WRC

Cyprus Rally: end of leg 1

Gronholm pushed hard with any chance at this years championship at stake and holds a five second lead over Richard Burns. Burns and McRae also with championship intentions must do well and only 15 seconds seperates the top 4 cars. Tommi Makinen...

Gronholm pushed hard with any chance at this years championship at stake and holds a five second lead over Richard Burns. Burns and McRae also with championship intentions must do well and only 15 seconds seperates the top 4 cars. Tommi Makinen has already ended his rally in a ditch so there is an opportunity to catch up on some championship points.

A punishing day for competitors with very high temperatures (~35-40 C) and rocky roads causing a large number of punctures. 23 cars out of the 76 that started retired today including Gilles Panizzi who finished SS4 with all 4 tyres punctured! Today was also a challenging day for event organisers and fire crews as no less than 3 cars catch on fire, one of which caused a major bush fire.

Mitsubishi

Championship leader Tommi Makinen crashed out of the Cyprus Rally almost before it began, ending his rally in a ditch on SS4. This left Freddy Loix as the lead Mitsubishi in 5th followed by Katsuhiko Taguchi in a comfortable 13th. Both cars has no major problems.

Makinen: "It was about one kilometre into stage four and we slid wide on a 90-right third-gear corner", commented Tommi. "We spun and then the car just dropped about 10 metres down a bank. There was no chance to get back on the road, even though the car was very driveable; it's just stuck."

Loix: "We didn't really push too hard during the day and I think that strategy has paid off. We have a good position for the road tomorrow."

Ford

All three Fords are in the top six making it an excellent day for Ford although not without its problems. Delecour lost 15 seconds and a broken gear lever went he detoured into a field. McRae had the engine management computer replaced and Sainz crushed an oil cooling pipe when a rock got caught in the suspension.

Delecour: "We'll attack hard tomorrow because with the top four drivers covered by less than 15 seconds there's much to fight for. But it's too early to think about winning or podium positions because there's such a long way to go and this rally is so tough"

McRae: "If you strayed off the ideal driving line then you were simply handing seconds to your rivals but staying on the right line, which was starting to become cleaner by the time we came through, paid off."

Sainz: "We couldn't have driven any harder but conditions were against us so sixth place is good in the circumstances"

Peugeot

Gronholm is pushing hard and is in lead once again. His only problem today was a minor issue with the clutch. Auriol also had no major problems.

Rovanpera in a third Peugeot retired with suspenion failure

Gronholm: "Today has been a good day. We need a win, of course, so we've got no choice but to push. This rally is all about pacing yourself and choosing your lines around the corners very carefully and I've been trying to do that."

Auriol: "I've no doubt that the big difference has been position on the road - we're running third and I can already see cleaner lines appearing in the gravel where Tommi (Makinen) and Carlos (Sainz) have gone through. Hopefully tomorrow the advantage will be back with us."

Subaru

A trouble free day for Burns who is in 2nd, but mixed fortunes for Petter Solberg. Solberg collected 2 fastest stage times but lost a minute on SS2 after the power steering failed, had a faulty window fill the car with dust and on SS6 his car caught on fire after an accident, completely destroying it.

Arai had delays on SS2 after hitting a bank and damaging the radiator and also on SS4 where he spun.

Burns: "I'm happy to be in the position I'm in. It's bound to be close fight between Marcus, Francois, Colin and myself but after the way things have gone today I'm looking forward to it."

Arai: "It's been extremely hot out there, but we've had some good stages and I'm happy to be in the top 10."

Hyundai

An excellent day for Hyundai with Kenneth Eriksson attaining 3 top 3 stage times. Only a disappointing turbo problem on the final stage dropped him down the leader board. Eriksson also had a major off road excursion after braking too late for a corner and going down a steep bank - but was lucky enough to have have sufficient speed to get back up the other side of the bank and rejoin the road.

Alister McRae had a number of punctures, including one that he had to change in the stage losing several minutes and this dropped him to 15th overall. Piero Liatti retired after the engine lost oil pressure.

Eriksson: "Overall, I am very pleased with our performance. I have been pushing hard all day and even went off the road at one point, but I am confident we can set good times again tomorrow."

Skoda

Schwarz in 10th and Thiry, who struggled to find a good setup, is in 12th. No major problems though for Skoda other than the usual heat and punctures.

Schwarz: "It's a better strategy not to attack to much and opt for a cautious approach. Although speeds are reltatively slow, you need maximum concentration on these twisty tracks and with so little air coming into the car, the huge heat just saps your energy."

www.worldrallychampionship.com

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Freddy Loix , Richard Burns , Gilles Panizzi , Petter Solberg , Alister McRae , Kenneth Eriksson , Piero Liatti