Misfortune quashes excellent Hyundai drive in Argentina An eventful Rally Argentina saw Hyundai World Rally Team crew Armin Schwarz and co-driver Manfred Hiemer put in an excellent performance only to be robbed of points at the last hurdle when...
Misfortune quashes excellent Hyundai drive in Argentina
An eventful Rally Argentina saw Hyundai World Rally Team crew Armin Schwarz and co-driver Manfred Hiemer put in an excellent performance only to be robbed of points at the last hurdle when their engine failed on the penultimate stage of the rally.
The German crew spent the entire Latin event driving solidly and confidently and a trouble-free run, until the 21.70km La Cumbre - the second highest altitude stage of the rally, permitted an exciting battle between Didier Auriol and Toni Gardemeister in order to keep Czech rivals Skoda in their dust. Armin's stage times were competitive enough to achieve that and his cushion to start the final day was enough to allow him to ease off for the remaining stages on leg three.
"The first two stages of the final day were very rutted and got down to a hard and rocky surface so I tried to get off-line on the straighter parts to avoid damage," commented Armin. "There was also a lot of dust hanging in the air which forces you to back off a bit as well. At least we had enough of a lead ahead of Didier (Auriol) to allow us to do that."
The team praised the crew on their promising drive but as misfortune struck many other competitors, by SS24 Hyundai's German crew were also victims of the rough and demanding Argentinean terrain.
"I really don't know what happened," Armin explained. "We didn't have any indication except that a couple of kilometres beforehand there was water coming onto the windscreen which must have been the engine cooling water, but we didn't have any overheating before the engine stopped."
"Obviously I am really disappointed. I am very happy with my performance here as I know we drove very well, especially considering how many other crews have had problems. This is only our third time to do Argentina and we have learnt a lot but bad luck seems to always be on our side here."
"I do want to say a big thank you to the boys though. They have given good commitment and really helped us stay ahead of the Skodas en route to what would have been a sixth place finish. They kept the car together well with no problems so it was a great job well done," he concluded.
Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets saw their rally truncated prematurely when the boost pressure sensor on their Accent WRC"'s turbo charger failed on leg one, causing the engine to run lean on fuel and overheat.
Team Principal David Whitehead added: "Armin's performance was very positive and showed that we are making progress, until misfortune brought his challenge to an end. We were achieving our target of staying ahead of the Skodas and the Ford of Duval on the final day, so even though the event has ended badly for us I am very pleased at the efforts everyone has made and the direction in which our development is going. I'm very disappointed for Armin that he got so close to our best finish of the season, but now we have to look forward to Greece and Cyprus where in the past the Hyundai has also been able to deliver positive performances."
News from our rivals
Leg three dealt a big blow to Ford when a drop in oil pressure saw Markko Martin retire and surrender his lead to Marcus Gronholm. A damaged gearbox for Markko's team-mate Francois Duval hindered the Belgian on the early tests and a variety of problems also made progress difficult on the final set of stages. Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) and Carlos Sainz (Citroën) exchanged fastest stage times throughout the final day, with Sainz attempting to reclaim the lead he lost at the end of leg two.
Teams return to Europe for the sixth round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship, the Acropolis Rally running from 5-8 June, this year celebrating it's Golden Jubilee. Traditionally based out of Delphi, home of the famous ruins, the rally this year sees a move to the mountains surrounding Lamia, in order to facilitate a single service park and make the event more accessible.