Peugeot driver Marcus GrÃ¶nholm has scored his second victory in this year's World Rally Championship on the fifth round, the Cyprus Rally, which finished in Limassol this afternoon. After an exciting final day's action, the Finn and navigator...
Peugeot driver Marcus Grönholm has scored his second victory in this year's World Rally Championship on the fifth round, the Cyprus Rally, which finished in Limassol this afternoon. After an exciting final day's action, the Finn and navigator Timo Rautiainen led home team mates Richard Burns and Robert Reid to secure Peugeot's fourth straight one-two finish. Overnight leaders Colin McRae and Nicky Grist suffered a disastrous final day, though - they rolled three times in two separate accidents and had to fight back in the last stage to secure even a single point.
Like yesterday, the spring Cyprus weather played games with the world's top rally stars, and the closing loop of stages was hit by occasional heavy rain showers. Burns's runners-up spot was only secured in the last test, after he overhauled four-times world champion Tommi Mäkinen. It was a result that moved him further clear of the Finn in the world championship standings but he still lies in third, behind his asphalt specialist team-mate Gilles Panizzi.
Technical: The 206 WRCs of Richard Burns, Harri Rovanperä and Gilles Panizzi have been reliable today. Marcus Grönholm complained of steering glitches after the opening loop of tests, but his car ran without problems otherwise.
Sporting: Marcus Grönholm pushed hard on today's opening pair of stages and when Colin McRae rolled, it handed the 2000 world champion a decisive advantage that he held until the finish to secure his second win of the year and extend his world drivers' championship points advantage. Richard Burns closed down Tommi Mäkinen this morning and inched ahead after SS18, but then the Finn reclaimed the second position (after Colin McRae's problems) prior to the final test. Burns charged again, though, and he passed Mäkinen once more to secure another one-two finish for Peugeot. Harri Rovanperä relied heavily on Michelin's ATS mousse system as he suffered four punctures on this morning's opening three stages. The former Swedish Rally winner controlled his pace in the tricky conditions this afternoon to finish fourth. Peugeot's fourth driver Gilles Panizzi finished 10th as he continued to gain more experience of the 206 WRC on loose surfaces.
Quotes: Marcus Grönholm said: "I wasn't sure if we could pass Colin this morning, although when we took so much time in the opening stage I thought it might be possible. I attacked again but then he made a mistake, so we had a good lead after that and it was just about not making any mistakes. I'm really happy with the result, because it shows the 206 can win rallies on rough surfaces."
Richard Burns said: "I didn't think I'd get past Tommi in the last stage, really. He should have had a better tyre choice for the drier conditions. But we pushed again and I think he made a small mistake, so it worked out well. I've still been learning the 206 on gravel on this event, but we've come away with six more points and the car has been proven on the rougher surfaces. It's been a great rally for the whole team."
Harri Rovanperä said: "Of course I think I could have been on Richard's pace and closer to him in the results, but we had some problems in the rain yesterday. If you look at the times I think it would have been possible but then, it's always easy to say that after the rally. I think the 206 has shown that it can be quick and strong on the rougher roads now, and with Argentina next I'm feeling quite confident about the rallies in the next few months."
Technical: The Impreza WRC2002s of Tommi Mäkinen and Petter Solberg have been reliable today.
Sporting: Tommi Mäkinen expected a battle with Richard Burns today and he got it - and the pair were ultimately fighting over second place once Colin McRae had crashed for the second time. Mäkinen looked to have done enough on the penultimate stage but on the final, drier test he had to reverse and restart after a half-spin. The time loss was enough to allow Burns into second overall and demote Mäkinen to the final podium place. Petter Solberg, meanwhile, finished fifth as he concluded a strong recovery after his first-day problems. The young Norwegian suffered a quick roll on SS17 but then he benefited from McRae's problems. He also passed both Kenneth Eriksson and Markko Martin as he moved into the points placings. Solberg has now scored points on each of the last three events.
Quotes: Tommi Mäkinen said: "We didn't have much luck with tyre choice today. I'm sure if we'd gone for tyres for wetter conditions this afternoon we could have made things much more difficult for Richard. But we went for drier rubber and then it started to rain very heavily! In the last stage I just got one wheel too much on the inside of a slow corner and the back end of the car came around - we had to reverse and then start again, and I'm sure that cost us enough time for Richard to get past. It's a little disappointing when we could have had second overall but we've learnt a lot about the car and our tyre choices here."
Petter Solberg said: "I'm delighted with my fightback here. We had an awful first day but we got back into the car yesterday and charged, and it's paid off. Of course I feel that we could have done even better if we'd had no problems on Friday so that means I'm not totally happy, but yesterday and today have been very good. It was seriously slippery this morning and I made that small mistake which meant we rolled, but otherwise it was an excellent day."
