The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of Gilles Panizzi/HervÃ© Panizzi continue to fight for points in the Acropolis Rally and the Lancer WRC04 duo hold sixth position at the end of the second leg. Team-mates "Dani" SolÃ and Xavier Amigo...
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of Gilles Panizzi/Hervé Panizzi continue to fight for points in the Acropolis Rally and the Lancer WRC04 duo hold sixth position at the end of the second leg. Team-mates "Dani" Solà and Xavier Amigo rejoined the event this morning under the new ’SUPERally’ regulations and, while not classified in the overall results, are gaining vital knowledge of the car and conditions.
Gilles Panizzi / Hervé Panizzi
Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04
The opening two stages before the remote service covered 43.27 competitive kilometers and Gilles and Hervé Panizzi claimed 10th and seventh fastest times respectively to hold sixth position. Despite time lost in stage 13 with a slipping alternator belt, the brothers continued to battle to stay ahead of Subaru’s Mikko Hirvonen, setting top six stage times in the process. The French crew then had more than a minute cushion handed to them after stage 15, when Mikko Hirvonen was forced to stop with overheating problems.
"I have to say I am very happy this evening", said Gilles at the final service in Lamia. "Look at the car in front of me; the triple World Championship-winning Peugeot 206. Our car was born six months ago and today we have set the same times as the 206. I am very very happy for this and I continue to do the maximum".
Commenting on the day, Technical Director Mario Fornaris said: "I am very happy because Gilles got through all the stages without any major problems. He performed well, set some interesting times and, considering the tough nature of this rally and the high number of retirements, I am pleased".
Team-mates "Dani" Solà and Xavier Amigo restarted the event this morning under the trialed ’SUPERally’ regulations, but the Spanish crew struggled with gearbox problems and by the time they reached the end of the 28.68 kilometer Drosohori stage (SS11) they only had second gear. With only suspension components being carried on board both Lancer WRC04s, the duo struggled through the next two stages before the team could change the gearbox at the lunchtime service. This afternoon they avoided trouble, achieved their objective of learning more about the car and will be doing the same again tomorrow.
Daniel Solà / Xavier Amigo
Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04
Commenting on his earlier gearbox problems, Solà said: "Maybe eight or nine kilometers into the stage the gearbox broke and we only had first and second gears. With another 20 kilometers to the end, and the following two stages to run, we obviously struggled. I am beginning to feel like I have the car in my hands though and my confidence is growing", added the Spaniard. "I want more to understand what is going on and why and these regulations are giving us that opportunity, so I am happy".
"It was very important for Dani to be able to continue and get more experience", added Mario Fornaris. "He did what was expected of him, drove carefully and got mileage for himself and the team".
Fifty one of the original 72 crews remained classified as the field of competitors left Lamia early this morning, however, under the ’SUPERally’ regulations, a further 11 competitors opted to re-join the event, increasing this morning’s list of starters to 62. The route once again took the contenders to the south of Lamia for seven stages, six run over rocky mountain tracks, with the day’s action then rounding off back at the 2.25 kilometer super special stage in Lilea. Another new feature of the series was the introduction of a remote fuel and tire service, between stages, and crews therefore had to drive the first four stages and 87.66 competitive kilometers without the benefit of a full team service. Under this regulation, only two team personnel may enter the zone to work on a competing car for 10 minutes, with the driver and co-driver, using only the tools and spare parts carried in the rally car.
The final leg of the Acropolis Rally takes the remaining classified and ’SUPERally’ contenders over two loops of three stages totaling 98.50 competitive kilometers. The finish takes place in Lamia at 14:53 hrs (GMT +3).
News from our rivals...
Petter Solberg continues to lead and the Subaru driver has pulled out a 28.5 second lead over Peugeot’s Harri Rovanperä, despite incurring a 30 second penalty for having no mud flaps at TC 13D (in accordance with article 12.3.2 of the supplementary regulations of the rally). The Norwegian has not been without other dramas however and a loss of brakes in stage 13 resulted in an exciting 23 kilometers using just the handbrake. Rovanperä has enjoyed a relatively trouble-free day while Sébastien Loeb has powered from an overnight fifth to third, overhauling François Duval in the process as the trio battle for second position. A comfortable fifth position is held by Daniel Carlsson, while Panizzi now has a healthy lead over Manfred Stohl, following Mikko Hirvonen’s cooling problem in stage 15.
Marcus Grönholm was the only leading retirement during the day, the Finn out near the start of stage 11. The Peugeot 307 ace went off the road in SS 10 and despite attempting repairs and starting the following stage, terminally damaged rear suspension forced him onto the sidelines.