OMV Peugeot Norway WRT finishes 5th at Japan premiere * Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor win four points for WRC driver ranking * Rally Japan surprises OMV driver most of all * 27th victory makes Loeb sole record holder The OMV Peugeot Norway...
OMV Peugeot Norway WRT finishes 5th at Japan premiere
* Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor win four points for WRC driver ranking
* Rally Japan surprises OMV driver most of all
* 27th victory makes Loeb sole record holder
The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team has reason to celebrate their Japan premiere. The reward for 345,72 special stage kilometres of hard work: fifth place and four points for the driver ranking of the FIA World Rally Championship. Thus Manfred Stohl consolidated fifth intermediate place. During the last three days the OMV driver relied on the experience of 104 WRC-runs and was nevertheless surprised by more than the kindness of the Japanese people.
Manfred Stohl knows what is expected of him. As a top driver of the FIA World Rally Championship it is his job to win as many points as possible. A job that the OMV driver accomplishes very well. The Japan-greenhorn reached the top 5 without any problem and was best-placed privateer. To the 34-year- old Austrian the fact that he didn't reach the podium was a mixture of lack of knowledge of the course and the difference between works and private teams. Stohl: "I am really very satisfied with this result even though I would have loved to be on the podium. But you can't count on even scoring points prior to such a tough rally. At today's rallies experience only goes so far. It is much more important to compete in one and the same run as often as possible. These four points are obviously also important for the driver World Championship. Prior to this season my goal was to be among the top five. I was able to consolidate this place and even break away from Solberg as far as points are concerned."
At the beginning of day three Stohl tried to attack Australian Subaru works driver Chris Atkinson in front of him. But this enterprise was already cut short on the second special stage. A suspicious noise the Peugeot 307 WRC was making turned out to be a gearbox problem. "We had lost fourth gear. Normally this isn't a grave problem since you only have to change swiftly from third to fifth gear. Still, there is always the danger that the whole gearbox might suffer and therefore we became more cautious", explains the OMV driver. The mechanics of Bozian-Racing did a great job at the service and exchanged the gearbox way short of the alotted timeframe. Manfred Stohl thanked the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team by reaching a top result. And the Austrian felt confirmed in his prediction: "I had already said prior to the rally that there would be many surprises. And I am the one who is most surprised of all since I hadn't imagined the Rally Japan to be that difficult. I also would have expected Atkinson to be farther ahead. I never would have thought that I would fight a close duel with him for two whole days." In three weeks, on the other hand, there shouldn't be any surprises for the OMV driver in store in Cyprus. Last year he had finished second there - the best result of his career.
Thrill to the last
Sebastien Loeb (Fra/Citroen Xsara WRC) and Marcus Grönholm (Fin/Ford Focus WRC) fought a duel to behold. At the end of the second day Loeb had still been 25,6 seconds ahead. The double World Champion looked like the certain winner. But Grönholm (leader after day one) didn't capitulate. The Finn flew over the gravel roads of the island Hokkaido. In the end he only lacked 5,6 seconds to repeat last year's victory. Even though Grönholm reached more special stage best times (15), Loeb (11 SS best times) was more consistent and didn't make any mistakes. It was the first victory in Japan for the French double World Champion but the 27th of his career - which makes him sole record holder in rally history. Third place at the Rally Japan went to Mikko Hirvonen (Fin/Ford).
-credit: omv peugeot norway