UPS AND DOWNS Bright sunshine and a brisk sea breeze greeted the competitors on the Rally d'Italia-Sardinia, which started today from the coastal town of Olbia. The first leg's action consisted of two loops of three stages, making a total of...
UPS AND DOWNS
Bright sunshine and a brisk sea breeze greeted the competitors on the Rally d'Italia-Sardinia, which started today from the coastal town of Olbia. The first leg's action consisted of two loops of three stages, making a total of 145 competitive kilometres.
Marcus Gronholm, who picked hard tyres, surprised all his rivals by setting the quickest time over the opening stage which was nearly 30 kilometres long. His compatriot Harri Rovanpera, who set second fastest time, was 9 seconds behind followed by Petter Solberg and Sebastien Loeb, 10 and 20 seconds off Marcus's benchmark respectively! Marcus set second-fastest time on the following stage but unfortunately he was caught out by the third stage. The Finn was surprised by a sudden hairpin bend after a flat left, and could not avoid going off the road, rolling down a hillside. Marcus ended up with the car on its side on the road below. Some spectators pushed him back onto his wheels and a minute and a half later Marcus was away again, having clearly lost the lead of the rally.
The car was put back into excellent working order at the service park in Olbia, thanks to the brilliant efforts of the Peugeot service crew. This allowed Marcus to set fastest time on the first stage of the second loop. By the end of the opening leg, he had fought back to 7th place from 22nd!
Marcus Gronholm : " It's not been an easy day for us, but without the roll in the morning I think I could have been in the lead. I rolled the car because there was a little bit of asphalt road in the middle of the stage, and I did not have as much grip as I thought. In the afternoon it was more difficult, and I struggled quite a bit. But we have set two fastest times today which shows what the car is capable of. After the accident it did not feel completely right, so I think with a perfect car I would have gone even quicker. "
Markko Martin : "It's not been an exceptional day, and I have ended up with sixth overnight. I've still got a lot to learn about the tyre range here in Sardinia, and it was difficult to know how to make the right choice. The stages were very rough -- even more than I expected -- so it was mostly a question of staying out of trouble. The car was perfect mechanically, and I hope we can move further up the leader board tomorrow. "
Jean Pierre Nicolas : "On this event we have gone from highs and lows, and experienced joy and happiness. Marcus was exceptional on the first special stage and very good on the second one. But unfortunately he came unstuck on an asphalt section into a hairpin. He braked too late, probably because of a badly judged note during recce, and went off the road and rolled. Our mechanics did a fantastic job to change the drivers door, bonnet, windscreen, spoiler, suspension and steering arm in 30 minutes! But Marcus did not give up, and he remembered the gaps from last year's rally in Sardinia. He set a fastest time on the first stage of the second loop, and has managed to get back into the points tonight. It's a shame that this accident happened, as Marcus was very happy with his car and his pace. It's been a very difficult rally, but the road is still long and Marcus could end up in the podium! "