the problem by blocking the brakes to that wheel, but dropped to 17th. When he got to service, we pointed out to him that a big time loss has often been overcome in previous editions of this rally, and that seemed to cheer him up. On the second loop of stages he was superlative: setting two fastest time and one second-fastest time. Tomorrow, I think Harri Rovanpera will be within his reach. As for the others, Loeb and Solberg, Marcus will be right behind and ready to take advantage of any opportunities that come his way."