GALLI POWERS TO 2nd OVERALL IN THE MITSUBISHI LANCER WRC05 Italians take the lead of the Rally of Turkey after SS 4 RovanperÃ¤ forced out of leg with damaged rear suspension At the end of the opening leg of the Rally of Turkey, round seven of...
GALLI POWERS TO 2nd OVERALL IN THE MITSUBISHI LANCER WRC05
Italians take the lead of the Rally of Turkey after SS 4
Rovanperä forced out of leg with damaged rear suspension
At the end of the opening leg of the Rally of Turkey, round seven of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore hold second overall ahead of a host of former World Rally Champions. The Italian Lancer WRC05 crew also not only led an FIA World Rally Championship event for the first time in their careers (after SS4) but brought further encouragement to Mitsubishi, heading the field for the Japanese manufacturer for the first time since the legendary Safari Rally in 2001. Team-mates Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen were running well until forced to retire from sixth position with damaged rear suspension.
"I am very happy, and even happier to still be smiling at the end of the day", said Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports. "It is a pity about Harri, but Gigi has had a very good day. We can see that our car is now getting faster and more competitive, and it allowed Gigi to show his speed. He has been consistent all day, and always inside the top five".
After last night's ceremonial start in Cumhuriyet Square, Antalya, today's opening leg of competition took the crews into the high snow-dusted mountains to the west for eight special stages totaling 148.14 competitive kilometers. Clear blue skies and warm early morning temperatures once again greeted the crews, marking the start of what was a demanding first day of competition. While the sun shone for most of the day and temperatures in the mountains were a comparatively cool 19 degrees, rain fell in stages seven and eight and light fog made conditions even more treacherous for weary cars and crews.
Gigi Galli set a hot pace from the outset, the Italian claiming second fastest time in the first two stages and then posting the fastest time in stage four, where he overhauled reigning World Champion Sébastien Loeb to take the outright lead by 6.4 seconds. In the proceeding stages, the Lancer WRC05 crew were never outside the top five and hold second position after nearly fifty percent of the event's competitive distance.
"It has been a fantastic day and we have all done a good job", said Gigi, who now has Marcus Grönholm just 3.6 seconds behind. "For me it is not so much the work we have done here, but what we achieved on the test last week. The tires have also worked well and we have made a good choice everywhere, so my thanks go to Pirelli. Tomorrow, we have some really hard-charging drivers behind and it will be a big fight. But we have to be clever; I will stick to my own rhythm because I know they are much more experienced and I am not perhaps ready to fight with someone like Marcus (Grönholm). If it's dry, it will certainly be harder to keep him behind".
Team-mate Harri Rovanperä was running well and held a position inside the top seven during the whole leg, but was then forced to retire with damaged right rear suspension in stage eight, the penultimate of the day. They are however anticipated to re-join the rally tomorrow in 12th position, under the SUPERally regulations.
"We have to wait and see exactly what the damage is, but it seems that the suspension has bent, leaving the tire rubbing on the inside of the wheel arch", said Harri. "The wheel wouldn't turn and we had to stop in the stage".
Adding to the drivers' comments, Mario Fornaris, the team's Technical Director said: "Second overall is our best position so far this season and it shows we can fight for the top position. It has been a big team effort to improve the car and we must give credit to Gigi for a fantastic drive with no mistakes. Obviously we're disappointed about Harri; he was unlucky. But, the car seems to be very reliable, we've had no mechanical problems and that's very important".
The second leg of the Rally of Turkey again takes the crews to the west of Kemer for another six mountain stages before returning to Antalya for the second and final run over the super special stage. In total, the leg covers 150.48 competitive kilometers and is the longest of the event.
News from our rivals
Sébastien Loeb has once again romped into the lead and the Citroën driver takes a one minute 9.6 second lead into the second leg. Mitsubishi's Gigi Galli sandwiches him and former World Champion Marcus Grönholm, who powered into third in the penultimate stage, overhauling Subaru's Petter Solberg to sit just 3.6 seconds behind Galli. Carlos Sainz, on his one-off return to the FIA World Rally Championship after a seven-month absence, holds an impressive fifth with Toni Gardemeister piloting the lead Ford Focus in sixth. Retirements from the leg include Chris Atkinson, who damaged his Subaru's suspension but ultimately retired with a holed fuel tank, and Škoda's Armin Schwarz and Janne Tuohino. Amazingly, both were forced out with broken front left suspension wishbones, Armin this morning and Janne this afternoon after hitting exactly the same rock in the repeated stage.
2005 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship (Round 4/8)
MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION DRIVER PONS HOLDS ENCOURAGING SECOND PLACE ON RALLY OF TURKEY
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver Xavier Pons had climbed to a fighting second place in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship after the first leg of the Rally of Turkey, the fourth round of the 2005 series. Making full use of his Lancer Evolution, Pons has recorded a number of fastest stage times and with the top five covered by less than two minutes, an enthralling battle is by no means decided.
Competitors were braced for a grueling day in the Taurus Mountains in southern Turkey, but found the 148.14 kilometers of stages west of Kemer were treacherously unpredictable as well, thanks mainly to heavy rain before the start.
Some parts of the route were so muddy that they could only be traversed with difficulty and numerous rocks littered the narrow, twisty stages, causing plenty of punctures. A cloudburst late in the afternoon interrupted hot sunshine, adding still further to the challenge, as the roads turned into streams in places.
Pons was eager to exploit his Lancer Evolution's performance, only to lose time stopping to change a puncture in the morning. A stirring fight-back, even after gearbox problems, earned him second overnight.
"We could have been leading without this bad luck, but it was better to stop and not damage the car", he said. "The afternoon was much better. We really attacked and now we are in a good position. There is still a long way to go and the car is perfect, so I think we can still win".
Japan's Fumio Nutahara is in seventh place in the PWRC and in a position to add to his points tally, despite also stopping to change a puncture on his Lancer Evolution. He has also set impressive stage times on his first visit to Turkey.
"It's a very difficult rally. In places it is incredibly slippery and always there are many rocks, so it is easy to make a mistake. We will keep on trying. Many things can still happen", Nutahara said.
Italian Angelo Medeghini is fighting hard to climb the order in his Lancer Evolution after a number of setbacks, including a puncture and a minor problem with his engine. He is 12th in the category.
"It is a new rally for me and every stage is an adventure. I hope we can come home with a good result. Anything is possible at the moment", Medeghini stated.
The second leg heads back into the Taurus Mountains and is a fraction longer, with seven stages covering 150.48 kilometers.