WRC

Cyrpus: Michelin final report

One-two success for Grönholm and Burns (Peugeot-Michelin) in Cyprus thriller. After success in Sweden, Corsica and Catalonia, Peugeot-Michelin notched up its fourth one-two triumph of the year today in Cyprus. Victory for Marcus Grönholm on...

One-two success for Grönholm and Burns (Peugeot-Michelin) in Cyprus thriller.

After success in Sweden, Corsica and Catalonia, Peugeot-Michelin notched up its fourth one-two triumph of the year today in Cyprus. Victory for Marcus Grönholm on the twisty stages puts the Finn eleven points clear at the top of the Drivers' table, while t he 206 WRC's fourth consecutive maximum points haul has rocketed the French team to an enviable 41 points advantage in the Manufacturers' series. For Michelin, this afternoon's result comes as a fitting reward for the tyre firm's development staff who had developed a brand new product (the Michelin GW) for the island's hardwearing stages, although heavy storms were also an important ingredient this weekend following the event's switch to a new springtime calendar slot^Å

A sure-footed run from Marcus Grönholm in Cyprus this weekend brought the Peugeot-Michelin driver his second win of the season at the end of one of the most exciting WRC showdowns for some time. Despite being led until the final morning by Ford's Colin McRae, the Finn never looked like losing his calm. Even when at a disadvantage on the opening leg when his status as championship leader gave him the dubious honour of being first through the day's six stages, he kept hard on his Scottish rival's heels to complete the day in 2nd position, less than 7 seconds down.

The following day, as the overnight's top 15 prepared to start Saturday's tests in reverse order, Grönholm for the first time found himself on an equal footing with McRae as far as conditions were concerned. And it took him just three stages to close within 2s of the Ford, his new Michelin GW tyres giving him the confidence to push hard despite the rocky, abrasive stages that have come to epitomise this event. Then, just as a leader change looked a distinct possibility, a surprise storm on the afternoon of Day 2 saw McRae gain some welcome breathing space thanks to a judicious tyre choice for the deep mud that had suddenly formed high in the Troodos mountains. The gap between the two was back up to 26s, but once again unflappable Grönholm kept his nerve.

"If it's dry on Sunday morning, I will attack to try and beat McRae", he promised at Saturday's final service park. When he opened his curtains the following morning to see the Mediterranean Sea bathed in glorious sunshine, he must have sensed that a very real chance of victory was back on the agenda^Å

Assisted once again by his Michelin GW tyres, he piled on the pressure on the first stage of the final leg to steal more than 12s back from McRae in 19km! It won't have taken the Scot long to calculate that with 63km remaining he was going to have to react if he was going to hold on to the winner's trophy he collected here last June. On the next stage, however, the news broke that the Ford driver had put his Focus on the roof. A mere 19s were lost in the incident, but that was sufficient to put Grönholm in front for the first time of the weekend. Compounding McRae's misery, steering damage incurred in the roll saw him lose a further chunk of time on the following test, although he succeeded in holding on to a consolatory 2nd place. Meanwhile, a safe run through the final loop of three stages would surely be enough to secure the laurels for Grönholm.

Yet still more suspense was in store. To ensure a nail-biting finale to a singularly thrilling event, torrential rain broke out again in the hills to create the same horrendous conditions that had seen McRae pull slightly clear the previous afternoon. The question in everybody's minds was whether that would allow him to stage a dramatic last-minute comeback? The answer was an emphatic 'no'! For the second time in three hours, radios crackled with reports that McRae had rolled again, dropping him down the leaderboard to finish 6th overall, while Grönholm was able to cruise home to a handsome win that has comforted the his lead at the top of this year's provisional standings.

While all this was going on, there was an equally exciting conclusion to the battle for 2nd place as Mäkinen (Subaru) and Peugeot-Michelin's Richard Burns traded places three times in the course of the final day. In the end, the silver medal went to the reigning World Champion thanks to a fantastic drive through the mud of the final test to ensure yet another one-two finish for the French team, its fourth of the season.

And in striking contrast to 2001, when none of the three latest evolution 206 WRCs saw the chequered flag in Cyprus, this year saw the French team take all four of its cars to the finish thanks to Harri Rovanperä (4th) and Gilles Panizzi (10th).

Finally, 7th place for Armin Schwarz behind Petter Solberg (5th, Subaru) and McRae was sufficient to earn a valuable Manufacturers' point for Hyundai-Michelin, while the determined run of Skoda-Michelin's Kenneth Eriksson (9th) was rewarded with an eloquent top-ten finish.

MICHELIN'S RALLY^Å

NEW 'MICHELIN GW' WINS FIRST TIME OUT IN CYPRUS

- FIRST WIN FOR NEW MICHELIN GW^Å When the terrain matched the conditions for which it was designed, Michelin's driver partners were delighted with the performance of the brand new Michelin GW that has been developed specially for the WRC's two hardwearing events, Cyprus and Greece.

- KEEPING ON THE PRESSURE^Å Although this year's Cyprus Rally was only partially the hot, dry and abrasive round we have become accustomed to, the new Michelin GW helped Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot-Michelin) stay in close contact with McRae on Day 1 despite his start order handicap, then close to within 2 seconds of McRae on Saturday morning (when their start orders were near-identical) before rain put a different face on the event in the afternoon. The Michelin GW then allowed Grönholm to close dramatically on McRae on the first stage of Leg 3 (12.6 seconds in 19km) to put the pressure very much on the shoulders of his Scottish rival...

- REACTIVITY^Å Michelin was especially pleased with the out-of-the-box performance of the new 'GW' because of the record time in which it was tested, validated and adopted by all Michelin's teams and drivers.

- GW: 'GRADUAL WEAR'^Å OR 'GRAVEL WINNER'? The new Michelin GW certainly made an important contribution to Grönholm's performance on the dry, although the more familiar 'Z' pattern was also frequently used this weekend for the wetter stages. Rendez-vous now in Greece for June's Acropolis Rally to see if 'GW' definitively stands for 'Gravel Winner' when the championship returns to the terrain for which it was developed.

- TWO FROM THREE^Å This weekend's result was Michelin's second win from the three times the World Championship has visited the island (Sainz, Ford-Michelin in 2000; Grönholm, Peugeot-Michelin in 2002).

- ALL TERRAINS^Å After its wins on the snow in Sweden and on the asphalt of Corsica and Catalonia, Michelin kicked off the 2002 season's gravel campaign with a one-two on the abrasive gravel of Cyprus. The result takes Michelin's success rate on gravel to five wins from six loose events since Tommi Mäkinen's win on the 2001 Safari Rally with Mitsubishi-Michelin last July.

Next round: Argentina, May 16th-19th 2002

-michelin-

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Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Richard Burns , Gilles Panizzi , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Armin Schwarz