After the opening leg of the 2005 Swedish Rally, the Italian Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 crew of "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore have powered up the leaderboard into fourth position, setting one fastest stage time en route to their best position in a...
After the opening leg of the 2005 Swedish Rally, the Italian Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 crew of "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore have powered up the leaderboard into fourth position, setting one fastest stage time en route to their best position in a world rally. Team-mates Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen hold eighth position in the second Lancer WRC05.
"Gigi's result today is not a big surprise to me; he likes tango dancing and he is a good skier, so he danced with the car and found the right rhythm on the snow", said a smiling Isao Torii, President of Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports.
Karlstad's main square hosted last night's ceremonial start, however the action got underway early this morning, the crews leaving the central service park in Hagfors for seven stages and 106.48 competitive kilometers. The route included two loops of three identical stages and was then rounded off with the first of two runs around the 1.86 kilometer super special stage. While bright sunshine greeted the crews, temperatures were still down to -11 degrees this morning, resulting in treacherously icy roads with barely a snowflake to be seen.
Gigi Galli and Guido D'Amore set an impressive pace from the outset, the Italians at ease with the conditions and confident in their ability on this tricky winter rally. They claimed sixth, fifth and equal third in the first three stages respectively and were fourth, just 13.4 seconds adrift of former World Rally Champion Petter Solberg by the mid-leg service. However, Gigi then upped the pace again this afternoon and set second fastest time in stage four, seventh in stage five and was fastest in the final long stage of the day, his first fastest time in only his fifth event in a world rally car. The Italians fourth position sees them 8.7 second adrift of reigning World Champion Sébastien Loeb and 18.9 seconds behind overnight leader Marcus Grönholm.
"For me our result is a big surprise!" said Gigi. "The car and tire choice has all been perfect today and I am quite shocked by my driving, but I have been thinking about everything that can make a difference and we have to be very happy. All the time the car gets better and better with the on-going development work, but there are still two days to go and even though we are obviously very happy, I am trying to keep focused and calm because unless we finish the rally, I have not done my job or the right one for Mitsubishi".
Team-mate Harri Rovanperä is currently in 8th overall and will be making further changes to the Lancer WRC05 in an attempt to increase performance.
"It has not been the easiest day for us", said Harri. "I'm not exactly sure what the problem is but the car is very sideways all the time and it's difficult to hold a line. The team will make more changes to the settings for tomorrow and we'll see what difference this makes. Our set-up is very very close to Gigi's, but I think now with some more modifications to the suspension and balance, we will be even closer to what he is running and hopefully this will help".
Adding to the drivers' comments, the team's Technical Director Mario Fornaris said: "Gigi's performance has been fantastic. The cars are working very well and we have one young driver winning a stage in Sweden. So, after one stage victory in Monte-Carlo I am happy to repeat this on another very specialized event. The signs are all good for us and our aim is to maintain positions, make no mistakes and ensure the cars are back here tomorrow evening".
The second leg of the Swedish Rally covers another seven stages based around the central service park in Hagfors, north of the host town of Karlstad. In total, 139.53 competitive kilometers lay in wait over a distance of 683.75 kilometers.
News from our rivals...
Nordic drivers once again head the Swedish Rally leaderboard, with Marcus Grönholm and Petter Solberg claiming first and second positions respectively. Rallye Monte-Carlo victor Sébastien Loeb holds third, despite overshooting a junction in stage four, while Gigi Galli claims a fine fourth overnight for Mitsubishi. Fifth is held by François Duval ahead of former team-mate Markko Märtin in the second Peugeot 307 WRC. There have been no leading retirement during today's opening leg, but few have been without problems. Ford's Toni Gardemeister, in seventh position, has struggled to find the optimum set-up, while Henning Solberg was forced to slow when the oil light came on in his Focus. Chris Atkinson, in the third non-nominated Subaru, went off in the first stage while a whole host of crews, including Roman Kresta, Daniel Carlsson and Mikko Hirvonen, hit a stone in stage three resulting in an array of suspension and wheel damage.
MITSUBISHI DRIVERS BATTLE FOR POSITIONS IN SWEDEN
Mitsubishi Motors driver Angelo Medeghini has survived a day of attrition on the first round of the 2005 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, the Swedish Rally, to hold third in the category in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
The first of the rally's three legs tested competitors to the full. They faced seven stages around the central Swedish town of Hagfors, fought out beneath clear but bitterly cold skies. Temperatures of -11 degrees Celsius did nothing to deter vast crowds from all parts of the world, who lit fires to ward off the chill and waved flags to display their allegiance. They were thrilled by a spectacular display of precision driving on ice, but drivers also had to cope with large rocks in places, and gravel, as tires cut through the snow.
Italy's Angelo Medeghini has not contested a rally of any kind since 1998 and has never previously competed in a Lancer Evolution. Finishing the rally and re-adapting to competitive speeds have therefore been his priorities and he was well satisfied with third in the Production Car World Rally Championship classification after the first leg.
"It is difficult to get up to speed straightaway, but we are calm", he said this evening. "We will take our time to speed up and adjust our pace notes. A production car feels a bit different to drive as well and this is not an easy rally, because it is so slippery and so fast".
The quickest Mitsubishi driver in the overall Group N standings has been rising Finn Jussi Valimaki, who is not contesting the PWRC but holds fourth place in the category in his Lancer Evolution, despite a minor suspension problem this morning.
"I am quite happy with the way our rally is going at the moment", said Valimaki. "Conditions have been quite tough, with some rocks and gravel, but we are not far from the leaders and I think we can push more tomorrow".
It was an unlucky start for a number of Mitsubishi drivers. Japan's Fumio Nutahara damaged his Lancer Evolution's front suspension and steering in the first stage, while Spaniard Xavier Pons broke a wheel. Neither driver could repair his car immediately, but under new rules for 2005, both can re-start with extra time penalties for the second leg and both could still score points.