Gronholm opens Cyprus Rally with the lead

Gronholm opens Cyprus Rally with the lead

Marcus Gronholm only won one stage, the final one, to grab the lead in the Cyprus Rally for day one of competition. The longest stages of the rally were held today, stages two and four. Peugeot took them both and the other two opening ...

Marcus Gronholm only won one stage, the final one, to grab the lead in the Cyprus Rally for day one of competition. The longest stages of the rally were held today, stages two and four. Peugeot took them both and the other two opening stages.

"It's been a successful day for us. Our road position wasn't ideal, but I tried to drive as neatly as I could to minimise the time loss," Gronholm said at the end of the day. "Our car worked very well today, and I'm looking forward to see what we can do with a better road position tomorrow."

Harri Rovanpera.
Photo by Team Peugeot.
Harri Rovanpera started today's leg one of the Cyprus Rally in good status, taking the early lead for the Peugeot team by winning the first three stages. Stage two was the long Lagoudera to Spilia at 38.32km.

"This was a very good start to the rally," commented Rovanpera after the completion of the second stage. "Although I had a better road position than my team mates. I was quite confident I could do well on these stages, and we made a good tyre choice as well. The car works nicely in these slow-speed corners, but absolutely anything can still happen today."

Stage four saw Rovanpera's lead vanish as his teammate Gronholm took the best time and the overall lead in the repeat running of the 38.32km Lagoudera to Spilia stage. This time in what one could easily term, a rain deluge.

Rovanpera had a gearbox problem which set the Finn back as he just squeezed out the seventh best time of the stage. Rovanpera finished in second for leg one, 06.8 seconds behind Gronholm on the overall leaderboard.

Rovanpera took the loss of the overall lead in stride, "We're still very close to the lead, and if the car works as well tomorrow as it did today, we should be in a strong position."

Gronholm started the day fourth on stage one, ninth on the stage two before moving up the leaderboard with a second on the third stage. The stage four win gave him the slight edge leading into tomorrow's leg two competition.

"It was OK, but our starting position was not so good," Gronholm stated at the end of stage two. "I just tried to drive as neatly as possible in order not to make the car slide too much and lose more time. I'm not using the air conditioning on the stages as it takes power out of the engine. But I'm quite happy with the way things have gone so far."

Subaru is on the top of the leaderboard as Petter Solberg had a good day. Just 10.3 seconds behind Gronholm. Solberg's day started with a second on stage 1, fifth on stage 2, sixth on stage 3 and third on the final stage of the day. The consistency paid off as Solberg sits third overall.

Solberg was pleased with today's results, "It feels good. I like being in this position and I'm confident for the next two days. I'm having fun in the car and I think I can beat Marcus (Gronholm) on this event. I'm not going to give up. "

The non-factory Peugeot team, Panizzi sits remarkably in the fourth overall spot. The Bozian Racing team was fifth in the day's first stage, followed up by a third in the first of the two long stages. Panizzi's third on stage two put him in second on the leaderboard just ahead of Gronholm. The second go around on the long Lagoudera stage was not as kind, the team finished sixth.

Gilles Panizzi commented after stage two, "I'm very happy to be second, although I always knew this was possible. I was helped by my road position this morning, but I don't think I will have the same advantage when the stages are run for the second time this afternoon."

Citroen's Sebastien Loeb valuted from ninth to fifth overall with the team's second place standing on the final stage four, just 1.5 seconds behind the stage winner, Gronholm. The rookie in the rally lost time to the leader with a spin on the stage. Loeb may be the rookie on the Citroen's three car effort for the Cyprus Rally, yet he topped both teammates who are previous winners of the rally.

"I didn't find the correct speed. I need to work on the suspension," Loeb said of the first two stages. "I flew quite high one or two times, losing there some of my confidence. I wanted to drive cleanly but it was too slippery and therefore not efficient."

Carlos Sainz's finished fourth on stage four and moved his Citroen team car from 14th to 9th on the leaderboard. The final teammate Colin McRae moved up one position from 7th to 6th overall with his fifth place on the final stage.

Tommi Makinen's day started on the right foot and ended on the left one as he had a mechanical problem on the final stage, delaying his arrival at the finish line.

Stage four gremlins also put Richard Burns (Peugeot) and Markko Martin (Ford) behind the eight-ball as they too developed mechanical woes.

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Richard Burns , Harri Rovanpera , Gilles Panizzi , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Markko Martin
Teams Citroën World Rally Team