PROMISING PERFORMANCE FROM THE MITSUBISHI LANCER WRC05 The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of Harri RovanperÃ¤ and Risto PietilÃ¤inen enjoyed their best outing of the season in Rally Italia Sardinia, the Lancer WRC05 crew 4th at the end of...
PROMISING PERFORMANCE FROM THE MITSUBISHI LANCER WRC05
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen enjoyed their best outing of the season in Rally Italia Sardinia, the Lancer WRC05 crew 4th at the end of the first leg and 3rd overall last night. However, they were forced into retirement from 3rd position after hitting a rock and breaking the suspension in today's second stage. Team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore have endured a difficult event and retired with gearbox failure.
"We have moved into our second quarter target, which is to ask the drivers to push harder", said Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports. "Harri was second-best early this morning and he tried really hard to keep third position overall. That is very positive and although his retirement is disappointing, his spirit and performance is very satisfying. The car is getting better and better and the drivers' confidence improves all the time. Gigi had several technical problems but showed good speed and his fastest time shows he has big potential. Both drivers did a good job and I am confident in them and the car".
Today's final leg of the fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship took the remaining crews to the west of Olbia for two loops of three stages. With no opportunity for servicing, the 66.32 competitive kilometers promised a grueling end to a difficult rally.
Harri Rovanperä started leg three in third position, chasing his first podium of the season, and set a blistering pace in the opening stage. Second behind rally leader Sébastien Loeb extended his lead over fourth-placed Marcus Grönholm to 16.2 seconds and the Finn was set to maintain the pace in the following stage. However, after hitting a rock near the end of the stage, Harri was ultimately forced into retirement with less than 50 kilometers to run.
"We hit a rock and broke one of the front right suspension components", said Harri. "We didn't have a spare in the car and tried to fix it using tools and clips, but we only managed to get another three or four kilometers before it broke again. Okay, it's disappointing but we agreed we would go for it today and these things can happen; it's better to be fighting for the podium position. We proved we can push in these conditions and that both cars, with a clean run, can be very competitive. Hopefully we can carry this through to Cyprus".
Team-mate Gigi Galli had yet another difficult day and was finally forced into retirement when he lost third, fourth and fifth gears in the opening stage.
"Four corners into the stage I lost three gears", said Gigi. "In 100 rallies I don't think I can remember an event where I have had so many problems. Obviously it's a big disappointment for me, the team and my Italian fans, but it is my attitude to always look on the positive side. When we had a clean run we were really able to fight and setting one fastest time was very satisfying. It's a tough event but we are making progress, experience and kilometers all the time. Every rally I take something positive home".
Adding to his comments, the team's Technical Director Mario Fornaris said: "Harri's performance this morning was excellent and he was faster than Marcus (Grönholm) and it seemed possible to be on the podium. I feel very sad for him and Risto, but on the positive side we showed that the car and drivers can perform very well and go fast in the stages. We have consistently been among the best Pirelli runners and at this time we must satisfy ourselves with the improvements to the car. We will continue working hard and face the next rally with a good fighting spirit".
In the highly-competitive Group N category, Bernardo Antonio Caragliu finished the highest-placed Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver. The Italian was fourth of the contenders, with Maurizio Pili sixth in similar machinery.
The sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship keeps the crews in the Mediterranean, this time on the island of Cyprus. Harri Rovanperä will be looking to build on his performance here in Sardinia and while Gigi Galli will be doing the recce, Gilles and Hervé Panizzi return to the team and will be driving the second registered Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05.
News from our rivals
Sébastien Loeb racked up his second consecutive and third overall victory of the season and takes the Championship lead from Petter Solberg, who finished second in Sardinia. Following the retirement of Harri Rovanperä, fellow Finn Marcus Grönholm claimed third position - a spectacular performance after rolling his Peugeot 307 WRC in the opening leg and plummeting to 22nd. Team-mate Markko Märtin claimed fourth while Toni Gardemeister overcame yesterday's problems to finish fifth. Roman Kresta, in the second registered Ford, rounded off the top six, ensuring Ford extended its points-scoring record to 49 consecutive events.