Day two of Rally Finland, the ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship was full of drama for pacesetter Peugeot, but the French manufacturer still ended it one-two after six special stages today. Finnish driver, and winner of this event for...
Day two of Rally Finland, the ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship was full of drama for pacesetter Peugeot, but the French manufacturer still ended it one-two after six special stages today. Finnish driver, and winner of this event for the past two years, Marcus Gronholm, has a comfortable lead of more than a minute and a half from second placed Richard Burns. The Englishman lost his lead after landing heavily from a jump on the famous Ouninpohja test. He lost boost pressure for the rest of the stage, dropping more than a minute. The third Peugeot of Harri Rovanpera fared even worse. He punctured at the beginning of the event's longest stage, and the resulting damage to his suspension and bodywork forced the bitterly disappointed Finn out. Subaru's Petter Solberg lost places to Ford duo Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae on the day's opening stage. He recovered fifth place from Sainz on the penultimate test, but spun on the last stage, handing the position back. Estonian Markko Martin fought hard, to end the day sixth, whilst Finnish favourite Tommi Makinen continued to struggle. The event ends tomorrow, after another six stages.
Technical: The Peugeot 206 WRC of Harri Rovanpera retired from the lead on a road section after SS13 today, after he suffered a puncture early into the longest stage of the day. Having completed some 30km on the wheel rim, his car's suspension and bodywork were too badly damaged to continue. Richard Burns damaged his 206 WRC when he landed heavily from a jump on SS12, the famous Ouninpohja test. Damage to the front of the car was superficial, but he was forced to complete SS12 with no turbo boost after the impact. Marcus Gronholm's car has been reliable. He had several punctures, but in every case he was able to continue without losing too much time. After SS12 he decided to disconnect Peugeot's hydraulic anti-roll bars, reckoning he may have a better feel for the car without them.
Sporting: Richard Burns set fastest time on the day's first stage, but then lost a minute and half after his heavy landing on SS12. He was also penalised a further 20s after leaving service two minutes late before the start of SS13. He dropped to third place, but regained second when Rovanpera retired. Marcus Grönholm now holds a 1m34.3s from Burns, and whilst team boss Corrado Provera has not introduced team orders, he has said that he expects his drivers to be professional, given the situation.
Quotes: Richard Burns said: "I took a jump flat-out which I take every year and it landed very hard on the nose. It's maximum attack with safety now, it's a bit stupid to take chances now when Marcus's lead is that big."
Technical: The Focus RS WRC02s of Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz, and Markko Martin have been mainly reliable again today. Ford also appears to have made better tyre choices than Pirelli rival, Subaru today. Markko Martin battled against a severe vibration on the final 15km of SS13, after the run-flat mousse in his tyre broke-up. Sainz snagged his front wing on SS14, but the problem was rectified at the following service.
Sporting: Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz began the day 4.5s and 6.6s behind Petter Solberg, but both drivers were able to catch and pass the Norwegian. They passed him on SS12, to claim fourth and fifth place. Sainz was re-passed for fourth on SS15 but regained the place after Solberg spun on SS16. Markko Martin made good progress, passing both Tommi Makinen and Freddy Loix on the first stage of the day for eighth place. He traded times with privateer Sebastian Lindholm, before passing him on SS14, when the Finn's driveshaft broke. All three drivers gained a place when Rovanpera retired, which added to a strong team performance.
Quotes: Carlos Sainz said: ^ÓWe're having a close battle with Colin and Petter but unfortunately it's for the second division.^Ô Markko Martin said: ^ÔI've been pleased with my times today, and tomorrow we'll try to continue as fast as we can.^Ô
Technical: Both Subaru Impreza WRC2002s have been reliable today. Like yesterday, Petter Solberg was unhappy with his tyre choices this morning, suggesting that his Pirelli's are too soft, and that the tread is breaking up on the stages. He chose a harder tyre for the last two stages of the day, which performed better. Tommi Makinen continues to be disappointed with the performance of his Impreza. The cause of smoke, which was entering the cabin of his car yesterday, has been traced to an oil breather pipe, which worked loose. It did not affect the performance of the car. Makinen reported a bad tyre vibration after 15km of SS13, the event's longest stage.
Sporting: Petter Solberg has fought against the Fords of Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz today. He had no specific complaints with his car, apart from his choice of tyre. He lost places to them both this morning, and then recovered his place to Sainz on SS15. On the next and final stage of the day, he spun and handed the position back to the Spaniard. Makinen lost a place to Markko Martin on the day's first stage, but passed Sebastian Lindholm when the Peugeot privateer lost drive to his rear wheels on SS14. On SS16 he also spun and lost a few seconds whilst recovering.
