Blue skies and sunshine bore all the hallmarks of another scorching day to come as the 76 competitors left the seafront start in Limassol. Ahead lay 138km of competition, the longest leg of this three-day, sixth round of the FIA World Rally ...
Blue skies and sunshine bore all the hallmarks of another scorching day to come as the 76 competitors left the seafront start in Limassol. Ahead lay 138km of competition, the longest leg of this three-day, sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Colin McRae and Nicky Grist, winners of the previous round in Argentina, made a solid start in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car, holding fourth after the opening two stages. Like all the front-runners, McRae was hindered slightly by road conditions, sweeping the slippery loose gravel away from the ideal driving line to the benefit of those drivers further back who enjoyed cleaner roads.
“I could see the clean line starting to develop and it’s important to keep the car straight and on the line,” said the 31-year-old Scot. “We knew the combination of the heat and the rough stages would be tough and I think the next two stages are even harder.” Ford Martini team-mates François Delecour and Daniel Grataloup lie fifth in their Focus RS. The French pair, like McRae, felt the suspension was slightly too soft and the team altered the damper settings on Delecour’s car in service at Paphos. “It’s hot in the car but I’m driving carefully and have a good feeling so far,” said Delecour.
Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya are eighth in the third Focus RS, the Spaniards losing a little time by stalling the engine on the opening 11.48km Platres – Saittas test. “I could have driven a little faster but it’s certainly an advantage for those behind us,” said Sainz, who chose softer suspension settings for the next group of two tests.
An early casualty was Harri Rovanperä (Peugeot) who retired in the second stage with broken front suspension. Alister McRae (Hyundai) lost three minutes after changing one of three punctures on the second test. Petter Solberg (Subaru) also hit trouble. Fastest on the opening stage, he lost a minute on the next with power steering failure. After the passage of the leading cars, the first test was cancelled when Hamed Al-Wahaibi’s car caught fire and fire trucks went in to extinguish the flames.
Leaderboard after stage 2
1. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen FIN Peugeot 206 37min 30.0sec
2. K Eriksson/S Parmander S Hyundai Accent 37min 38.7sec
3. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 37min 45.6sec
4. C McRae/N Grist GB Ford Focus RS 37min 48.4sec
5. F Delecour/D Grataloup F Ford Focus RS 37min 51.2sec
6. F Loix/S Smeets B Mitsubishi Carisma 38min 11.0sec
7. G Panizzi/H Panizzi F Peugeot 206 38min 14.4sec
8. C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus RS 38min 18.4sec
9. D Auriol/D Giraudet F Peugeot 206 38min 19.1sec
10 T Mäkinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lancer 38min 28.5sec