Accident hinders fantastic Hyundai drive by Loix. After a day spent beating off the challenge of Ford's Colin McRae Hyundai Castrol World Rally Team crew Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets suffered from a slight mistake that dropped them down the order...
Accident hinders fantastic Hyundai drive by Loix.
After a day spent beating off the challenge of Ford's Colin McRae Hyundai Castrol World Rally Team crew Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets suffered from a slight mistake that dropped them down the order from their eighth position.
Driving confidently throughout the second leg of the 44th Rallye Sanremo and setting a string of top ten stage times they were within sight of two points for the Korean marque.
Freddy explained, ""It was on a downhill section and it was quite slippery because the surface was a little damp. As I turned into a corner the front wheels slipped as though I was getting understeer. I turned the wheel some more and then suddenly I found grip and we shot forward into the crash barrier. I tried to avoid it, but just like Armin, it caught on the rear wheel and snapped a bolt."
He continued, "We stopped and took a look at the damage and strapped the wheel so we could drive slowly out of the stage. We had to change the damaged wheel but on the road section that new wheel also wore down. It was my mistake and it's such a big shame for the team."
Ending the day in 30th place overall did not reflect the challenge the Accent and the Belgian pair had launched during the day. Freddy's times were consistently good all day and after moving up one place on the second stage, he held position throughout. No less than five of the crews ahead of him were Peugeots and Citroens who have shown dramatic speed on asphalt. So just one Subaru (Petter Solberg) and one Ford (Markko Martin) were ahead of the Belgians' Accent WRC" before the accident -- behind them were the Mitsubishi and Skoda teams.
Freddy said, "The car ran smoothly all day giving us a trouble-free run and it's superb handling allowed me to drive cleanly and tidily through the demanding twisty roads in the mountains north of Sanremo."
Freddy's battle with Colin McRae -- who is currently lying second in the Drivers Championship - over the six stages of leg two saw the Hyundai and Ford trading valuable seconds on each stage.
The Belgians worked to regain the set-up established during pre-event testing over the course of legs one and two and as clearly illustrated by their performance, the successful revisions were clear to see. During the third leg of the rally Loix's game plan is to push as hard as he can to show just what the Accent WRC" is now capable of on asphalt and hopefully to regain a few places lost. With the current rate of attrition, a safe drive may still reap rewards.
Encouraged by the Belgians' performance over the day, Team Principal David Whitehead added, "It was very heartening to see Freddy leading Colin [McRae] on this event and it has shown just what progress we've made on Tarmac with the Accent WRC". Although previously we haven't expected too much, given the asphalt ability of the Peugeots we can clearly see that we've made great headway and Freddy was doing a fantastic job to be so competitive with the Fords and Subarus."
News from our rivals
Overnight, Mitsubishi withdrew Alister McRae on medical grounds as an accident on his mountain bike pre-rally caused soft tissue damage that requires further examination. Citroen privateer Philippe Bugalski retired early in the day on SS10 while lying in second position after going off the road. Achim Mortl (Subaru) saw his rally end after SS10 - he spun causing damage to the rear right wheel and eventually lost control and he went off the road backwards hitting a concrete bridge. The impact was enough to require precautionary medical checks at hospital but the Austrian was given the all clear. Toni Gardemeister (Skoda) took a corner too fast in the final stage of the day causing a collision with a wall and damaged the suspension beyond repair. At the top of the leaderboard Panizzi still leads team-mate Marcus Gronholm by a comfortable 22.1 seconds and Petter Solberg (Subaru), their nearest competitor, lies a further 37.6 seconds adrift. Richard Burns (Peugeot) and Markko Martin (Ford) lie in fourth and fifth respectively.
The third and final leg of the rally covers only four remaining stages over 88.02 timed kilometres. Special stages 16 and 18, which use the same road, are the same stage as SS4 and 11 but run in the reverse direction and stages 15 and 17 are the same as SS5 and 12, also run in the reverse direction. Crews reach the finish ramp in the host town of Sanremo at 15:00hrs.