Finnish driver Marcus GrÃ¶nholm has won the 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rally Australia, which finished in Perth this afternoon. GrÃ¶nholm and his navigator Timo Rautiainen started today's four stages comfortably clear of...
Finnish driver Marcus Grönholm has won the 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rally Australia, which finished in Perth this afternoon. Grönholm and his navigator Timo Rautiainen started today's four stages comfortably clear of their nearest rivals and they maintained their advantage through the remaining kilometres in the Sotico forest complex to secure their fifth victory of the season. Team-mates Harri Rovanperä and Voitto Silander fought past Petter Solberg today to ensure a one-two for Peugeot, the 8th of the season.
The Sotico stages, well known for the spectacular jumps and watersplash, were viewed by thousands of spectators. They had plenty of incidents to watch; Carlos Sainz rolled his Ford Focus but continued, his team-mate François Duval crashed out and the sole remaining Hyundai of Juha Kankkunen succumbed to engine failure in the final stage.
Technical: The 206 WRCs of Marcus Grönholm and Harri Rovanperä have been reliable today. Grönholm's only slight concern occurred when his information screen reported a slipping clutch, even though the unit itself was working perfectly.
Sporting: Marcus Grönholm cruised through today's four stages to secure his third Rally Australia win in succession, and claim his fifth victory of this season. The Finn and navigator Timo Rautiainen had been rarely troubled during the event, which they had led since the third stage on Friday. Their team-mate Harri Rovanperä was today's charger, setting fastest times on both of this morning's opening pair of stages to ease past Petter Solberg and into second overall. The former Swedish Rally winner then increased his advantage over the Norwegian to secure a one-two for the Peugeot team.
Marcus Grönholm said: "This has been one of the easiest wins for me this year but at the same time, I had to keep concentration for two days when I had a very strong lead. Today was just about watching the speed of the guys behind and making sure they didn't take too much time out of me. I'm very happy, of course, and now I'm sure I can take this motivation and confidence into the last round in Britain."
Harri Rovanperä said: "I did a full, full, full attack this morning. We took some risks and it paid off, because we got ahead of Petter. Then we had to be more careful because some of the stages today had big rocks. It was enough, though, because we pulled some more time on him before the end. I'm quite happy - the first day didn't go so well for me but things improved and we have set some very good times yesterday and today."
Technical: The Impreza WRC2002 of Petter Solberg was reliable today, although the Norwegian felt that he'd gone for too hard a tyre compound on this morning's opening pair of stages. Tommi Mäkinen's car suffered a puncture in the first stage, and then the Finn reported a noise from the front brake caliper in the following test.
Sporting: Petter Solberg reckoned his tyre choice was too hard for this morning's opening pair of stages and that their high-speed nature suited the Peugeot of his chief rival, Harri Rovanperä. Sure enough, the Norwegian lost enough time to cede his overnight second position to the Finn, and once the 206 driver pulled further clear in the penultimate stage, Solberg elected to preserve his car and settle for third. His team-mate Tommi Mäkinen claimed fourth overall despite suffering a puncture and a noise in the front brake calipers this morning. The four-times world champion's was then excluded at the finish because his car had been judged underweight at the scrutineers' checks after SS23. The Subaru team has elected not to appeal.
Petter Solberg said: "I'm reasonably happy with third because I knew last night that the gap to Harri was going to be very hard to defend on today's stages. It's like I've said all along on this rally - once we get into fifth- and sixth-gear stuff, I haven't been able to stay with the Peugeots. Today's stages were very high-speed in places and Harri just had too much for me. But it's good again to be the best non-Peugeot and I think we have been closer to them here."
Subaru World Rally Team Principal David Lapworth said: "The judgement has come as a big disappointment to Tommi and the team. However, in the interests of the sport, we have decided to accept the judgement and will not appeal the Stewards' decision."
Technical: The Focus RS WRC02s of Markko Martin, Carlos Sainz and François Duval have been reliable today, although Sainz damaged a turbo pipe on his car when he rolled in the day's second stage.
Sporting: Carlos Sainz's hopes of getting back on terms with Harri Rovanperä disappeared this morning as the Finn set two fastest times on the opening pair of stages. On the second of those tests, Sainz rolled at a slow corner, damaging his car's turbo pipe and losing power for much of the stage. The resulting time loss dropped him to fifth by the finish, but he gained fourth when Tommi Mäkinen was excluded. Markko Martin and François Duval had been told to finish at all costs, but they started today separated by just tenths of seconds and they swapped positions on both of the first two stages. On the third, however, Duval slid off and hit a tree. The Belgian was removed from the vehicle and taken to a hospital in Perth, suffering from bruising to his left arm and leg. Despite a heavy landing on the same test, Martin completed the remaining stage to secure fifth overall.
Carlos Sainz said: "The roll was about 600 metres after the start of the stage, at a very slow first corner. It was only in first gear but the car went into the ruts and then it rolled right over. The actual roll only cost a few seconds because the car ended up back on its wheels but we'd damaged the turbo pipe so we had no power for the rest of the stage. That's what cost us the bulk of the time. In the end, I don't think we could have had a much better result here. I drove hard all event."
Technical: Toni Gardemeister's Octavia WRC was reliable today. His team-mate Kenneth Eriksson enjoyed a relatively clean run, although he did lose his car's intercom on today's second stage when he drank some water on a long straight and accidentally dropped some of it onto the headphone socket.
