Rally Finland: Mitsubish leg one summary

ROVANPERA SEVENTH IN THE MITSUBISHI LANCER WRC05 "Gigi" Galli out of the leg after going off the road The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen hold seventh position at the end of the opening leg of...

"Gigi" Galli out of the leg after going off the road

The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen hold seventh position at the end of the opening leg of Rally Finland, the tenth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido d'Amore - in their debut outing in Finland in a World Rally Car - went off the road in the first stage today and were forced onto the sidelines.

"Today's result is not what I expected, but Harri had some problems and at least he finished the leg in seventh position", said Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports. "It was a pity for Gigi to make such a mistake, but this is down to a lack of experience in a World Rally Car; it is very different to competing in Group N. Luckily we can fix the car and give him the chance to gain more knowledge and test his pace notes more. Tomorrow I will ask Harri to try to reach his speed, as today he couldn't".

Rally Finland got underway last night with the first run around the popular Killeri super special stage on the outskirts of Jyväskylä. Harri Rovanperä led the team's assault, the Finn second fastest around the 2.06 kilometer stage, while team-mate Gigi Galli was just 0.8 seconds adrift of stage victor Petter Solberg to start in fifth position this morning. Today, the route took in seven forest stages before returning to Killeri, completing a total of 144.27 competitive kilometers in the opening leg. Variable weather conditions greeted the crews, persistent rain during the super special stage and overnight made for tricky conditions, although the hordes of fans who pour to the event from all over Europe eventually enjoyed warm sunshine, spectacular high-speed action and mind-blowing jumps throughout the afternoon.

Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen have maintained a consistent pace, however the Finns are struggling to find the speed they know is realistic on their home rally.

"The problem we have is that the gear ratio is too long", said Harri. "It affected us quite badly today as you need more power in these softer conditions. At flat out speed it just doesn't feel like it. Tomorrow's stages are faster and more flowing on a harder surface, so this will help us more than it has today. Tires have been good and I have no problems here at all. The leaderboard seems to have been quite consistent today, but we have to keep pushing to protect our position".

Team-mates Gigi Galli and Guido d'Amore were on the sidelines early this morning, their first outing in Finland in a World Rally Car ending in considerable disappointment. The Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 crew went off the road in the first stage, damaging the suspension and taking the front left wheel off. While the Italians made every effort to get back on the stage, the damage and lack of time to make repairs got the better of them. After significant bodywork and parts repairs during service, the crew will however be back in action tomorrow, ensuring they take every opportunity to learn and familiarize themselves with the specialized Finnish roads.

"It was my fault, a stupid mistake", said Gigi of the accident 19 kilometers into SS 2. "On a long left corner, which was a bit more slippery than the previous corners, the car went too sideways and I couldn't get it back. A wheel went off the road and that was that. There were about 20 spectators that tried to get us back on the road, but with the front left wheel off it was difficult and we were forced to park up in a safe place. As we were doing this, Jani Paasonen (Škoda) was trying to pass us and he went a little off the road too and for that I am sorry". Paasonen was however able to continue but then retired in SS 5 from damaging the suspension after a heavy landing.

Commenting on the day, Yasuo Tanaka, the team's Technical Director said: "Technically we have had no major problems and the reliability has been good, it's just a shame Harri is not happy with the gearing and that Gigi went off the road. Engineering-wise, normally the gear ratio we have suits these conditions; hopefully it will be better tomorrow when the conditions are different. For the future we need to make more careful set-up decisions during our tests".

The second leg of Rally Finland is a classic in the FIA World Rally Championship. Wide, fast and flowing stages to the south of Jyväskylä, close to Jamsä, are some of the finest in the world and the leg includes the breath-taking Ouninpohja stage, renowned for its roller-coaster jumps and blind crests. For safety reasons, the road has been split into two separate stages, but still promises spectacular action.

News from our rivals

Marcus Grönholm, in his home rally, has taken the advantage by winning five of today's eight stages to claim an overnight lead of 5.8 seconds over Sébastien Loeb. Both have enjoyed a trouble-free day, although a stall in SS 5 lost Loeb precious seconds and the co-drivers in both cars experienced back pain after a massive jump in SS 5. Third position has been taken by Markko Märtin, the Estonian climbing on to the provision podium when Petter Solberg narrowly avoided disaster after losing the boot lid and rear spoiler in SS 8. The lack of downforce caused the Subaru to nose-dive after a jump and the Norwegian ended up skidding down a ditch before rejoining the road. Despite significant panel damage, Solberg was able to continue. Toni Gardemeister holds fourth in the lead Ford, although the Finn has complained the Focus has been sliding too much in the wet and damp conditions. He nevertheless overhauled Solberg in the final super special stage. Aside from Galli and Paasonen, the only other leading retirement was that of Christopher Atkinson, the Subaru driver damaging the suspension in SS 4.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Harri Rovanpera , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Jani Paasonen , Risto Pietilainen , Gianluigi Galli , Markko Martin