WRC

Rally Australia: Mitsubishi leg one summary

Difficult day for Mitsubishi. The Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart crew of Jani Paasonen and Arto Kapanen have struggled in the opening leg of Rally Australia, the damp weather conditions removing today's potential road position advantage. The ...

Difficult day for Mitsubishi.

The Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart crew of Jani Paasonen and Arto Kapanen have struggled in the opening leg of Rally Australia, the damp weather conditions removing today's potential road position advantage. The crew therefore overnights in Perth in 11th position after a frustrating day. Team-mates François Delecour and Daniel Grataloup were sidelined from the event in stage seven when they suffered an accident.

After last night's opening super special stage in the heart of Perth, the 69 crews contesting the 2002 Rally Australia left the city at 07:00 hrs this morning for the first full day of competition. Torrential rain and ferocious wind overnight threatened a treacherous day in the forests, however the day dawned bright enough and the stages were left damp with patches of mud and very inconsistent levels of grip. The route, which covered eight special stages and 133.48 competitive kilometres, took the contenders to the south of Perth, the action based around the service park at Dwellingup, 109 kilometres from the city.

Jani Paasonen and Arto Kapanen have had a frustrating and disappointing day, the Finns confident of a good run prior to the start of the rally after such a successful outing in New Zealand. However, weather conditions have gone against them and, as such, their potential road position advantage was eradicated when it rained overnight. Additionally, Jani has never previously driven the car in wet conditions and the Finn spent much of the day looking for the optimum set-up.

"It's been difficult for me because it's the first time I've driven the car in the wet - I didn't have rain during the test either," said Jani. "The car has been sliding too much. It generally feels the same as it did in New Zealand but the times are not coming and I really can't work out why. Maybe I'm pushing too hard. Tomorrow we will try a few more setting and hopefully we will be able to make some better progress."

Team-mates François Delecour and Daniel Grataloup suffered an accident in SS7 and retired from the event immediately. The French crew cut a corner, as is often customary, but clipped a tree stump on the inside of the corner. The impact threw the car across the road and they came to rest after hitting another tree on the other side of the road. While the front of the car was destroyed, the strength of the Lancer Evolution's cockpit roll cage and impact bars undoubtedly saved further injury from a terrifying accident. François was examined at the scene by the stage medical team who passed him fit to return to Perth, however Daniel was airlifted from the scene by the rally medical staff and transferred to hospital in Perth. There he was found to have a fractured ankle, a fractured pelvis and bruising to his right lung. Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart will issue a further statement at 09.00 hrs local time (GMT+8) on Saturday with further information.

Commenting on the day, Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart team manager Derek Dauncey said: "Obviously the team's disappointed with the day but extremely relieved that François and Daniel are fundamentally okay after their accident. Tomorrow Jani will suffer with his road position, especially if the conditions are dry, however he and the team will use the rest of the rally to gain experience and learn as much about the event and car for the future."

Meanwhile...

Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) has once again assumed the number one slot, the Peugeot driver overnighting nearly 30 seconds ahead of Norwegian hot-shot, Petter Solberg (Subaru). The Finn has won six of today's eight stages, Freddy Loix (Hyundai) claiming honours in SS2 before retiring with clutch failure and Harri Rovanpera taking the spoils at the super special this evening. Third position is held by Carlos Sainz, the Ford driver changing settings throughout the day and reporting the car to be feeling better and better. Harri Rovanpera has set a consistent pace in the Peugeot, his only real scare coming when he briefly slid off the road and clipped a tree in stage three. Tommi Makinen is fifth in the Subaru after a trouble-free run and Colin McRae, competing for the first time in six years with co-driver Derek Ringer, holds sixth in the Focus. Behind the Scot are team-mates Markko Martin and François Duval, while Toni Gardemeister takes the lead position for Skoda, in ninth. Sebastien Loeb is competing here for the first time, and the Citroen driver holds tenth at the end of the opening leg. Leading retirements today include Richard Burns, the Briton out with clutch failure on the Peugeot and Hyundai driver Armin Schwarz forced onto the sidelines with engine problems. Juha Kankkunen therefore flies the Korean manufacturers' flag, and the legendary Finn is 12th.

Still to come...

The second leg of Rally Australia takes the contenders east to the stages around Mundaring and sees the return of the spectacular York and Muresk special stages, famed for their superb scenery and stomach-churning jumps. The route covers 11 special stages and 147.27 competitive kilometres. Weather experts are predicting drier conditions, however some showers are expected in the morning.

-mitsubishi-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team