Rally Mexico: Leg one summary

Following last night's colourful ceremonial start in the historic town of Guanajuato, 38 competitors started Rally Mexico at 0830hrs this morning from the host town of Leon. Petter Solberg (Subaru), debuting his team's 2005 car, led from ...

Following last night's colourful ceremonial start in the historic town of Guanajuato, 38 competitors started Rally Mexico at 0830hrs this morning from the host town of Leon.

Petter Solberg (Subaru), debuting his team's 2005 car, led from the start. Fastest on three stages, he ended an untroubled day with a 20.5sec advantage. Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) was Solberg's closest pursuer throughout, the Finn one of many drivers to suffer from fading brakes during the morning loop. Team-mate Markko Martin is third, the Estonian steadily climbing the leaderboard despite also suffering from fading bakes. Despite a first stage spin and difficulty in leaving the start during the morning stages, Francois Duval (Citroen) led the French team's challenge in fourth. Team-mate Sebastien Loeb was second fastest on the opening stage but detected a damaged right rear damper after the test. He drove the next two stages with the wheel twisted on the axle, dropping almost four minutes. He lies 14th. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) is fifth on only his second event in a World Rally Car, despite a half-spin on the first stage. Jani Paasonen (Skoda) retired after crashing on the second stage.

The second leg follows a similar format, containing two identical loops of three stages in its 146.48km of competition. The first 9km of the opening test of each loop, north of Leon, are based on roads used today but in the opposite direction, with the other two stages located east of the city. Drivers start at 08.30 and return for the final


Marking an impressive debut for the new Subaru Impreza WRC2005, Subaru's Petter Solberg leads the Corona Rally Mexico tonight. Dominating the event from the first stage, the Norwegian clinched three stage wins and ended the day 20.5 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Petter's team-mate Chris Atkinson demonstrated remarkable pace aboard his Impreza. Making his debut as a points-nominated driver for the Subaru team, the young Australian set a string of impressive stage times, including a career-best third, and ended the day in fifth place overall.

Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: I'm very happy to be leading this event with the new car - it's been good fun out there. To be honest I wasn't feeling too confident with the set-up yesterday, and I thought we might struggle a bit, but we've made a few adjustments during the day and already the car is good enough to put us at the top of the leaderboard. I know the car is capable of a lot more though, and until I've got it set-up correctly, I won't be completely happy. But for sure the new car is very good. We'll change a few things tonight and hopefully we can keep improving on tomorrow's Leg. I'm certainly looking forward to it.

Chris Atkinson/Glen Macneall: Yes, not bad. It's been my first day in a WRC car on a gravel rally and to get a top-three stage time felt really good. I've still a lot to learn though and hopefully there'll be some more improvement over the next couple of days. I'm learning more about the set-up of the car all the time, and I think that I can find some more pace, through adjusting the set-up so the car handles more to my liking. At the moment I think the car is spending too much time sideways on the longer corners, so I want to make it a little bit neater. Overall though it's been an encouraging day and I'm hoping to learn more on tomorrow's stages.


Since Thursday's shakedown session, the two Xsaras have met with varying fortunes in Mexico. While the pre-start test session went off without a hitch for Francois Duval, Sebastien Loeb was forced to interrupt his run when the underneath of his car took a hefty knock from a big stone that had been either displaced or dug up by a preceding car.

Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "I did a half spin just after the start of SS1. The stages were more slippery than I thought. It felt as though my engine was running in safety mode for the first few hundred metres of each stage. Then, in a water splash, water found its way into the cockpit and caused some of the pages of Stephane's pacenote book to stick together... Nothing serious!"

Francois Duval / Stephane Prevot: "My starting problem has now been resolved, although the set-up modification I asked for has not changed much : the roads were still very slippery. But given that this is my first gravel outing with the Xsara, I am quite pleased with my day and I intend to keep to the same pace tomorrow!"


BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Roman Kresta and Jan Mozny produced a superb display on today's opening leg of the Corona Rally Mexico to head a four-strong group of Focus RS World Rally Cars on the leaderboard. The Czechs, competing together and in Mexico for the first time, are sixth, heading many drivers familiar with this third round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "The first two stages were very slippery," he said. "I overshot a junction in the second stage and dropped about 15 seconds. I came down a long downhill straight into a square left bend. It was so slippery and I just missed the corner. I had to drive over some stones to get back on the road. Like every other driver, I had troubles with my brakes. About 3km from the end of the second stage the pedal went to the floor and I had to pump it to make it work. I bled the brakes before the third stage and they were better. "I spun and stalled the engine after a tricky crest midway through stage five so I'm not happy with the day and I hope it will be better tomorrow. I think I have been pushing too hard and over-driving the car. My 'flu isn't as bad as yesterday but I have a bad cough and feel very tired," he added.

