Overnight leader Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) extended his advantage to 22.9sec. The Finn had no problems apart from a tyre coming off the rim twice this morning. Team-mate Harri Rovanpera, second last night, lost a minute this morning with a...
Overnight leader Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) extended his advantage to 22.9sec. The Finn had no problems apart from a tyre coming off the rim twice this morning. Team-mate Harri Rovanpera, second last night, lost a minute this morning with a gearbox problem which meant he could not always select second gear. The team replaced the gearbox at the midday service but he incurred a 30sec penalty. Loeb and fourth-placed team-mate Carlos Sainz had no major problems, although Sainz felt he had the wrong tyres for the opening loop. Petter Solberg, who dropped nine minutes yesterday to slide to 11th, recovered to eighth. The Norwegian was fastest on three stages and with a podium place out of the question, he used the day for testing purposes. It was a bad leg for team-mates Gilles Panizzi and Kristian Sohlberg (Mitsubishi) who both retired with engine problems connected to the anti-lag system. Sohlberg stopped in stage eight with the French driver retiring on the liaison section following the next test after exceeding the time limit.
Tomorrow's third and final leg once again takes teams north of Limassol to the Troodos Mountains and the highest point of the rally, 1199 metres above sea level. Six stages and 95.34 competitive kilometres remain before crews make their way to the finish of the event in Limassol.
Marcus Gronholm is targeting victory on the Rally of Cyprus tomorrow after finishing leg two of the event with a 22 second lead. Less than 100 competitive kilometres stand between Marcus and the first victory with the 307 WRC. His team mate Harri Rovanpera ends the leg in fifth, after dropping time with a gearbox problem.
Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: "It's been a very good day," said Marcus. "This is not my favourite sort of rally -- the roads are very slow, twisty and hot. But the car has felt good throughout the event and I hope we can hang onto our advantage tomorrow. This rally is so tricky that you can never take anything for granted until the finish, so tomorrow we have to try not to make any mistakes, and look after the car as much as possible. At the same time we have to make sure we keep up a good pace to stay in front -- it's not easy."
Harri Rovanpera / Risto Pietilainen: "It was a real pity that we had the problem, as otherwise I'm confident that we had the speed to hang onto second place," said Harri. "Although I'm disappointed, everything is not yet lost. Tomorrow we have an important job to do, as we have to try and score the maximum points possible."
Xsara WRC crews Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti have both profited from Leg 2 to move up one place. Sebastien is 2nd overall this evening, 22 seconds behind Marcus Gronholm, and has every intention of keeping up the pressure, especially since he in turn is closely tailed by Markko Martin. Carlos Sainz, 4th, is also in a strong position in terms of Drivers' and Manufacturers' championship points and the Spaniard will be out to defend his place over the six stages (95 km) that make up the menu of final day.
Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "The stages weren't so rough and were less tough on the tyres. I pushed hard without taking too many risks. The fight with Markko Martin is proving interesting. Marcus Gronholm is a bit too far ahead but I am going to drive quickly to keep Markko at bay and we'll see how it goes."
Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: The day's stages were much more interesting than yesterday's," said Carlos at the evening's service halt. "That didn't make the day any easier for me though. I had kept aside four Michelin GWs for the afternoon's loop but I didn't get to make the most of them when the long stage was cancelled. Tomorrow I intend to keep up my pace with a view to staying ahead of Harri Rovanpera."
After a second day of demanding driving in the sun-kissed Cypriot mountains, Ford BP Rallye Sport drivers Markko Martin and Michael Park ended the penultimate leg of the Cyprus Rally in third position. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car has been engrossed in a daylong battle with Sebastien Loeb, and will start tomorrow's third and final leg of this fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship just 10.5 seconds behind the Frenchman.
Markko Martin / Michael Park: "The car felt fantastic in those conditions," said Martin. "However, about a third of the way through the last stage I hit something on the inside of a bend. I'm not sure what it was, maybe a rock, but the impact bent a steering arm and the car was difficult to drive for the rest of the stage. We gave away about 10 seconds."
Francios Duval / Stefan Prevot: Retired
Winning three of the day's five competitive stages, Subaru driver Petter Solberg continued to demonstrate the lightening pace of the Subaru Impreza WRC2004 on some of the most demanding terrain in the WRC. Finishing every stage within the top four, the Norwegian moved up three places on the overall leaderboard to end the day in overnight eighth. His team-mate Mikko Hirvonen also enjoyed a trouble free day and gained more valuable experience of the rally and his car. He ended the day in sixth place overall.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "It's been a good, fun day. A bit disappointing perhaps that the stage was cancelled (SS11) as I think I could have taken about a minute out of the leaders, but generally I'm very happy. I'm enjoying driving in these conditions. The feeling is good and I've had no problems at all. Perhaps I'll get on the podium tomorrow. Who knows? Everything's possible!"
Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: "We made a few changes to the car today and loosened the differentials a little, which seems to have helped a lot. I've got lots more confidence in the high-speed sections although I still have work to do on the slow twisty parts. The roads have been good this afternoon and I've enjoyed driving on them much more than yesterday"
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crews of Gilles Panizzi/Herve Panizzi and Kristian Sohlberg/Kaj Lindstrom were both forced into retirement during the opening stages of the second leg of the Cyprus Rally. Kristian Sohlberg was the first to be blighted by engine problems, the Finn forced to slow and ultimately stop in the second stage. Although partial emergency repairs were made to the Lancer WRC04 by the crew enabling them to continue, they eventually pulled over and retired for safety reasons after smoke appeared under the bonnet.
Team-mates Gilles and Herve Panizzi, who had climbed to seventh overall this morning, experienced similar engine problems in stage nine and although they managed to complete the stage, delays on the road section making repairs ultimately forced them over the time permitted.
Gilles Panizzi / Herve Panizzi: Retired
Kristian Sohlberg / Kaj Lindstrom: Retired
Weather is expected to remain fine during the event with temperatures in the 20's (celcius).