Points in sight for Loix and Hyundai An eventful second day of Rally Finland saw Hyundai World Rally Team crews Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets, Jussi VÃ¤limÃ¤ki/Jakke Honkanen and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer finished strongly bringing their Hyundai ...
Points in sight for Loix and Hyundai
An eventful second day of Rally Finland saw Hyundai World Rally Team crews Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets, Jussi Välimäki/Jakke Honkanen and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer finished strongly bringing their Hyundai Accent WRC"s to overnight parc ferme in 10th, 13th and 14th positions respectively.
The day provided a challenge for many and it featured a number of Finland classics. A repeat of the rollercoaster-like 33.24km Ouninpohja caught a few crews out where accuracy is imperative, especially where rocks have littered the stage from a previous run.
Freddy Loix, co-driven by Sven Smeets, put in a sparkling drive making full use of the Accent WRC"s potential and climbed up through the field in the teeth of ferocious opposition. Running second on the road made progress difficult as they were forced to create a line through the sandy and slippery surface gravel for cars following. But the Belgian crew rose to the challenge driving relatively trouble-free to set a string of competitive times, enabling them to climb the leaderboard.
"The worst thing today was our road position. Second on the road has been a real handicap all day but I am very happy that I didn't lose much time through any mistakes and the car has been great apart from the broken spark plug which I think cost us just 20 seconds," explained Freddy.
In the two days of the rally so far we have always made the right tyre choice and the Michelin's have been great," he continued. "I think we got everything out of the car that there was to get and looking to tomorrow there has to be more possibility because our road position is good and I like those stages."
Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer continued to have problems with their brakes but their performance improved along with the handling. Like Jussi Valimaki, Armin set one of his most competitive stage times on the 40.96km Moksi-Leustu which is a challenge for even the most experienced Finn and saw the end of the rally for Colin McRae.
"I'm quite happy with the way the car is driving. The only problem for me is with the shock absorbers and that's a problem we've had for some time," said Armin. "I'm just not getting the feel and stability in the car so we will try a few things tonight because our road position tomorrow means the conditions of the stages will be different."
Despite its challenges, Moksi-Leustu was exactly the stage that Jussi Valimaki and co-driver Jakke Honkanen were looking forward to and it was on this and the long Ouninpohja 2 that they set their fastest stage times. Unfortunately they dropped some time on SS15 Ehikki as they had to drive the final five kilometres without brakes but they recovered and soon picked up the pace for the stages following.
"It's been a frustrating day because we tried a few things and made bad decisions due to my lack of kilometres on-event and in the car. Although we have done some good testing, this is the furthest I've got in competition," explained the 28-year-old Finn. "I'm happy with the car, we've just gone the wrong way with the changes we made."
He continued: "I'm going to start with the set-up we had on the Exide Rally. There we were running at the front and the settings worked very well for us. Tomorrow we're second on the road and apart from one of the stages, I know them all well and I think we can make the best use of our settings. What is encouraging is that I have learnt a great deal about the car and despite the frustrations I've enjoyed driving it."
News from our rivals
The stages of leg two proved to be cruel to a number of crews resulting in five leading retirements. Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen finished the first stage with an under-bonnet fire, the cause of which was located to a turbo pipe. The crew made repairs but on arrival at the start of Ouninpohja a decision was made to not start the stage due to the amount of oil around the turbo to avoid the possibility of another fire. After a difficult first day, Harri Rovanpera's event saw its end when he went off the road in the first run of the 33.24km Ouninpohja. Toni Gardemeister (Skoda) stalled on the start line and not able to restart, retired. Colin McRae's (Citroën) day didn't go well after arriving one minute early at Ouninpohja 2 and incurring a one-minute penalty before rolling out of the long Moksi-Leutsu. Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the retirement of Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) who was providing nail-biting competition for the lead with Markko Martin (Ford) until SS14 when he lost a front left wheel and broke his suspension, leaving the challenge for the lead to his team-mate Richard Burns. Burns now lies a distant 1min 13sec behind Martin and the same gap ahead of lead Citroën driver Carlos Sainz.
The final day covers the remaining 100.90km west of the Jyväskylä Rally HQ base before crews reach the finish ramp at 15:28hrs.