Ferreyros April 26-28, 2002 Rovanpera leads - Leg 1 Friday 26 April Peugeot Sport drivers Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen lead Corona Rally Mexico after the opening leg of competition fought out in the hills to the east of Leon. However,...
Ferreyros April 26-28, 2002
Rovanpera leads - Leg 1
Friday 26 April
Peugeot Sport drivers Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen lead Corona Rally Mexico after the opening leg of competition fought out in the hills to the east of Leon. However, behind the flying Finns, Andres Montalto and Alfonso Quirola were fighting for second position until Quirola was forced into retirement in stage 6, leaving Montalto with nearly two minutes in hand to third-placed Mexican driver Rodrigo Ordonez as the crews arrived back in the host town for the overnight halt.
Fireworks and laser beams heralded the start of the 2002 Corona Rally Mexico in the old mining town of Guanajuato last night, the 37 contenders inching along the narrow cobbled streets lined with thousands of passionate fans. As darkness fell the spectacle began, and the Finnish crew of Rovanpera/Pietilainen mounted the ramp amid deafening cheers from the locals, many delighted by the support given by Peugeot Sport to Mexico's bid for inclusion in the FIA World Rally Championship. Today however, the crews headed into the arid Sierra de Lobos mountains for seven special stages, three of which were repeated, and 135.17 kilometres of competition in a total distance of 521.68 kilometres. The altitude in Mexico, and the stages which top 2,700 metres, combined with in-car temperatures around 60-70 degrees, have however taken their toll on the competitors and no fewer than 14 have crews retired.
Harri Rovanpera took command from the outset, the Finn setting fastest time in all seven of today's stages to head Costa Rica's Andres Montalto tonight. While victory would be an added bonus, Peugeot Sport's objective of supporting Corona Rally Mexico remains and the team has not been without problems during the opening leg.
"The balance and the suspension were not quite right and then we had a problem with the fuel flow in the stages this morning, which meant the engine cut out a couple of times," commented Harri. "The stages this morning were fantastic, a good mixture of everything and I liked them a lot. This afternoon, when they were repeated, the roads had cleaned well and were great to drive. The last stage (SS7) was also very tough on the tyres." Aside from routine work in the final service, the Peugeot technicians changed the fuel tank for precautionary reasons.
Behind Rovanpera, the battle for second position was intense with Andres Montalto and Alfonso Quirola fighting hard for supremacy. They too have not escaped unscathed and while Montalto, the Costa Rican Rally Champion, suffered with a lack of power in his Group N Subaru Impreza WRX, his Equador rival was hit with overheating problems. However, Quirola was ultimately forced into retirement in stage 6 leaving Montalto with a comfortable advantage over third-placed Sirhan Wabe. However, in the final stage of the leg, Wabe, who has suffered gear selection problems all day, was overhauled by Mexican star Rodrigo Ordonez (Mitsubishi).
"Today has been good and I have been amazed by the level of security in the stages," said Montalto. "We have had a few small problems with the steering and the car overheating but otherwise everything has been fine. It has been a long and hot day though and I need a good rest before tomorrow."
Adding to his comments, Ordonez said: "We've had a great day, a lot of fun at a good pace, and hopefully we can put in some better times tomorrow."
Commenting on the opening leg of the rally, Corrado Provera, team principal of Peugeot Sport said: "The stages have been very very good today -- fast, demanding and technical. From what I have seen personally, the organisation is good in the stages with a lot of attention paid to security. There are not so many spectators, but the ones who are here are very well disciplined. The scenery is very beautiful, very unusual, and as you climb higher it allows you to see a different, wider and more beautiful view with lots of colourful villages and vegetation, including many cacti. We feel the organisers' enthusiasm all the time, and have only heard favourable comments."
The second leg of Corona Rally Mexico starts at 08:00 hrs and takes the contenders to the north and northeast of Leon for seven special stages totalling 140.24 competitive kilometres. The leg, covering a total distance of 340.24 kilometres, starts with two loops of three stages, and finishes with the longest stage in the event, the 44.66 kilometre run from Mesa to Duarte.
Corona Rally México 2002
The Corona Rally México is an event organized by the Club Automovilístico Francés de México, and the 2002 event will be its XVI edition. The event will be held on April 26, 27 and 28 in Leon, Guanajuato, México. This is a candidate evento for the World Rally Championship and is sanctioned and observed by the FIA