Technical: Colin McRae's Ford Focus WRC was generally reliable today - its only real problem was power steering failure, but that came as a result of the Scot's accident in SS16. He then suffered a loss of windscreen wipers in his second accident in SS19, hampering him in the prevailing rain. Markko Martin, meanwhile, lost his power steering and damaged the steering rack in his own accident (at the same SS16 corner that claimed McRae). It was, in fact, a bad morning for Ford's steering - Carlos Sainz's system failed in this morning's first stage.
Sporting: Colin McRae had to fight off Marcus Grönholm this morning but confusion over split times shown to the Scot in the day's opening stage meant that he backed off and lost nearly 13s to his rival. He tried to respond in SS16, but around a kilometre from the finish he cut a corner and clipped a concrete block hidden in some bushes. The car rolled and even though it ended up back on its wheels, the car's power steering was damaged and by the time McRae had returned to Limassol service, he was nearly 50s behind Grönholm. The 1995 world champion regrouped for the afternoon tests but in SS18, he rolled again, dropping out of the top six. A fightback over the final couple of tests was enough for him to pass Armin Schwarz and finished sixth, gaining a potentially crucial drivers' point. Markko Martin's hopes of a points finish effectively ended on today's second stage, when the Estonian was caught out at the same left-hand corner as McRae and also rolled, damaging his own power steering. He recovered in the afternoon but eventually finished eighth. Carlos Sainz suffered more power steering problems today as he continued to fight back after his first-day dramas. The Spaniard finished in 11th.
Quotes: Colin McRae said: "I'm gutted. We basically had two really good days and then one really awful one. This morning I got given the wrong split time in the opening stage so I backed off a bit too much, allowing Marcus to really close in. Then we were trying harder in the next stage and I cut a corner a bit too much. There was a concrete block hidden in bushes and it put the car right over and back onto its wheels. But the power steering was broken so we lost more time on the next stage. We tried to fight back this afternoon but the roads were very slippery and I got caught out on some mud and rolled again."
Technical: The remaining Accent WRC3 of Armin Schwarz ran without major problems today, although the German did suffer from three punctures in this morning's opening loop of stages. The former European Champion also continued to complain of softening shock absorbers in the rougher stretches of the Cyprus stages. Tomasz Kuchar's Accent WRC2 was basically reliable, though, since the team had cured the overheating problems that had hampered the young Pole for the opening two days.
Sporting: Armin Schwarz had to watch Petter Solberg pull away from him this morning, but he moved back past his Norwegian rival when he rolled in SS17. Solberg responded again in the final group of stages and Schwarz entered the penultimate test effectively resigned to seventh. That aim quickly became sixth when he heard that McRae had rolled again, but Schwarz was unable to fight off the resurgent Ford driver in the very last stage and he missed out on the final drivers' point by just under two seconds. Tomasz Kuchar, meanwhile, finished in 14th after an outing designed to boost his experience of the Accent. Quotes: Armin Schwarz said: "I'm annoyed to miss out on the drivers' point by such a small margin because if I'd known a bit earlier, I'm sure we could have been at least five seconds quicker in SS19. As it was, I didn't push too hard in the rough stuff."
Technical: Kenneth Eriksson lost some time with a broken brake pipe this morning, but his Octavia was generally reliable otherwise. Toni Gardemeister, meanwhile, felt that his Octavia was too stiffly sprung for this morning's stages.
Sporting: Kenneth Eriksson's brake problems cost the Swede crucial seconds this morning, and he was unable to halt a slide down the top ten as a result. The former Asia-Pacific champion eventually claimed ninth in his Octavia. Team-mate Toni Gardemeister knew that he'd struggle to break into the top ten after his catalogue of problems yesterday and so it proved - the young Finn enjoyed a relatively troublefree day (although he complained of too stiff a suspension set-up this morning) but he couldn't better 15th overall.
Quotes: Toni Gardemeister said: "This morning was really difficult for me. The car was bouncing around everywhere and it felt like I had absolutely no traction coming out of the corners. It's been a hard event for everyone, including the whole Skoda team, but I think we've come through it pretty well.""
Technical: The sole remaining Lancer Evo WRC of François Delecour has been reliable today.
Sporting: François Delecour enjoyed solid reliability today, but the Frenchman decided not to take too many risks when conditions worsened this afternoon. He experimented with the Lancer's set-up throughout the final day and eventually finished in 13th overall.
Quotes: François Delecour said: "This has been a really hard rally for everyone, but it's a shame for us that we lost so much time on Friday and in the rain yesterday. Without the wipers and driveshaft problems we'd have been able to get into the same sort of position as the Skoda and the Hyundai, and that would have allowed us to possibly fight for a point when things went a bit crazy at the front of the field today. But again, we've learnt a lot and now we have to look forward to Argentina."
Proton driver Karamjit Singh made a good start to his campaign in the World Championship for Drivers of Production Cars by winning the Group N category in Cyprus. Uruguayan Gustavo Trelles finished second in his Mitsubishi, while Italian Luca Baldini secured the final podium place, ahead of Bulgarian Dimitar Iliev.