Points for Hyundai and Schwarz in Cyprus A lot of grit and determination was the recipe for success for Hyundai World Rally Team crew Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer on the 2003 Cyprus Rally, as the German crew brought home a valuable three ...
Points for Hyundai and Schwarz in Cyprus
A lot of grit and determination was the recipe for success for Hyundai World Rally Team crew Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer on the 2003 Cyprus Rally, as the German crew brought home a valuable three points for the Korean marque finishing in seventh position, notching up a couple of driver points in the process.
The scorching temperatures played havoc with the world rally cars, permitting very little opportunity for respite and causing one of the highest attrition rates among high-profile crews on world championship rallies in recent years.
The opening leg started the retirement ball rolling but the second leg was so rough and dusty that it created carnage with cars dropping by the wayside like flies. By leg three, the few crews remaining knew that a steady drive was all that was needed to simply reach the finish to take points.
Hyundai's German crew managed to break a recent run of bad luck and a determined and pragmatic approach was the key to a well-deserved points-scoring finish, despite running with overheating differentials through most of the event.
The opening leg saw a double run of the longest stage of the rally, the 38km Lagoudera-Spilia, during which a bolt worked its way loose on the suspension of Armin's Accent which he had to stop and strap back into place. The differentials continued to overheat in leg two and stayed with him as the heat was simply too much to contend with but the 39-year-old German quickly found a pace to suit the car and to cope with the demanding conditions.
"This has to be the slowest rally I have ever driven. The conditions were unbelievably tough and challenging," said the relieved German. "I am very happy to get the car home but it really is all down to the team. The mechanics have worked very hard to keep us in the event and I am particularly pleased for them - they all deserve a good result. Of course I am pleased to get some driver points but this one was really for the team. The heat was a major problem throughout and I had to be gentle on the car. It would have been nicer if I could have pushed harder but getting to the finish and getting points was always the target."
Fully empathising with the mechanics morale and spirit of recent events, Armin added: "I perhaps have a good understanding of what the technicians have gone through recently as I was a mechanic and I know how hard it can be to keep going back to the factory to build a new car and start again when you get a bad result. But the team were fantastic and I feel that together we really earned this result."
Belgian team-mates Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets did not have a change of luck as the dust on the morning's stages of leg two took their toll with an extraordinary amount of dust clogging the air filter and starving the engine of air imperative to keeping cool. Hyundai newcomer Justin Dale on his first outing in the Accent WRC" also lost his battle with the blistering temperatures and overheating caused his Accent to give up the ghost on leg one.
David Whitehead, Hyundai World Rally Team Principal, commented: "The team and particularly all the mechanics deserve this result after the last few events. This was a difficult rally, very rough, very hot and with a high rate of attrition. Armin did a fantastic job to nurse the Accent through the event but it also shows that the Hyundai is a strong car and now I hope we can look forward to some more good results."
Thinking ahead to his home event and the first true tarmac round of the championship, Rallye Deutschland, Armin commented: "Of course I am looking forward to my home event but I'm not expecting miracles as we go back to tarmac. There is still a lot of work to do and we have to make the best use of our test before the rally but this result is still an excellent starting point."
News from our rivals
Petter Solberg (Subaru) set fastest stage times on all but one of the final day's stages to secure his second World Rally victory. Harri Rovanpera was lucky to have a big enough cushion ahead of third-placed Sebastien Loeb (Citroën) for a broken driveshaft to not affect his position. Loeb's team-mates Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz upped a valuable manufacturer points total by finishing in fourth and fifth respectively.
The eighth round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship takes crews to northern Europe for the first of the tarmac events Rallye Deutschland, running from 25-27 July, based out of the tourist city Trier.