Reigning World Champion Marcus Gronholm is the overnight leader after leg one of the Cyprus Rally. He is followed by team mate Harri Rovanpera in second. Richard Burns ends the day eighth, while the Bozian-run Peugeot 206 of Gilles Panizzi is...
Reigning World Champion Marcus Gronholm is the overnight leader after leg one of the Cyprus Rally. He is followed by team mate Harri Rovanpera in second. Richard Burns ends the day eighth, while the Bozian-run Peugeot 206 of Gilles Panizzi is fourth overnight. Only four stages were scheduled for today, but the conditions were challenging enough to make it a real test of car and driver. As always the Cypriot weather was unpredictable, and several drivers were caught out by a sudden downpour in the late afternoon.
Marcus Gronholm moved into the lead on the final stage of the day, passing his team mate Harri Rovanpera. Marcus now holds a six-second advantage over Harri heading into day two, while his Peugeot was completely reliable all day.
Marcus commented: "It's been a successful day for us. Our road position wasn't ideal, but I tried to drive as neatly as I could to minimise the time loss. Our car worked very well today, and I'm looking forward to see what we can do with a better road position tomorrow."
Harri won three stages, and led the event up until the final stage. The sudden rain, which only affected certain drivers, meant that he had to slow down. Other than that, his Peugeot suffered no problems. He said: "It was good to lead the rally, but there's such a long way still to go that there's no point in making any predictions. We're still very close to the lead, and if the car works as well tomorrow as it did today, we should be in a strong position."
Richard, as World Championship leader, ran first on the road today and said that sweeping away the loose gravel cost him approximately a second per kilometre. He also had a hydraulic problem five kilometres from the end of SS4 which cost him more time.
The Englishman commented: "It's not been a very good day for us today, but we were expecting that. It was really slippery with all the gravel, but things can only get better tomorrow."
Gilles Panizzi was delighted with his performance in the 2002-specification Bozian Racing-run 206 WRC. He consistently set top three stage times, but he too was hampered by the rain that affected Harri on the final stage.
However, the entire Peugeot team were shocked and saddened at the death this morning of Italian co-driver Loris Roggia. Roggia was competing on Italy's Salento Rally with Andrea Aghini, who is Peugeot's official test driver. Their car left the road on the second stage of the national event this morning and Roggia died as a consequence. The whole team shares the tragic loss that Roggia's family has suffered, and passes on their most sincere condolences to his wife and three young children. Aghini is not seriously hurt, and Peugeot Italy has withdrawn from the rally as a mark of respect.
Tomorrow the Cyprus Rally continues, with the competing crews tackling six more stages.