FIA World Rally Championship 19 - 22 April 1998 34th Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava, Rallye de EspaÃ±a Monday 20 April --------------------------------------------------------------------------- After the first leg of the 34th Rallye...
FIA World Rally Championship 19 - 22 April 1998 34th Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava, Rallye de España Monday 20 April ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
After the first leg of the 34th Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava, Rallye de España, the Toyota Castrol crew of Frenchmen Didier Auriol and co-driver Denis Giraudet leads the overall classification of this fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Once again, as tarmac roads are the battlefield, lightweight works 2-Litre cars, free of any point scoring pressure, have made the best out of it , fighting equal with the regular championship contestants, the heavier, turbo-charged, four-wheel drive machines .
Spaniard Jesus "Chus" Puras, winning the day's last stage, placed his Citroën Xsara Kit Car in second place, only 16.8 seconds behind the leader. His team-mate, Frenchman Philippe Bugalski, second in the same stage, lies tonight sixth overall with a 30.2 seconds gap.
Third, although wearing a specially made body-su it to protect his still hurting rib cage, is Belgian Bruno Thiry of Ford, winner of today's first stage, while fourth place has been taken by another 2-Litre racer, the Peugeot 306 Maxi of Frenchman Gilles Panizzi.
Briton Richard Burns, fifth on the debuting Mitsubishi Carisma GT complete the top six, which all lie in a mere thirty seconds. Warm, sunny weather has provided ideal conditions for driving, as the closeness of times proves and for spectating: tens of thousands of people have attended the event, cheering every car and sounding klaxons as they urge their favourites.
Tomorrow's second leg is the longest and probably the toughest of the rally. It takes competitors west of Barcelona, to the twisty, abrasive stages around Tarragona. They faces six long stages, including the daunting 45 kilometres of La Figuera, the longest stage of the rally, in a total competitive distance of 172 kilometres.
Safari winner Richard Burns has proved to be as good on dry tarmac as on loose gravel, matching the leaders pace from the start. "I didn't expect to be so fast on the first few stages," said the Briton. "I'm just driving in my usual style, trying to be smooth, which seems to suit the new car." Finn Tommi Makinen adjusted the suspension after the first two stages. "Now I'm more happy with the roadholding," said the double world champion, "although I've made some wrong tyre's choice. The engine of my Lancer Evo5 is more responsive and I hope to improve my ninth place tomorrow."
Scot Colin McRae struggled from the outset, fighting for grip on the slippery asphalt roads.
"We just had no grip on the first couple of stages and this lost us a lot of time," said McRae, who later won the day's penultimate stage. "Here the road was a lot dirtier and it suited our tyres better" he said. Team-mate Piero Liatti suffered a turbo problem during first two stages, which cost him more than a minute: "It was only the clip that holds the turbo pipe which broke, "said the unlucky Italian who finished the day 15th, "but we lost a lot of time and dropped a long way down the field."
Belgian Bruno Thiry celebrated his return after injury by posting fastest time over the rally's opening special stage this morning and then remaining firmly with the leaders' pace. "I'm happy to have jumped straight back into the groove without any difficulty," said Thiry who lies tonight third, 21 seconds away from the leader. "Understeer is a problem. I turn into a bend and then have to wait before applying power, but the Escort is very good on the bumps, like a rocket." Team-mate Juha Kankkunen, only 14th overall after Leg One, admits he is struggling to find his best form. "I don't know why, but it just doesn't feel right today" said the Finn. "I will sleep on it tonight and hope for a better performance tomorrow."
Didier Auriol won four of the opening day's seven timed stages in an almost trouble-free run to the lead. "It was a very good day, apart from a puncture on the first stage, where the ATS saved us," smiled the Frenchman. "We lost some speed on SS6, as there was a lot of dirt on the road, but I'm very relaxed and happy with my performance today."
