Monte Carlo: Mitsubishi leg two report

Delecour Fights On The Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart crew of François Delecour and Daniel Grataloup finished the second leg of Rallye Monte-Carlo in ninth position. Team-mates Alister McRae and David Senior were holding 11th until the final...

Delecour Fights On

The Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart crew of François Delecour and Daniel Grataloup finished the second leg of Rallye Monte-Carlo in ninth position. Team-mates Alister McRae and David Senior were holding 11th until the final stage when they clouted the Lancer Evolution WRC on a wall on the top of the Col de Turini and had to limp through the remainder of the stage with damaged rear suspension.

Today's second leg again took the crews to the northwest, the service park around the famous Monaco Grand Prix swimming pool complex providing the base for the six special stages and 131 kilometres of competition. With more than 36 percent of the field retiring yesterday just 35 crews took the re-start today, clear blue skies and marginally warmer temperatures adding to the beautiful mountain scenery. Again conditions were very mixed, patches of dry asphalt interspersed with sheet ice and slippery salt making driving treacherous and grip unpredictable. Today’s route included two passes of the most famous stage in the event, the climb up and over the Col de Turini and, typically, the stage was packed with fans, many of whom camp out overnight to secure the best vantage points.

Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart driver François Delecour started the day in eighth but soon benefited when Subaru's Petter Solberg went off the road. The Frenchman's rise to seventh was however short-lived when a spin and subsequent problem with the centre differential dropped him back, albeit within striking distance of an assault back up the leaderboard. Having started with a more aggressive set-up today, François conceded he might have gone too far with the settings this afternoon, but is still focused on a position in the manufacturer points in his first event for Mitsubishi.

"I was happy with the new spec this morning however we may have gone too stiff with the car by the end of the day", he said. "The problem with the diff cost us some time, but my aim is still to get into the points. Sure, it's not going to be easy, but we have to try as nothing is certain in this event".

Team-mate Alister McRae was growing in confidence stage by stage, a mechanically trouble-free day affording him the opportunity to play with suspension settings on the Lancer Evolution WRC. He too moved up the leaderboard, a result of Peugeot's first retiree, Harri Rovanpera, but he was lucky to escape retirement after hitting a wall on the top of the Col de Turini in the final stage of the day. As a consequence he dropped four minutes and was forced to cruise through the remainder of the stage at non-competitive speed. He overnights in 14th position.

"I would have said today was a better day until that happened!" said Alister. "I was feeling like we were making progress with the set-up and we've absolutely not been taking risks. Basically we got caught out on a slippery left-hander, the car lost grip instantly and the back end hit a low stone wall. The wheel broke and the right rear wishbone bent. It happened so fast I'm not really sure whether earlier dampness had turned to ice or whether it was just plain slippery. Really annoying".

Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart team manager Derek Dauncey was however happy with the way his drivers were adapting to and learning the Lancer Evolution WRC in one of the trickiest events in the series, admitting that experience in Monte-Carlo was also vital for McRae. "Competing in events where you don't have much experience is difficult at the best of times. Monte-Carlo is another challenge in itself, and when you add a new car into the equation it's harder still. Both drivers are concentrating on familiarising themselves with the car, working out what happens in different situations, and while François knows the event better and can push a bit harder, it's vital for Alister to gain experience and get to know the whole route. He was lucky it wasn't worse in the final stage, but obviously it's still disappointing".

Peugeot and Skoda were the manufacturers to suffer today, both losing one car. Flying Finn Harri Rovanpera was forced out with a broken steering arm on his Peugeot, and Roman Kresta crashed his Skoda on the second stage while lying 11th overall. Disappointing news was also relayed from Belgium when, after a secondary consultation, it was confirmed Freddy Loix has a fracture in his left foot. A decision will not be taken until next week as to whether Hyundai's new signing will be able to contest the forthcoming Swedish Rally.

In the fight for honours in the opening round of the series, young French star Sebastien Loeb has been the sensation. Holding off a serious challenge from Tommi Makinen, the Citroen driver leads the multiple Rallye Monte-Carlo winner by 28.2 seconds going into the final day. Colin McRae (Ford) held on to third by the skin of his teeth, a spin in stage 9 the result of his seat mounting working loose, and an unscheduled gearbox change incurring the Scot an additional 10 second penalty. However, luck ran out in the final stage when the Focus dropped onto three cylinders and he was relegated down to fifth position. Team-mate Sainz has inherited third overall, the gap between the Spaniard and fourth-placed Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) a mere five seconds. Peter Solberg (Subaru) enjoyed a trouble-free morning until sliding wide, hitting a wall and damaging the steering on SS7. Even so, the amiable Norwegian is sixth overnight with Richard Burns (Peugeot) on a mission to learn his car in seventh position.

Still to come...
The final leg of Rallye Monte-Carlo is the shortest at 98 competitive kilometres, but no less challenging. The route, again based from the service park on the Grand Prix circuit, takes the remaining contenders to the north for just four stages before returning for the finish at 15:02 hrs (local).


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Freddy Loix , Richard Burns , Harri Rovanpera , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , François Delecour , Alister McRae , Sébastien Loeb , David Senior , Roman Kresta
Teams Citroën World Rally Team