Ford World Rally Team drivers Marcus GrÃ¶nholm and Timo Rautiainen lead Rally GB after controlling today's opening leg in south Wales. The Finns, winners of six rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship this season, were fastest on four of the...
Ford World Rally Team drivers Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen lead Rally GB after controlling today's opening leg in south Wales. The Finns, winners of six rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship this season, were fastest on four of the six speed tests in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car to build a 25.8sec advantage. Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen were second, but retired midway through the leg on safety grounds after a heavy impact damaged their car's roll cage. Petter Solberg (Subaru) overcame a first stage problem when his car twice stopped at a hairpin to settle into fourth. He climbed to second this afternoon with a stage win and a shared fastest time with Grönholm. Manfred Stohl (Peugeot) was in the top three throughout the day, despite a puncture on stage four. Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford) excelled on his first drive in a 2006-specification Focus RS to hold fourth. Team-mates Dani Sordo and Xevi Pons (both Citroen) were fifth and sixth, although Pons lost time when he spun on the second stage and punctured on the penultimate test. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) held fifth but dropped two places after his car stopped for 45sec on the final stage while Henning Solberg (Peugeot) lost five minutes after sliding into a ditch on stage three. Apart from Hirvonen, the main retirement was Andreas Aigner (Skoda) who rolled out on stage five.
Kronos Total Citroen
Dani Sordo/Marc Marti and Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio end the day separated by less than a second, in fifth and sixth places respectively. Both drivers overcame small setbacks at the very start of the rally to fight their way back up the order - and this will continue to be their mission over the remainder of the event.
Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: "What I really enjoyed was the excellent balance of my Xsara in the afternoon, after we made a few changes at midday service. There was a big difference compared to the first loop, and it was really easy to drive. I feel a lot more confident now, and I think it's perfectly possible for me to improve my position tomorrow. "
Dani Sordo/Marc Marti: " When you're driving on these Welsh stages for the first time, which have so little grip and change constantly, it's always good to get to the second run through them. Only then do you have a chance to drive them properly, after correcting your notes at high speed the first time through. I've got Jari-Matti Latvala less than 20 seconds in front of me and he is a tempting target. I've got to try: particularly as Xevi is pushing so hard behind me. "
The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team is once again surprising the rally world at the "Wales Rally GB", the last run to the FIA World Rally Championship. After day one the Austrian OMV Team Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor lies in sensational third overall place. Not to mention that Stohl achieved overall best time on special stage four. Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud (Nor) weren't as lucky on Friday morning. Following a slip the Norwegian duo lost almost five minutes.
Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "It is great when you can convert your good feeling into good results. Our car performs faultlessly and we can keep up with the enormous speed of the top. This gives a boost to our self-confidence for the next two days. And the slippery road conditions are also to our advantage."
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "When you want to keep up with the top you've got to take a higher risk. With us it didn't work out today. Now all that counts is to attack. I am convinced that we will be able to move up several places during the next two days."
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen lead Rally GB after controlling today's opening leg in south Wales. The Finns, winners of six rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship this season, were fastest on four of the six speed tests in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car to build a 25.8sec advantage. Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen were second, but retired midway through the leg on safety grounds after a heavy impact damaged their car's roll cage.
Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "It was normal Rally GB conditions this morning with plenty of mud, but no standing water. First through the stages was the best place to be in those conditions. We pushed hard but took no risks. This afternoon I was not in such a fighting mood, I drove a little too safely and Petter closed in. But I am where I wanted to be tonight and tomorrow I will push hard again."
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "I just slid wide and went over some rocks on the outside of the corner. It was a stupid mistake because there was plenty of room. I wanted to carry on and the car was still competitive but it's a safety issue so we cannot. It's a big shame because BP-Ford was first and second and that would have been a great way to end the season."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford
For the first time in its short history in the sport, the Stobart VK M-Sport team ends the leg of a World Rally Championship event challenging for a podium position. Despite this being his first event in a Ford Focus RS WRC 06, Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala turned in a stunning charge to end the day's six stages just outside Swansea in fourth position.
Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "This morning was quite difficult. I found it hard to read the grip in the road. On some rallies you look at the surface of the stage and you get a good idea of what kind of grip you're going to get, but that's not the case here. The first stage was good, I felt relaxed and everything was going well - it felt like New Zealand again. Then in the second stage the surface was quite different, it wasn't as good. Resolfen is where there are the long, long corners which tighten up at the end and it's in there that you need to know about the grip. If you're going to go into the corner committed, you need to know you can rely on surface not changing and that wasn't the case. My notes weren't ideal in that stage, either, they weren't descriptive enough about where the road began to tighten. The afternoon was better, but we had a small problem with the anti-lag system which was trying to force the car on instead of braking, which made things quite lively from time to time."
Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila: "It was still taking me some time to get used to the speed of the car this morning and the conditions weren't all that easy to be learning the car. The grip was changing a lot of the time, we didn't know what to expect in some corners. The times have been good - I was happy about that and I have to say I was quite surprised as well. I didn't expect to be so high up. This afternoon I have felt confident with the car, but the road has been strange - the road has got slower. The surface is more slippery this afternoon and the tyre maybe hasn't cut through as much as we would have liked. It's so important for me to be at the finish. This year I have made some mistakes when I have been under pressure, I can't do this on this rally."
The Subaru World Rally Team ended the opening leg of Rally GB with two cars in the points and with Petter Solberg in a strong second place. At the end of the day, the Norwegian was on top form and set two fastest stages times. On the final run through Rheola, he took eight seconds off rally leader Marcus Gronholm, setting up the prospect of a fight for the lead tomorrow. Chris Atkinson was battling for fourth position until an electrical glitch cost him time. He is still in the points in seventh position.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "I've been trying very, very hard today, let me tell you, but I think that's the only way to go if we're going to stand a chance of winning. I must say though that things are looking good and I'm feeling very positive. It's a shame we lost about 10 seconds on the first stage this morning when we stalled in a hairpin but we took a good amount of time back on the last stage and that was good fun. It's been ages since we were able to take so much time from anybody and that's very motivating. I hope we can continue like this tomorrow - I think it is going to be a very interesting day."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "It's been a difficult day, we've been struggling to find a good set-up and haven't had enough confidence in the car to be able to push flat-out. I thought we were going to be able to finish the day in fourth place but then what looks like an electrical problem cost us about a minute and ruined that plan. Tomorrow we'll wait and see, it's difficult to predict what we'll be able to do, but we'll certainly give it our best shot."
Red Bull Skoda
Finland's Harri Rovanpera had a solid and very consistent performance in the early stages of Wales Rally GB. After posting 10th to 13th fastest times, he is classified tenth overall and stands a good chance of getting into a points-paying position over the course of the next two days:
Andreas Aigner/Klaus Wicha: "I hit a puddle of water in a right-hand bend about eight kilometres from the finish. The Fabia lost its balance, skidded off the road and into a meadow, where unfortunately a tree stump obstructed our path. We hit the obstacle with no more than 40 kph, but the car cleared it and turned over twice. Neither Klaus nor myself got hurt in the incident. The mechanics won't be able to decide whether we'll be able to continue tomorrow by means of SupeRally before later this evening."
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietiläinen: "We had a start early this morning that wasn't too bad, but far from perfect. Our tyre choice was the right one, but in the afternoon conditions changed and my compound turned out to be too soft. I also had a spin on the final stage but I was still able to post a top ten time. I will go all-out tomorrow to protect my chance of scoring WRC points."