PEUGEOT-MICHELIN STILL DOMINATE, BUT DAY IS MARRED BY ACCIDENT At the end of Day 2, Peugeot-Michelin's Gilles Panizzi and FranÃ§ois Delecour continue to lead their home World Championship round. The French pair have pulled out a cushion of more...
PEUGEOT-MICHELIN STILL DOMINATE, BUT DAY IS MARRED BY ACCIDENT
At the end of Day 2, Peugeot-Michelin's Gilles Panizzi and François Delecour continue to lead their home World Championship round. The French pair have pulled out a cushion of more than 25 seconds over closest rival Carlos Sainz (Ford-Michelin), although first place itself changed hands on the final stage of the day when Panizzi's engine stalled on the start-line and took more than ten seconds to fire up again. The incident allowed his teammate to steal the number one spot by. 2/10ths of a second!
The day was marred however by a dramatic accident that saw Ford-Michelin's Colin McRae airlifted to nearby Bastia hospital suffering from a broken left cheekbone and a bruised lung.
The Scot left the road at speed and crashed into a gully four kilometres into SS10, a new stage on this year's Tour of Corsica. Although co-driver Nicky Grist was able to scramble from the upturned car unscathed, it took rescuers, who were swiftly on the scene, more than twenty minutes to cut McRae free of the wreckage. The Ford driver is expected to fly home tomorrow (Sunday) after a night under observation and the team is hoping that he will be 100% fit for the next round of the championship, Italy's Sanremo Rally, which starts in three weeks time.
As confirmation filtered through that McRae's condition was better than at first feared, the event continued, with Delecour setting fastest time on the last two stages of the day. Although Sainz is never one to give up the chase, he admitted at this evening's final service that the 206 WRC looks pretty much unbeatable unless weather conditions deteriorate again for tomorrow's final leg. But nobody could blame the winner of the recent Cyprus Rally if he is now beginning to think in terms of settling for third overall, especially since his advantage over Subaru's Richard Burns now exceeds a full minute.
In fifth place and provisionally in the points tonight is current World Championship leader Marcus Grönholm who, if his three top-five stage times today are anything to judge by, is clearly coming to terms with the unique challenge of the Corsican roads. The Finn heads recognised asphalt specialists Piero Liatti (Ford-Michelin) and Simon Jean-Joseph (Subaru) by more than twenty seconds and, given that tomorrow's leg is a carbon copy of the opening day, he will be looking to make maximum use from the lessons learned during Friday's run.
Mitsubishi-Michelin's Tommi Mäkinen has fallen to overnight ninth after clouting a rock in SS9. His car sustained bad front-left wheel damage, losing the Finn more than two minutes, but he was able to repair with the parts and tools carried on board his car to cover SS10 before more permanent repairs were made at the following service. He then completed his day with two consecutive fourth fastest stage times.
Finally, rising French star Sébastien Loeb, 26, completes the provisional top-ten thanks to a strong, mature drive in the Grifone-run, French Motorsport Federation-backed and Michelin-supported Toyota Corolla WRC.
MICHELIN TOPS TIME-SHEETS ON WET AND DRY
WET 'N DRY PERFORMANCE. Both in this morning's wet conditions, then over the dry roads as sunshine returned this afternoon, Michelin's partners continued to dominate stage times today to pull further clear at the front. The Michelin TA intermediate pattern proved the fastest tyre choice in the damp thanks to its water clearing capacity and outstanding grip, while the Michelin N2 dry weather tyre repeated its stage-winning performance of yesterday in the dry this afternoon.
PANIZZI AND ATS. Panizzi will be thanking his Michelin ATS system tonight after it enabled him to reach the end of SS10 and still set fastest time despite a badly damaged front-left wheel-rim which caused the tyre to lose its air.
CONDITIONS 1. Heavy rain left conditions very difficult after running water brought a lot of dirt onto today's opening stages (SS7 & SS8 [later cancelled]). Tyre choice at service before these stages was made even more difficult by the presence of low-lying cloud - and a real risk of further rain -, especially since the second of these stages was scheduled to take place two hours after the tyre decision had to be taken.
CONDITIONS 2. By the time the first cars started the next two stages, the sun had come out and dried the stages. With temperatures quickly reaching as high as 23°C air/28°C ground, drivers found themselves in a repeat of yesterday morning's conditions. Following its success it met on Leg 1, the 2 compound/construction of the Michelin N dry weather tyre became the natural choice for all of Michelin's WRC partners.