Monte Carlo: Mitsubishi leg one summary

Mixed day for Mitsubishi Galli fourth fastest in SS3 - Panizzi 11th overnight The Mitsubishi Motor Sports Team suffered a mixed day during the opening leg of Rallye Monte-Carlo, the all-French crew of Gilles and Hervé Panizzi finishing in 11th...

Mixed day for Mitsubishi
Galli fourth fastest in SS3 - Panizzi 11th overnight

The Mitsubishi Motor Sports Team suffered a mixed day during the opening leg of Rallye Monte-Carlo, the all-French crew of Gilles and Hervé Panizzi finishing in 11th position, while Italians "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore were forced into a disappointing retirement in the fifth stage.

The 2004 FIA World Rally Championship season officially kicked off last night when the 43 crews authorized to start crossed the ramp in the world-famous Casino Square. The casino and Hôtel de Paris provided a spectacular floodlit back-drop for the hundreds of spectators who thronged the square, but the real action took everyone up into the frozen French mountains today for the first day of competition. Six treacherous stages lay in wait, all based around the service park in Tallard, and conditions were typical of this illustrious event. Patches of snow, slush, standing water, ice and dry Tarmac all conspired to make tire choice as difficult as ever, compromise being the name of the game in ever-changing conditions.

The Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04 is making its debut competitive outing in Rallye Monte-Carlo and with limited testing time, the team has been realistic to its approach and expectation from two crews who are also new to the team. After the cancellation of the first stage, due to the volume of spectators, "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore initially led the team's assault, the Italians eighth after their first stage in the Lancer WRC04 (SS 2). However, the duo set a blistering time in stage three, just two seconds adrift of the fastest time, to climb into seventh overall. A spin in the following stage dropped them time but then the pair was forced into retirement in stage five.

"We slid and the car ended up half off the road", said a disappointed "Gigi". "Then it slipped another couple of meters and it was impossible to get back; there was hardly any damage and mechanically it was fine, which makes it all the more disappointing. We took it steady this morning so I was surprised with our time in stage three, but I felt very confident with the car, even though the conditions were very difficult".

Team-mates Gilles and Hervé Panizzi, piloting the remaining Lancer WRC04, returned to Monte-Carlo this evening in 11th position after a difficult day. The French crew has struggled to find a good feeling with the car, such are the unique conditions found on this unpredictable event, and have been troubled with transmission problems. "I am very happy to be at the end of the first leg because we have another day and more kilometers on the car", commented Gilles. "It gives us time to work things out and make improvements. I am still getting used to the car; yes we have had some problems but this was to be expected". The team changed the transmission system on the Lancer WRC04 at the final service this evening.

"We had a failure in the transmission and hopefully tomorrow will be better", explained Technical Director Mario Fornaris. "The team is still learning and understanding the car and it was not tested in these conditions; we expected to have some new problems".

Adding to their comments, Sven Quandt, MMSP's Head of Motorsport, said: "We saw for a very short time the potential of the car, after "Gigi" set fourth fastest time in stage three. Obviously it is disappointing he went off the road; it was bad luck, but everyone is learning all the time".

The second leg of Rallye Monte-Carlo, based around the service park on Monte-Carlo's harbor front, starts at 06:40 hrs (GMT+1) and takes the crews over another five stages to the north of the Principality. The route takes in 140.79 competitive kilometers over a total distance of 556.70 kilometers.

News from our rivals...

Sébastien Loeb, winner of the 2003 Rallye Monte-Carlo, has taken the early advantage for Citroën and holds an 18.3 second advantage over Ford's lead driver Markko Märtin. Marcus Grönholm has had a mixed day in the new Peugeot 307, the Finn breaking the gearbox in stage four and then struggling with the wrong tire choice in the final stage. Despite this, the Finnish former double World Champion led for most of the day, only slipping to third after stage six. Carlos Sainz holds fourth in the second Xsara WRC with young François Duval in a fine fifth, despite struggling with the ever-changing conditions. Reigning World Champion Petter Solberg is sixth, the Norwegian's campaign off to a bad start when he skidded into a fence post in the first stage.


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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team