Faultless Loix drive gives Hyundai points boost The Hyundai World Rally Team crew Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets came home in eighth position taking points for the Korean manufacturer for the third consecutive event, after a faultless drive on...
Faultless Loix drive gives Hyundai points boost
The Hyundai World Rally Team crew Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets came home in eighth position taking points for the Korean manufacturer for the third consecutive event, after a faultless drive on Rally Australia. A confident and determined drive for team-mates Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer rewarded the German crew with 13th place overall.
Hyundai's Belgian crew had an excellent rally on which very few frontrunners either retired or incurred disabling problems and a trouble-free run for all three days permitted the pair to scoop up two more valuable points for Hyundai. Freddy and Sven set a string of top ten stage times that were competitive enough to stay well ahead of their main rivals -- the Fords of Duval and Hirvonen and both Skodas.
Loix complained of a slight lack of top-end power on the first day but it did not prevent the Belgian from steadily working his way up the leaderboard and to achieve a much sought-after first driver point along with those towards the manufacturers championship.
"I'm absolutely delighted to get a driver point at last and of course it's a great result for the team," said a smiling Freddy. "For sure it has been a difficult event and having not finished for the last two years I was getting quite nervous today, especially in the last stage which wet and very, very slippery. But it's good to get to the finish and to score good points."
Adding to his comment about points, Freddy said: "Of course I always want the team to do well. They are a fantastic team to work with and I'm happy to have been able to score some more points to make all their hard work worthwhile. But I have also been waiting a long time to score some driver points. I thought we would get one earlier in the year and to be honest I really didn't think we would do it in Australia so I'm very pleased that the wait is over!"
German team-mates Armin Schwarz and co-driver Manfred Hiemer had a more frustrating event as handling difficulties plagued them throughout but grit and determination saw the pair reach the finish on what was an incredibly difficult event.
"To be honest, I'm relieved to get to the finish," said Armin. "This rally has been very hard for us and we spent most of it playing around with the settings to try and improve the way the car was handling for me. After last year though, at least we both got to the finish."
Looking ahead to the next month with three asphalt events looming, Freddy commented: "I really don't know what will happen on the tarmac rallies. It won't be easy but then we had a surprise in Germany in the rain. If we have the same weather in Italy, Corsica and Catalunya then it could be okay but if it is dry then it will be difficult."
News from our rivals
Misfortune struck for Markko Martin (Ford) as he was excluded for an infringement on FIA WRC regulations at the end of leg two. The sport's regulations stipulate that ballast must be fixed and placed on the floor of the cockpit and at the end of leg two Martin was found to have a rock located in the spare wheel well at the rear of the car. The crew had placed it there when the mechanism holding the spare wheel in place had broken and the rock was to provide the same function to enable them to continue the rally.
The fight at the head of the leaderboard was close and exciting for the second two days between eventual winner Petter Solberg (Subaru) and Sebastien Loeb who was fighting within seconds of his Norwegian rival, with both trading fastest stage times. After stalling on the penultimate stage of the event, Loeb put his wise head on and decided to drive comfortably to second place rather than take unnecessary risks for a victory.
Loeb's second place promotes Citroën into the first manufacturer spot, joint with French rivals Peugeot, and Solberg's win launches Subaru unto a comfortable advantage over Ford, with whom they were tied on points.
The eleventh round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship sees a return to Europe for the first of three back-to-back asphalt rallies, Rallye Sanremo, based out of the Italian Mediterranean coastal town of Sanremo running from 3-5 October.