Local hero Sainz was frustrated by a spin on the sixth stage, which dropped him back a few places. "I really want to win my home event , but it was necessary to make a few small changes to the set-up of the car today," said the Spaniard, who is eight at the end of first leg. "I'm sure that tomorrow will be different, as the nature of the stages is not like today and can cau se some more tyre wear to the two-wheel drive cars."
Belgian Freddy Loix, who holds seventh place overnight, had only one wrong tyre choice to complain about. "Apart from that everything was fine," admitted Loix, "but competition is very close here, with so many different cars and drivers capable of wining. The important thing is to stay in the middle of the fight, ready to capitalise."
Although placed only 28th overall Group N reigning World Champion Gustavo Trelles of Uruguay is in the lead of his category, with a new Mitsubishi. 2-Litre World Cup leader Seat, has lost Finn Harry Rovanpera, sidelined by a broken engine. The second works Ibiza is in 23rd place, driven by Spaniard Oriol Gomez.
TODAY STATISTICS Leg 1 covered 365.48 km, including 122.53 km, on 7 special stage.
Starters: 115 cars (61 Group A + 54 Group N), started the rally.
Leading retirements (Spanish unless stated): Rovanpera (FIN).
SS1 LaTrona (12.86 km) 1 Thiry (B), Ford 08m31s09 2 Burns (GB), Mitsubishi 08m32s03 3 Sainz (E), Toyota 08m34s04
SS2 Les Llosses (21.95 km) 1 Auriol (F), Toyota 13m44s04 2 Puras (E), Citroen 13m47s09 3 Panizzi (F), Peugeot 13m48s09
Leaders after SS2 1 Auriol (F), Toyota 22m21s09 2 Burns (GB), Mitsubishi 22m22s01 3 Thiry (B), Ford 22m22s02
SS3 Coll de Santigosa (10.62 km) 1 Auriol (F), Toyota 06m49s01 2 Thiry (B), Ford 06m51s00 3 Liatti (I), Subaru 06m51s05
Leaders after SS3 1 Auriol (F), Toyota 29m11s00 2 Thiry (B), Ford 29m13s02 3 Burns (GB), Mitsubishi 29m14s04
SS4 Coll de Bracons (19.89 km) 1 Auriol (F), Toyota 13m02s00 2 Bugalski (F), Citroën 13m04s08 3 Puras (E), Citroen 13m04s09
Leaders after SS4 1 Auriol (F), Toyota 42m13s00 2 Panizzi (F), Peugeot 42m22s00 3 Puras (E), Citroen 42m22s07
SS5 St. Hilari (21.98 km) 1 Auriol (F), Toyota 14m11s00 2 Bugalski (F), Citroën 14m11s09 3 Puras (E), Citroen 14m12s01
Leaders after SS5 1 Auriol (F), Toyota 56m24s00 2 Puras (E), Citroen 56m34s08 3 Bugalski (F), Citroën 56m36s06
SS6 Cladells (15.27 km) 1 McRae (GB), Subaru 10m13s00 2 Liatti (I), Subaru 10m14s02 3 Burns (GB), Mitsubishi 10m16s09
Leaders after SS6 1 Auriol (F), Toyota 1h06m42s05 2 Burns (GB), Mitsubishi 1h07m00s06 3 Panizzi (F), Peugeot 1h07m02s01
SS7 St. Feliu (18.96 km) 1 Puras (E), Citroen 12m16s05 2 Bugalski (F), Citroën 12m17s06 3 Auriol (F), Toyota 12m21s03
Leaders after SS7 1 Auriol (F), Toyota 1h19m03s08 2 Puras (E), Citroen 1h19m03s08 3 Thiry (B), Ford 1h19m03s08
TOMORROW Tuesday 21 April The second leg starts from Lloret de Mar, Passeig Maritim at 07h15 and covers 738.86 km, including 172.92 km on 6 special stages. The first car is expected in Lloret de Mar, Passeig Maritim, at 21h51.
Weather forecast Clear and dry. Some mist in the early morning.