Roman Kresta/Jan Tomanek: "I hit a bank on the second stage and punctured the right rear tyre and then punctured the left rear on the third stage," said Kresta. "I lost time with the second puncture. On right hand corners the car was sliding because the air pressure wasn't correct, so I was careful. I tried hard this afternoon because I wanted a good road position for tomorrow and I have it. It was hotter this afternoon so I chose harder compound Michelin tyres and it was a good decision. Conditions were hard. Once you move off the clean line and onto the gravel, there is no grip and there was much loose gravel."

Daniel Sola/Amigo: "The plan was to learn about the car and then go faster this afternoon," said Sola. "The feeling was good this morning but the settings were too soft. We made the car a bit harder at the lunchtime service. My engineers knew exactly what I wanted and it worked. I'm not sure of the limits of the car yet. Sometimes I can drive at 100 per cent but on other occasions I am at only 80 per cent because I'm not sure what I can do with the car. I need to learn more, but that will happen the more kilometres I drive," added Sola, whose thoughts for much of the leg have been with the victims of the train bombings in Madrid exactly a year ago today.


The first day's route, which got underway on Friday morning, consisted of two repeated loops of three stages, making up a total competitive distance of nearly 150 kilometres. The Peugeot 307 WRC drivers set three fastest stage times out of a possible six, in hot and tough conditions. Marcus Gronholm ended the leg in second place 10.4 seconds ahead of his team mate Markko Martin in third. Like many drivers, Marcus suffered from overheating rear brakes on the demanding stages. The Peugeot Sport team changed the entire brake assembly on both cars, and tried to improve brake cooling by adjusting the air intakes.

Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: "I was slowed down by a few brake problems which we did not completely solve after the first service. But I've got every confidence that my team will get on top of the problem by tomorrow. The stages are very slippery and the surface is surprisingly hard -- almost like an asphalt rally in some places. But I like the roads a lot and we are still in a good position to challenge for a top result."

Markko Martin/Michael Park: "I started second on the road, so I was probably handicapped by sweeping up loose gravel for everybody behind me on the first two stages. The third stage was astonishingly clean, and I was able to set fastest time. I'm not really able to explain my unsatisfactory times on stages one and four -- which is exactly the same problem I had last year!"


Armin Schwarz ended the opening day of Rally Mexico -- the third round of the 2005 World Rally Championship - in 12th position as the Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team debuted the new Fabia WRC05. Armin has had no technical problems today but, as this is his first time competing in Mexico he has not yet been able to find full speed on stages that are fast and slippery. Jani Paasonen's event has proved to be something of a nightmare so far. At yesterday's shakedown stage, he (along with four other leading drivers) damaged the sump of the Fabia WRC05 when he hit a dip in the road on his final run.

Armin Schwarz/: "I don't know today's stages too well so I started quite conservatively this morning. The roads were quite slippery with a very fine layer of dust and without gravel crews we don't know exactly where we will find grip. There is nothing wrong with the car -- I just have to improve my confidence."

Jani Paasonen/Janni Vainikka: "I had a really good start to the event with sixth fastest on the opening stage. However the second stage was quite slippery and the car was very nervous. I damaged the left rear corner about 3kms into the stage but the biggest problem came with 8kms to go. There was a fast right into a left hand corner. I took the right too fast and couldn't make the left-hand corner so we went straight off and couldn't get back to the road. It was my fault -- there was nothing wrong with the car at all."


After the opening leg of the 2005 Corona Rally Mexico, the Finnish Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 crews of Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen lie in seventh position and team-mates Gilles Panizzi and Herve Panizzi hold 11th position in the second Lancer WRC05, after a challenging day in the Mexican mountains.

Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: This morning my brake pedal went soft but actually everybody had problems with brakes on the same stages", said Harri. "We hardened the damper settings during the service today and after that the car handled much better and we had less movement but with that, we had a little less grip too. I think for tomorrow we will stay with the same settings as this afternoon and I will push a bit harder".

Gigi Galli/Guido D'Amore: "This afternoon was even more difficult than this morning but we had some problems", commented Gilles. "We had two more punctures in stages four and five and then in the last stage the punctures caused us to spin. I think the settings we had this morning were better so maybe we will go back to that for tomorrow".


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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team