MITSUBISHI LANCER WRC05s READY TO DO BATTLE The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team completed its final preparations for the Cyprus Rally this morning, honing the settings on the two Lancer WRC05s ahead of the start of the sixth round of the...
MITSUBISHI LANCER WRC05s READY TO DO BATTLE
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team completed its final preparations for the Cyprus Rally this morning, honing the settings on the two Lancer WRC05s ahead of the start of the sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Both Harri Rovanpera and Gilles Panizzi remain confident and the team will be looking for another encouraging performance after chasing a podium position in Sardinia two weeks ago.
"Our times from the shakedown look good, but it's difficult to say what can happen on such a difficult rally", commented the team's Technical Director Mario Fornaris. "The specification of the Lancer WRC05 is the same as it was in Sardinia, although we have a bigger cooling package to cope with the high temperatures here in Cyprus. It will be a rally of survival, but we hope to be fighting at the front and will gauge our strategy accordingly".
Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen once again lead the team's assault and the Finnish pair has a good record on this rough and rocky Mediterranean event. They finished fourth in 2002 and mounted the podium in 2003 when they finished second overall.
"The feeling is similar to Sardinia and I'm quite confident", said Harri after a successful shakedown. "Today was the first time I tried Pirelli's XR tire, which has been developed especially for these rough conditions, and the first feeling was good. But there are already big ruts in the roads after the recce and the event is going to be extremely difficult and hard on the cars and drivers. It's not one of my favorite rallies; always first, second and third gears, stones, big stones and even bigger stones and bumpy all the time!"
Team-mates Gilles and Herve Panizzi return to competitive action for the first time since Rally Mexico in March, and the French Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 crew are keen to register a top result for the team after their tireless efforts with test and development work.
"It's difficult to say too much from the shakedown because the road was nothing like the conditions will be during the rally", said Gilles. "We had a good test in Spain recently and I prefer to keep the same suspension settings we found there and see what happens tomorrow morning, although we have made some minor adjustments for the level of roughness. I feel reasonably confident at the moment and development is progressing so for this we must be happy".
The Cyprus Rally kicks off this evening with a ceremonial start on the seafront in Limassol, but the action gets underway early tomorrow when the crews tackle the first of the day's six stages. It is the longest leg of the event, with 121.78 competitive kilometers, and, with temperatures expected to remain high, it looks set to be a grueling opening day of competition for the crews.
2005 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship (Round 3/8)
MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION DRIVERS BRACED FOR SWELTERING CYPRUS RALLY
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution drivers are well prepared for what may well be their toughest challenge of the season, the third round of the 2005 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, the Cyprus Rally. The roughest and twistiest rally of all, it will prove a searching test of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution's durability.
Drivers are agreed that the Cyprus Rally stages are rougher than ever, with deep ruts and innumerable rocks waiting to puncture tires and smash suspension parts. Some have even compared it to Kenya's Safari Rally. The ambient temperature poses another challenge, for it is already over 25 degrees and as the stages are so twisty, little cooling air finds its way into the engine bay or cockpit.
Mitsubishi's best bet could easily be Spanish Lancer Evolution driver Xavier Pons, who is a close second in the World Championship and brimming with confidence after his maximum points score on the Rally of New Zealand.
"This is completely different from New Zealand - very slow, very rough", said Pons. "For me the stages on Friday are the worst and we must just try to finish them somehow. I think the race really starts on Saturday".
Fumio Nutahara has never contested the Cyprus Rally before, but the Japanese Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver feels that the event will not be wholly alien to him.
"The surface is completely different, but very slow, very twisty stages are what we have in the Japanese Championship, so I feel a little bit at home", he said. "The important thing is not to have problems".
Argentina's Federico Villagra has given a good account of himself in his first World Rally Championship season and could well feature strongly in his Lancer Evolution.
"Like nearly all the rallies this year, Cyprus will be new for me. The stages are very hard for all the cars I think, but I have some experience of rough roads and if we are careful, I think it is possible to do well", Villagra commented.
Other Lancer Evolution drivers to watch include Chile's Luis Rosselot and Britain's Natalie Barratt.