A Win To Mark Maiden Visit To Japan ? Round 11 of the sixteen-round 2004 World Championship, Rally Japan is the second all-new event of the season, the others being Mexico (March) and Sardinia (October). Peugeot 307 WRC drivers...
A Win To Mark Maiden Visit To Japan ?
Round 11 of the sixteen-round 2004 World Championship, Rally Japan is the second all-new event of the season, the others being Mexico (March) and Sardinia (October). Peugeot 307 WRC drivers Marcus Grönholm and Harri Rovanperä go to the event with the firm intention of being the first winners of the WRC newcomer!
"Given that our situation in both championships is now compromised, our intention is to finish the year with panache," indicates Peugeot Sport Director Corrado Provera. The mission for the team's two Finnish drivers couldn't any clearer therefore: victory. In the Drivers' championship, Marcus Grönholm counts 42 points to his name and still figures in the leading pack. Currently classified in 5th position, he is 5 points adrift of Markko Märtin, 4 points behind Carlos Sainz and 2 points down on Petter Solberg. So there is still everything to play for between these four adversaries, while Sébastien Loeb has carved out a significant gap at the top of the provisional standings.
Organised in the country's northernmost island, Rally Japan was previously known as the Hokkaido Rally. With its wide open spaces, the event has for a long time been seen as the highlight of Japanese rallying and, in association with the leading Japanese media group Mainichi, its organisers have progressively developed it with a view to its inclusion one day in the world series.
In sporting terms, the rally will be a new event for everyone, which makes predictions very difficult. The stages, which are run on what is described as reasonably smooth gravel, are varied while grip is expected to be at a premium, and they have been compared with those of Finland or Scotland, two events in which Marcus Grönholm has traditionally gone well. Having given the Peugeot 307 WRC its first win on home soil at the beginning of August, the two-times World Champion has but one objective: to score further victories. Will the next one come in Japan?
Peugeot's drivers have the necessary qualities to shine in the land of the rising sun, and the 2004 season's statistics reveal that the Peugeot 307 WRC certainly has the speed! Of all the WRC cars present in the championship, the French machine is the one that has posted the highest number of fastest stage times since the start of the year. And without his retirements, including on the opening stage in Germany, it is probable that Marcus Grönholm, who came 2nd on last year's Deutschland Rally, would have further boosted this statistic.
While the former World Champion should be at his ease in Japan, his team-mate Harri Rovanperä is also in an optimistic, determined mood: "I'm convinced Japan is a great chance for us to win again. The team has put in a fantastic job this year to make the 307 WRC a superb car," he affirms. "OK, this is a new event, so we have no data of our own for the set-up, but the 307 has already shown that it is particularly effective on the loose. People in the sport often suggest that the Finns, the Brits and the French perform better in their home events which they know by heart. I don't necessarily agree with that view. But this rally will in any case be new for everyone, so we will all be on an equal footing. It's going to be very interesting to see who comes out on top," concludes the Finn.