WRC

Rally Finland: Hyundai leg one summary

Hyundai makes solid start on fast finnish gravel The Hyundai World Rally Team crews made a good start to Rally Finland, the ninth round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship, with Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer ...

Hyundai makes solid start on fast finnish gravel

The Hyundai World Rally Team crews made a good start to Rally Finland, the ninth round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship, with Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer bringing their Hyundai Accent WRC"s to overnight parc ferme in 14th and 18th positions overall. Hyundai privateer crew Jussi Valimaki/Jakke Honkanen, also nominated to score manufacturer points for the Korean marque, lies in 16th position.

Possibly the most spectacular of all rallies, Finland is the fastest event of the Championship with speeds regularly reaching 200kph. The indigenous jumps known as 'yumps' provide stunning action as crews take to the air on the snake-like tracks through the Finnish forests but it is exactly these jumps on which time can be gained or lost as line, set-up and landing take on equal importance. And considering the accuracy required to perfect these roads it is not surprising that 10 positions of the top twenty are held overnight by Finns.

Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets made changes to their suspension set-up after the day's first group of stages and felt much more comfortable with the handling of their Accent WRC", setting times competitive enough to stay ahead of Ford's Francois Duval. "The stability wasn't the best this morning but after making some changes the car was handling the way I wanted it to," explained Freddy.

"Now we are trying to push right to the edge because the suspension is much better and we have more grip on the fast sections. Even where the ruts were bad and we were being thrown to the edge of the track, the car is behaving the way I wanted. We made good progress today -- the car is sharper and although the shocks were going soft at the very end, we were expecting that and now we know how to deal with it. It's a big step forward," said the 32-year-old Belgian.

German team-mates Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer had difficulty with stability throughout the day which affected Armin's confidence. "It was difficult as it made us drift wide and if you get one exit wrong you just cannot set-up for the next corner," said Schwarz.

"We made a good tyre choice for the last group of stages but the ride height was too low because the roads were very rutted and we were on the sump guard a great deal," explained Armin. "I'm happy with the suspension change because it's given me more feel and although we couldn't gain a lot on the second run through the stages, I'm sure we have a better setup for tomorrow."

Finnish crew Jussi Valimaki and co-driver Jakke Honkanen started somewhat cautiously but the pair continued to set some excellent times and ended the day confident for leg two. "It's been a good day but I'm really looking forward to tomorrow and stages we know well, then we can really try to set some good times. But the car has felt great and I've enjoyed driving it today," commented 28-year-old Valimaki.

News from our rivals

The only leading retirement was Didier Auriol (Skoda) who had difficulty driving with a shoulder injury. He had to contest the Killeri superspecial last night driving on occasion with only one hand but had to withdraw as there was no improvement after treatment. Harri Rovanpera (Peugeot) dropped over 20 minutes on the 22.31km Jukojarvi (SS2) after breaking his suspension on a rock. He picked up 1min 20sec penalty for arriving late at the next stage but was lucky that his roadside repairs lasted through the next stage which was also over 20 kilometres. Many crews spent time playing around with suspension set-ups including both Citroëns of Carlos Sainz and Sebastien Loeb as well as Toni Gardemeister (Skoda). Tommi Makinen (Subaru), Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) and Petter Solberg (Subaru) dropped a few seconds by hitting rocks in the road.

Although Markko Martin started the day in the lead, three-time Finland winner Marcus Gronholm took over the lead for the latter part of the day, only to lose it again to his Estonian rival on the last proper stage of the day. Martin now lies 2.7 seconds ahead of the Finn with Richard Burns (Peugeot) a distant 23.7 seconds adrift.

The Rally

The second leg heads south of the Jyvaskyla Rally HQ base for 167.92 competitive kilometres over seven speed tests around Jamsa.

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team