Peugeot has completely dominated the opening day of Rally Finland, the fastest event on the FIA World Rally Championship. Richard Burns is the overnight leader, having won six stages in his 206 WRC. His team-mates Marcus GrÃ¶nholm and Harri ...
Peugeot has completely dominated the opening day of Rally Finland, the fastest event on the FIA World Rally Championship. Richard Burns is the overnight leader, having won six stages in his 206 WRC. His team-mates Marcus Grönholm and Harri Rovanperä won the remaining stages. Burns has enjoyed a small road position advantage today - by starting fifth for each test he has avoided the worst of loose gravel and stones that have been swept aside by Marcus Gronholm. The Briton was handed a late boost when Gronholm broke a shock absorber on SS8, which cost the Finn around 20 seconds on the following stage. Subaru's Norwegian young gun Petter Solberg leads the chasing pack, but is some 50s behind Gronholm. He snatched the position from Ford's Colin McRae at the end of the day, who is in fifth position.
Local hero Juuso Pykalisto stunned rallying's elite earlier today, by running in an incredible fourth place overall in a 2000-specification Peugeot 206 WRC. The Finn later retired with transmission problems.
Technical: All three Peugeot 206WRCs were mainly reliable today. Richard Burns lost his rear window after landing hard from a jump, and Harri Rovanperä was one of several drivers to get a puncture on SS6. Marcus Grönholm broke a shock absorber on SS8 and lost time on the following stage, He was the only driver to use Peugeot's new electronically controlled anti-roll bars.
Sporting: Peugeot have been in a class of their own today, and completely dominated the opening day of the rally. Their closest rival, Petter Solberg was 50s behind third placed Gronholm at the end of day one. Richard Burns took full advantage of his road position (fifth) to take an early lead from Harri Rovanperä and Marcus Grönholm. The reigning world champion won six stages (including last night's superspecial) to end the first day with a small lead, before the Killeri superspecial stage. Championship leader Grönholm lost time whilst he swept the road clear of stones and loose gravel, but was reasonably satisfied to stay in touch with the lead. Tomorrow he will start further down the order, and will enjoy better stage conditions. Rovanperä said he was driving close to his limit all day, and was also getting used to a different voice calling the pacenotes. Regular navigator Risto Pietilainen was taken ill before the event, and has been replaced by Rovanpera's previous co-driver Voitto Silander.
Quotes: Marcus Grönholm said: "I'm quite surprised that all the other non-Peugeots are so far behind."
Richard Burns said: "Normally I'm good today then the Finns get better later in the rally - the roads are a bit more specialised from tomorrow onwards. I think Marcus did have a slight disadvantage from running first on the road, as there was a bit of a line visible when I came through."
Technical: Tommi Mäkinen has complained of engine problems today in his Subaru Impreza WRC2002. He reported a lack of power in SS2, and during SS6, smoke was coming into the cabin. However, Subaru's engineers say the engine does not have a problem. He also reported damage to the front left suspension, and a transmission problem after SS9. Petter Solberg's car has been reliable. He suffered punctures in SS6 and SS9, but the mousse system in his Pirelli tyres enabled him to continue without stopping on both occasions.
Sporting: Petter Solberg rued his tyre compound choice on the day's opening three stages. He chose a soft tyre which did not last as well as he had hoped. Despite this, his performance was still the strongest non-Peugeot drives of the day. He ended the first leg in fourth place, just ahead of Colin McRae. Tommi Makinen was unhappy with his car all day. The five-time winner of Rally Finland could not better eighth fastest on any stage, and complained of engine problems throughout the day.
Quotes: Tommi Mäkinen said: "I'm not very happy, there was no power and big smoke coming into the car, but no one can tell me what the problem is."
Technical: The Focus RS WRC02s of Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz, and Markko Martin have been mainly reliable today. Markko Martin experimented with a new set-up during the first three stages of the day, but reverted to his previous settings after complaining that his car did not feel responsive enough. Fourth driver Francois Duval had problems with his intercom for part of the day, which forced him to back off in places. He retired after SS9 with suspension failure.
Sporting: Colin McRae ended the day just behind Petter Solberg after a close battle with the Subaru driver all day. The Scot was happy with the performance of his car, but could do nothing about the cars in front of him. Carlos Sainz admitted to struggling at first to find his rhythm on the ultra-fast Rally Finland stages, but settled into the event after setting fifth fastest time on stage six. Once Markko Martin had reverted to his original set-up he set times similar to his two regular team-mates, and on occasion was faster than both. He incurred a 10s penalty for a jump start on SS9. Junior driver François Duval opted for a cautious approach, but still retired with suspension failure after damage was incurred on SS9.
