Strong performance by Paasonen. The Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart crew of Jani Paasonen and Arto Kapanen brought their Lancer Evolution WRC2 to the finish of the 2002 Rally Finland in eighth position, narrowly missing out on a point...
Strong performance by Paasonen.
The Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart crew of Jani Paasonen and Arto Kapanen brought their Lancer Evolution WRC2 to the finish of the 2002 Rally Finland in eighth position, narrowly missing out on a point for Mitsubishi in the debut competitive outing of the car. Team-mates Alister McRae and David Senior were forced into retirement in stage 18.
Marcus Gronholm took his third consecutive victory on home soil, the flying Finn thrilling his home supporters with a fantastic display of mastery in the Peugeot 206WRC. He takes the maximum 10 points for the third time this season and extends his advantage over second-placed Colin McRae to 17 points. Peugeot also scooped maximum points in the Manufacturers' Championship, Richard Burns picking up six points for second position, rewarding the French make with its fifth maximum points haul this season. It now has a 25 point lead over Ford with five rounds remaining.
The third and final day of Rally Finland started early this morning, just 36 of the original 77 crews leaving Paviljonki in Jyvaskyla at 07:20 hrs. The 362.77 kilometre route included six special stages - three run twice - and 94.36 competitive kilometres and while it was the shortest of the three legs, it was no less challenging and the result was never guaranteed until the end of the final stage.
Paasonen set a blistering pace in today's opening 11.80 kilometre Keuruu stage, the Finn fourth quickest in the Evolution WRC2 and just 1.1 seconds adrift of stage winner Burns. Consistent times in the remaining stages saw Jani and co-driver Arto Kapanen maintain eighth but, without crews ahead hitting problems, the deficit was simply too great.
"The first stage today, that was my stage - everything came together and worked perfectly," said Jani. "I feel good to have finished eighth. We were hoping to be in the points, but ended up just outside them. Overall I'm pleased with the way it's gone though. We had no problems, I didn't really make any mistakes and the car felt perfect all the way through the rally."
Team-mates Alister McRae and David Senior retired in stage 18, the British pair out with damaged right rear suspension. While able to continue slowly, the team elected to withdraw the crew, all too aware of speeding cars approaching from behind.
"Three kilometres into the second stage this morning I felt something go at the back end," said Alister. "We stopped to have a look, and a stone had obviously hit the rear wishbone mount. Carrying on would have been difficult for us and following crews, so we pulled over. It's a shame for it to end like this; the car is definitely a step forward. Now we're looking to Germany and hopefully we'll see that the development work on the new car can move us forward again."
Adding to the drivers' comments, Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director, John Easton said: "We are pleased the car has shown its potential here and that we have made steps forward. This is always going to be a difficult rally to debut a new car, but this is the kind of result we'd hoped for. We were aiming to get into the manufacturer points and finished the event just one position away from that goal. Jani's performance on his home rally was good; he's driven consistently, quickly and caused no damage to the car. Obviously it was disappointing to lose François and Alister, but the event has been encouraging and highlighted some further areas of development for the next gravel rally."
Marcus Gronholm scored victory for Peugeot, its fifth win of the season, and the Finn retains his advantage at the head of the leaderboard. Second position for team-mate Richard Burns also notched up the French manufacturer's fifth maximum points haul of the season, an impressive feat in the face of stiff opposition. Peugeot was however in a league of its own in this rally, the following crews 'the best of the rest'. Colin McRae maintained third position throughout the morning, however the Scot was forced into a disappointing retirement after stage 20 when his Focus caught fire, a heavy landing dislodging a hydraulic pipe and causing a fluid leak. Petter Solberg (Subaru) overhauled Carlos Sainz to take third position once McRae had retired, and Sainz and Martin, who finished fourth and fifth respectively, both claimed points for Ford. A jump-start from Sainz was the first slip-up of this nature for the Spaniard in 15 years and those 10 seconds of penalty ultimately proved decisive. Tommi Makinen (Subaru) finished sixth after a seemingly lacklustre performance. Freddy Loix brought the sole remaining Hyundai back to Jyvaskyla in ninth position and Sebastien Loeb finished 10th for Citroen in its debut outing in Finland. Team-mate Thomas Radstrom ultimately retired, the Swede off the road and into the trees.
The FIA World Rally Championship now leaves gravel for two consecutive asphalt events in Europe, the first of which is Rallye Deutschland (22-25 August). Formerly a round of the European Rally Championship, this is the first year the German event has qualified for the World Championship, and therefore very few of the teams and drivers have experience of the asphalt roads in the southwest of the country. François Delecour did however contest the event last year, finishing third overall.