Quotes: Tommi Mäkinen said: ^ÓThe car is performing better, but it's still tough to build up the momentum to fight 100 percent. We came here to fight for the lead, but now I'm just trying to get points.^Ô
Technical: The Accent WRC3 of Juha Kankkunen retired after a roll on the first stage of the day, SS11. Freddy Loix reported a braking problem during the morning stages, which caused the car to pull sideways under braking. Armin Schwarz's reported a similar braking problem at the end of the day. He was also using a different specification of shock absorber this morning, which he was happier with than the set-up he used yesterday.
Sporting: Kankkunen began the day in 10th place, but just 4.3s behind eighth placed Tommi Makinen. He chose to push hard, but slid wide on a twisty section of SS11 and turned over. The car was driveable, but the damage was too great to continue. Armin Schwarz was pleased with his 10th fastest time on SS12, but admitted he could do no better. Freddy Loix was not as happy with the performance of his Accent today. The brakes were changed after SS12, but the car was still going too sideways for the Belgian's liking. After SS14, new differentials were fitted in an attempt to remedy the problem.
Quotes: Juha Kankkunen said: ^ÓWe decided to go for it, there is no point in being here if you don't try. We slide wide and the rear wheel on Juha's side dropped into a deep ditch. It caught and the car went onto its roof in the middle of the road.^Ô
Technical: The two remaining Lancer Evolution WRCs both completed the day, but Alister McRae lost 20 minutes on the final stage of the day. He hit a rock and ripped off a wheel. The impact damaged a shock absorber, which caught fire after it leaked oil. A fire truck was sent into SS16, and McRae eventually restarted. Jani Paasonen reported no technical problems.
Sporting: Bright sunshine beaming directly into the eyes of Jani Paasonen slowed the Finn on the day's opening stage. He improved by three places, to 10th today, thanks to retirements, and a strong performance on SS15, where he passed Freddy Loix. Alister McRae enjoyed the fast and spectacular Finnish stages, and passed Skoda's Toni Gardemeister to gain three places before his end of day disaster.
Quotes: Jani Paasonen said: ^ÓThe car is going well, no problems, although we had a few moments just from pushing so hard. I took a bit too rough lines, cut some corners, and went into one or two ditches, but I lost no time.^Ô Alister McRae said: ^ÓA rock in the road took a wheel off and set fire to the suspension. We had to put the fire out and then fit a new wheel.^Ô
Technical: The remaining Octavia WRC of Toni Gardemeister had several small problems today. Gardemeister pulled over before the start of SS12 to repair a faulty fuel pressure sensor. On the road section to SS13 the problem reoccurred. On SS14, surging hydraulic differential pressure made the car difficult to drive. Gardemeister also tried stiffer spings on SS13 and SS14.
Sporting: Gardemeister received a one-minute penalty at the start of SS12, he was six minutes late at the time control, having fixed the fuel pressure sensor. He dropped behind Sebastien Loeb, Alister McRae and Armin Schwarz after his time penalty, but recovered to 14th ahead of Schwarz, and the troubled McRae, at the end of the day.
Quotes: Toni Gardemeister said: ^ÓI've tried hard today, but it doesn't show in the times. Tomorrow we'll continue to go flat-out.^Ô
Technical: Both Citroen Xsara WRCs have been reliable today. The team continues to try different settings in readiness for a return to Finland next year. Sebastien Loeb tried different springs on SS13 and SS14, with mixed results.
Sporting: Thomas Radstrom had a clean run today, but for most of the day, his more inexperienced team mate, Sebastien Loeb was the faster Citroen. His best results were an impressive seventh fastest, on SS14 and SS16. He caught Radstrom for most of the day, reducing his advantage from 40.5s to 14.4s.
Quotes: Sebastien Loeb said: ^ÓWe tried different suspension on SS13 and SS14. It wasn't perfect. The car was hard to drive - it was bouncing around. But it worked better on SS14.^Ô
Impressive privateer Sebastian Lindholm continues to lead the non-factory cars. The Finn's biggest drama of the day was a driveshaft failure before SS14, which denied his 206 WRC drive to the rear wheels. He lost around 50s, but still managed to end the day in eighth place. Ford Focus privateer Janne Tuohino also had another strong run, ending the day in 11th position.
The battle for Group N was red-hot, with four different leaders in as many stages. Overnight pace setter Jukka Ketomaki withdrew at final service last night with engine problems, handing the lead to fellow Finn Juha Salo for SS11. However, he picked up a puncture in SS12 and stopped to change it, handing the baton to another Juha, this time, Hellman. On SS13 Hellman slid into a ditch, losing four minutes and thereby promoting Jarkko Miettinen to the top spot, which he held until the end of the day. In the FIA World Rally Championship for Production Cars, Italian driver Alex Fiorio ended the day in control, followed by Kristian Sohlberg, and championship leader Karamjit Singh. The Malaysian driver overcame turbo problems to stay in contention. Championship contender Ramon Ferreyros finally retired with more engine problems, and Marcos Ligato was forced out with an overheating engine.