Impressive performance by Andersson and JRM in Sardinia Driving a JRM Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X in this weekend's Rally d'Italia Sardegna, Per-Gunnar (PG) Andersson and co-driver Anders Fredriksson fought back from 36th position following a...
Impressive performance by Andersson and JRM in Sardinia
Driving a JRM Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X in this weekend's Rally d'Italia Sardegna, Per-Gunnar (PG) Andersson and co-driver Anders Fredriksson fought back from 36th position following a first-stage puncture to an impressive seventh overall, before a problem with the car's rear differential on stage 10 forced the Swedes into retirement with four stages to go. However, they proved that the JRM Evo was the quickest Group N car in the rally and was on the pace of many of the S2000 cars.
Having already recorded outright victories on snow, gravel and asphalt surfaces this season, JRM chose to enter the Sardinia-based event as part of its ongoing development programme for the Evolution X. With this in mind, Andersson was brought in by the team due to his experience of the island's distinctive and technically demanding roads, his target to bring the JRM Mitsubishi home first of the Group N field and to see how the Lancer performed against the S2000 cars that are usually the regular front-runners.
The rally hosted round five of the IRC (Intercontinental Rally Challenge) and officially started on Friday in Cagliari. But, with the evening's Super Special stage cancelled, the competition began on the first of Saturday's six stages. Quickly becoming acclimatised to his new car, Andersson was soon on the pace, but just eight kilometres into the opening stage a rock lying in the road tore into the sidewall of the right-front tyre.
After sliding very wide at the next corner, Andersson and Fredriksson realised that with 20 km still to go they would have to stop and change the wheel and, when they eventually got to the end of the stage, they found they had lost over four minutes and dropped to 36th place.
Although not the start the team was looking for, the time loss did little to break Andersson's stride and, for all the day's remaining five stages, he proceeded to set the fastest Group N times. Such was their pace, Andersson and Fredriksson never set a stage time slower than 5th overall and, with one stage left before the overnight halt, they were now up to ninth place.
But with the top-ten finishers seeded in reverse order for Sunday, Andersson was mindful that by remaining in ninth he would have to run second on the road - not ideal in the dry and dusty conditions which had left a layer of fine gravel on the surface of the roads and making conditions extremely slippery.
Therefore, on the final stage of the day, Andersson pushed hard and made up a further two places, ending the day in seventh. He and Fredriksson were now second of the Group N runners, having consistently taken more than two-seconds a kilometer off the leading Subaru of Finnish crew Teemu Arminen and Tuomo Nikkola, the gap between them now one-minute and 45 seconds.
With the JRM Evo X running perfectly and, having perfected the car's set-up by making fine adjustments at each of Saturday's service halts, Andersson was confident that Sunday would see him achieve the team's target of heading the Group N field. On the first stage of the day he took a stunning 56 seconds off the deficit and on the second a further 39, the gap now down to just 1.8 seconds.
Everything looked set for the JRM team to lead Group N and move up at least one place in the overall standings on SS10, but with two kilometres to go, Andersson heard a noise from the back of the car, signalling that all was not well with the rear differential. Although continuing at a slower pace, with one kilometre of the stage left, the car coasted to a halt with no drive. A disappointing end to what was a highly impressive performance.
After 13 stages, the final standings saw S2000 cars take the top five places, with Juha Hanninen and Mikko Markkula emerging as the eventual winners.
"It took me a little time to get used to the Evolution X, but once I did it surprised me just how quick it was. Because of the engine's torque and the car's stability, you don't realise how fast you are going until you get to a corner. It was of course a shame about the puncture, but having climbed through the field and almost back to where we would have been, it was even more disappointing to have retired - especially as the car had ran perfectly up to then. I was impressed by the professionalism of the JRM team and thank them for the opportunity to be able to drive on this rally again."
John Barnes - Team Manager
"We came to this event looking to be the quickest of the Group N cars and we certainly achieved that. Because we didn't make it to the finish it's definitely a case of the result not reflecting the performance. PG and Anders were great to work with and we could not have asked for more. To climb from the back of the field and into the top ten on the first day is an impressive performance in anyone's book. We learnt a lot from this event and were able to gather a great deal of information, so that's another of our targets achieved."
James Rumsey - Team Principal
"Obviously its disappointing not to finish on our first appearance in an IRC round, but at least we can take away the knowledge that our Mitsubishi is the most competitive of the Group N cars. I was pleased that our car ran faultlessly until the problem with the rear differential, so we must now look closely at what caused it, which of course is all part of the ongoing development programme."