Quotes: Colin McRae said: "I always expected the Peugeots to be quick, but not that quick. No problems from our end the car feels good in fact, it's just that we can't keep up."
Technical: A faulty batch of spark plugs caused a misfire during the morning for two of Hyundai's Accent WRCs. Armin Schwarz and Juha Kankkunen both recovered after the plugs were replaced. Freddy Loix has enjoyed a reliable run today.
Sporting: Freddy Loix's strong run has placed him in ninth place overnight. He lost time in several stages due to hanging dust, which slowed the progress of many competitors. Juha Kankkunen was happy by the end of the day, after making changes to his Accent. Armin Schwarz lost time when passing the retired Lancer of François Delecour. Enthusiastic spectators waved him down frantically, and Schwarz slowed far earlier than he needed to.
Quotes: Freddy Loix said: "I've got a good speed, I don't think I can go any faster, I'm on the limit. I think I'm driving well, but nobody expected the Peugeots to be so good. Once Marcus gets a clean road I think he'll put down some proper times."
Technical: Two of Mitsubishi's three Lancers hit problems on SS9 after an otherwise trouble-free day. Alister McRae broke a shock absorber and François Delecour retired in SS9 when his suspension collapsed. They are confident the new Step 2 car is an improvement; although they both complained of excessive oversteer today. Third driver Jani Paasonen has been happy with the performance of his car.
Sporting: Jani Paasonen posted two top 10 times for the new Lancer, but faded into the teens later during the day. Delecour was relieved the team took a decision to bring the new Step 2 machine. Even so, he and Alister McRae struggled to break into the top dozen.
Quotes: François Delecour said: "Definitely the car is better, thank God we don't have the old car here. The engine is one of the biggest improvements, it was still oversteering a bit but that's mainly down to the differential."
Technical: Kenneth Eriksson's Octavia lost hydraulic pressure to the centre differential during the first few stages of the day. The problem has occurred several times this year, and makes the car very difficult to drive. Just after the finish line of SS6, the car's engine bay caught fire. Eriksson extinguished the flames, and although the engine fired, it would only run on three cylinders. The car finally retired on a road section when it ran out of fuel because one of its injectors was stuck wide open. The suspension of Toni Gardemeister's Octavia was too soft during the day's opening stages. He changed the set-up, and like Eriksson, intermittently lost hydraulic pressure to the differentials during SS6.
Sporting: Toni Gardemeister made a fighting debut for the third evolution of the Octavia WRC, and battled with the Citroen of Thomas Radstrom, and Jani Paasonen's Mitsubishi for much of the day. He ended it sandwiched between them in 14th place. Kenneth Eriksson was frustrated by his car's technical problems and was in 16th place before his retirement.
Quotes: Kenneth Eriksson said: "One kilometre from the end of SS6 the car dropped onto three cylinders. Afterwards it was misfiring and we ran out of fuel."
Technical: Both Citroen Xsara WRCs have been reliable today. Sebastien Loeb felt uncomfortable with the handling of his machine on the day's opening stages and adjusted the differential settings, which improved the car. Both cars got punctures to the front-right wheel on SS6, but the use of Michelin tyre mousse enabled them to continue without stopping to change a wheel.
Sporting: Sebastien Loeb made a cautious start to his first Rally Finland in a World Rally Car, he was not happy with the feeling of his car on the opening stages. Thomas Radstrom was reacquainting himself with Rally Finland, after missing the event for two years. He admitted that it was taking time to convince himself to stay flat-out over the jumps. By SS7 he was up to speed and set fifth-equal fastest time.
Quotes: Thomas Radstrom said: "I can really feel that I've not been too Finland for two years, places that I would have been flat I've been lifting. I'm going to try and slowly build my pace and confidence and hopefully everything will come."
Before his retirement, Finnish driver Juuso Pykalisto impressed many people with his performance in a privateer Peugeot 206 WRC. Fellow Finn Sebastien Lindholm ended the day as top privateer in seventh place. In the FIA World Rally Championship for Production Cars, the leading championship driver was Argentine Marcos Ligato in fourth place in Group N. He battled with series rival Kristian Sohlberg until the Finn's Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII suffered alternator failure on SS8. Overall Group N leader is local driver Jukka Ketomaki. British driver Martin Rowe impressed in third place earlier in the day, until his Mitsubishi was put out by a combination of driveshaft and steering problems. Championship contender Ramon Ferreyros has struggled, and is almost last after engine problems. Current leader of the Championship, Malaysian Proton's driver Karamhit Singh, is an impressive eighth, in his first visit to Finland.