The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of Gilles Panizzi/HervÃ© Panizzi finished the opening leg of the Acropolis Rally, the sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, in seventh position. However, team-mates "Dani" SolÃ /Xavier Amigo were...
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of Gilles Panizzi/Hervé Panizzi finished the opening leg of the Acropolis Rally, the sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, in seventh position. However, team-mates "Dani" Solà/Xavier Amigo were forced into retirement after another competing crew drove into the back of their Lancer WRC04. Under the new ’SUPERally’ regulations, however, the team can re-enter the Spanish crew for tomorrow’s second leg, on the assumption the car passes scrutineering and is lodged in Parc Ferme by 23:00 hrs this evening.
Gilles Panizzi / Hervé Panizzi
Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04
The Acropolis Rally kicked off last night and the 72 competing crews put on a spectacular display for a huge crowd at the Lilea super special stage as they powered machinery head-to-head round the 2.25 kilometer purpose-built track. This morning, however, the action took the contenders onto the rocky mountain roads south of Lamia for seven stages before returning to Lilea for another run around the super special. In total, the opening leg covered nine stages and 145.45 competitive kilometers and with overcast conditions and light rain during the leg, it proved to be a dramatic day of competition.
The Panizzi brothers posted stage times within the top 10 throughout the leg and by avoiding mechanical problems benefited from the woes of those around them. They have however suffered with shock absorber problems but maintain their determination to finish the event.
"The car is getting better and I am very happy with the balance; all in all the overall feeling is good, but in the first stage this morning we hit a big pothole and broke the anti-roll bar at the back", commented Gilles. "The only problem we have had is with the shock absorbers; the car is nervous and we have to find different lines to avoid the really rough and bumpy stuff. But we are happy at the end of today because if you look at the split times, you can see the difference to the other top teams is closer than on any previous rally".
Daniel Solà / Xavier Amigo
Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04
"Dani" Solà could well have set a hot pace in the opening stage this morning (SS2), as while the Spaniard was 34.4 seconds adrift of stage victor Harri Rovanperä, damaged front suspension hampered his charge. However, Solà was then forced into retirement in stage three after a bizarre incident in which Roman Kresta ran into the back of him.
"We managed to repair the suspension damage after the first stage and everything was okay, but we were still taking it carefully in the second one to make sure we got to the end and back to service", commented Dani. "Then I pulled over to let Kresta through in stage three and he just ran in the back of us".
Adding to the drivers’ comments, Technical Director Mario Fornaris said: "Gilles has had a good day with improvements on the settings and he has consistently set some good times. And at the moment we are happy with the reliability as he has had no major problems. Dani was very unlucky and we are doing everything possible to re-enter the car tomorrow so both he and the team can gain more experience".
The second leg of the Acropolis Rally again takes the crews to the south of the rally base in Lamia for seven special stages and 133.18 competitive kilometers. Dani Solà, along with a number of other retired crews, will hopefully re-join the event but, in accordance with the trial of new ’SUPERally’ regulations, will not appear in the overall classification.
News from our rivals
Subaru’s Petter Solberg leads the Acropolis Rally after winning five of today’s stages and the Norwegian has pulled out an 55.7 second advantage over Harri Rovanperä after a trouble-free day. Peugeot team-mate Marcus Grönholm took the early lead this morning but spins in stages five and six hampered his charge and the Finn even dropped from third to fourth this afternoon with the wrong tire choice. François Duval powered ahead of the Finn and moves into third in the lead Focus while tire woes hindered Sébastien Loeb this afternoon; the Frenchman lays fifth with Daniel Carlsson sixth.
A number of crews have hit problems throughout the day and many will undoubtedly be pleased that ’SUPERally’ regulations give them the potential to re-join tomorrow. Ford’s Markko Märtin was forced onto the sidelines after going off the road in SS2 and despite efforts to re-join ultimately went over the time permitted. Armin Schwarz damaged the left rear suspension on the Škoda in SS3 but both will be back out on the stages tomorrow after re-fettling machinery. Toni Gardemeister (Škoda) also sustained rear suspension damage this afternoon and was ultimately forced out with an engine fire in the super special stage. Carlos Sainz lost more than 30 minutes with damper problems that started in stage four and stayed with him until arriving in service another two stages later. He has plummeted way down the leaderboard as a consequence.