Sporting: Skoda badly wanted Toni Gardemeister to score a point today, which will promote the team to equal fourth in the Manufacturers' standings and Tommi Mäkinen's exclusion allowed the young Finn to achieve that goal. He remained consistent as he brought his Octavia home in sixth. His team-mate Kenneth Eriksson again had to run first on the road on stages widely regarded as the worst in the entire world championship for loose gravel cleaning. The veteran Swede overshot a junction on the slippery surface, but he still finished in eighth. Both Skoda drivers reported near-misses with kangaroos during today's action, meanwhile.
Toni Gardemeister said: "I've quite pleased by how the event has gone - we've found a set-up for the car that's quite easy to drive and on the high-speed sections, I was very comfortable. Our only problem all rally has been a small thing with the tracking on the opening day but the team fixed it quickly. I didn't mind slowing down for the kangaroos on the last stage. I'm a fan of nature and they could have damaged the car as well!"
Kenneth Eriksson said: "It's been a hard rally after we had so many small problems on the opening day and then had to run first on the road yesterday and today. It's actually quite hard to motivate yourself in those situations because you know that no matter how hard you push, the road is going to be better and quicker for all the guys behind you."
Technical: Jani Paasonen's Lancer Evo WRC was reliable today.
Sporting: Mitsubishi's Finnish driver Jani Paasonen admitted that he'd found this event surprisingly difficult, but he maintained his steady approach to today's stages. He was rewarded with ninth overall at the finish.
Jani Paasonen said: "This rally has definitely been a hard one, because the roads are really slippery and we've been running near the front of the starting order yesterday and today. Of course I was angry at rolling but we've still managed to finish and I've learnt a lot about how the roads change here. Yesterday I followed Juha Kankkunen's lines but today he recommended that I didn't use Kenneth Eriksson's because he cuts corners quite a lot and there are many rocks here in some places."
Technical: Juha Kankkunen's hopes of finishing the event in the sole remaining Accent WRC3 looked set to be realised, but in the very last stage the car's engine (which had been off-song since a misfire on the opening day) lost oil pressure and he had to retire.
Sporting: Juha Kankkunen started today's four stages with only an outside chance of a top-10 finish in the only remaining Accent. Thanks to the retirement of François Duval, the veteran Finn looked odds-on to achieve this but on the last stage, his car's engine lost oil pressure and he was unable to continue.
Juha Kankkunen said: "The engine hadn't been running right all morning. If you think about it, when we had the misfire it ran for some time with no fuel - and thus no lubrication - going into two of the cylinders, so the pistons were rattling round in there. I felt it this morning on the faster sections, because the car just wasn't pulling at the high revs any more. It's disappointing but we certainly tried our best, even when the road conditions worked against us."
Citroen Sport driver Sebastien Loeb declared himself happier with his Xsara WRC's set-up today and he inched into seventh overall by the finish.
Malaysian driver Karamjit Singh, meanwhile, secured the FIA Production Car World Championship by claiming third in the category this afternoon. His closest rival Kristian Sohlberg had retired yesterday but Proton driver Singh wasn't able to relax until the finish, since Peruvian Ramon Ferreyros stood an outside chance of denying him the crown. He finished 17 seconds behind Singh, however. Japanese driver Toshihiro Arai took maximum points in the category, ahead of Alex Fiorio. The overall Group N class was won by Manfred Stohl, who brought his Mitsubishi home over a minute and a half clear of Ed Ordyinski.
LEG 3 03/11/2002 STATISTICS
STARTERS: 46 crews (18 Group A and 28 Group N) started this morning.
RETIREMENTS: Duval (B), Kankkunen (FIN), and 5 other drivers
TODAY: Sunday 3 November - Leg 3 started from Perth at 07h00 and covered 353.79km, including 105.69km on four special stages.
FIA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (provisional standings after 13 of 14 rounds):
FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers:
Grönholm (FIN) 77, Burns (GB) 34, C. McRae (GB) 33, Sainz (E) 32, Panizzi (F) 31, Rovanperä (FIN) 30, Solberg (N) 27, Mäkinen (FIN) 19, Loeb (F) 18, Martin (EE) 14, Bugalski (F) 7, Radstrom (S) 4, Gardemeister (FIN) 3, A. McRae (GB) 2, Thiry (B) 2, Kankkunen (FIN) 2, Eriksson (S) 1, Puras (E) 1, Loix (B) 1.
FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers:
Peugeot 163, Ford 94, Subaru 54, Skoda 9, Mitsubishi 9, Hyundai 9.
FIA Junior World Rally Championship (after 5 of 6 rounds, this event not
Dallavilla (I) 28, Sola (E) 27, Caldani (I) 13, Tuohino (FIN) 12, Duval (B) 12, Basso (I) 10, Galli (I) 5, Schelle (D) 5, Feghali (RL) 4, Rowe (GB) 4, Carlsson (S) 3, Baldacci (I) 3, Doppelreiter (A) 2, Foss (N) 1, Katajamaki (FIN) 1.
FIA Production Car World Championship (after 8 of 8 rounds):
Singh (MAL) 32, Sohlberg (FIN) 26, Ferreyros (PE) 23, Fiorio (I) 16, Arai (J) 22, Rowe (GB) 13, Trelles (ROU) 12, Iliev (BG) 9, Baldini (I) 4, Manfrinato (I) 4, Kollevold (N) 4, Ligato (RA) 2, De Dominicis (I) 3, Harrach (A) 2, Marrini (2).
NEXT EVENT: 14 - 17 November 2002: Network Q Rally Great Britain, Cardiff, Great Britain.