The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen finished the opening leg of Rally Argentina, the ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, in a fighting fifth position. Team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido...
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen finished the opening leg of Rally Argentina, the ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, in a fighting fifth position. Team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore were running well until their challenge was blighted with broken suspension and then a transmission problem early this morning.
"Things have been going quite well for Harri, the handbrake really being his only problem", said Roger Estrada, Principal Rally Engineer. "His performance and times are consistent and with some small changes overnight I'm sure he can maintain the pace and carry on fighting. Gigi had some problems with the suspension and transmission early in the day, so it's was difficult for him to confirm his speed. We're confident he can re-start tomorrow and will be looking for consistent top times from both crews".
The fanatical Argentinean rally fans created an electric atmosphere last night when the rally kicked off with the opening two super special stages at the Pro Racing complex. A capacity crowd of 40,000 thronged to the facility to witness the cars power side-by-side around the 3.02 kilometer stage and the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 crews were front-runners, with Harri third and Gigi in sixth positions respectively after two runs around the stage.
This morning, however, the opening leg action continued and took the crews to the north of Villa Carlos Paz for another eight stages and 156.30 competitive kilometers. In contrast to the past few days, the weather has also taken a turn for the worse, persistent overnight rain and cool 8 temperatures making the stages in the Punilla Valley as tricky as ever.
Harri Rovanpera started the day in third position but then dropped to sixth after stage four - one of the most rutted of the event - when a spin lost him precious seconds. Despite moving into fifth in the following stage, he then dropped back a position when the handbrake failed in stage six, one of the tighter and twistier roads. This afternoon the Finns have never been outside the top five in the stages, dicing with fourth-placed Toni Gardemeister to overnight just 8.1 seconds adrift of their fellow countryman.
"I'm quite okay with the way things have been today", said Harri, after completing nearly half the total competitive distance of the event. "This morning's spin was maybe my first in about five years; I couldn't believe it! This afternoon I've not been so happy with the damper settings, especially in the bumpy sections where we keep ending up off line. Otherwise, everything has been good and the tire choices were quite right for the conditions. It's good to be fighting and hopefully we can carry on like this tomorrow".
Team-mate Gigi Galli ran as high as fourth overall in the second Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 but in SS 5 the Italian hit problems. Initially broken front right suspension caused him to stop and make repairs in the stage. However he and Guido were then forced onto the sidelines when the car lost drive to the same wheel. The crew does however look set to re-start tomorrow under SUPERally regulations.
"About 12 kilometers into stage five the front right suspension broke", said Gigi. "We managed to make repairs and get going again, but then after about one kilometer the front drive-shaft broke and the team decided it was better for us to stop rather than cause more damage. Before that everything had been going well and we were setting some good stage times so I'm confident we can continue like this".
The second leg of Rally Argentina takes the crews over another seven stages and 114.35 competitive kilometers. The route takes in a mix of flowing stages in the Calamuchita Valley to the south, as well as stages back in the Punilla Valley.
News from our rivals
With six fastest stage times during the day, Sebastien Loeb once again leads an FIA World Rally Championship event. The Frenchman overhauled Subaru's Petter Solberg in stage five and overnights with 33.1 seconds in hand to the Norwegian. Behind them, Marcus Gronholm heads Peugeot's challenge in third, more than a minute ahead of Ford's Toni Gardemeister. Behind a chasing Harri Rovanpera is Markko Martin, the Estonian a further 23.6 seconds adrift of the Finn. Francois Duval, on his return to the Citroen team, holds seventh overnight. Skoda has had a difficult day; Jani Paasonen hit a rock in SS 5, breaking the suspension and forcing him onto the sidelines permanently. Team-mate Armin Schwarz had damper problems this afternoon and was forced to limp through three stages.