WRC

Rally Mexico: Leg one summary

Petter Solberg recorded two fastest stage times through the day in his Subaru Impreza, promoting him into the lead but he incurred a 40sec penalty after his car would not start at the time control before the final service. As a result, current FIA...

Petter Solberg recorded two fastest stage times through the day in his Subaru Impreza, promoting him into the lead but he incurred a 40sec penalty after his car would not start at the time control before the final service. As a result, current FIA WRC leader Sébastien Loeb, who was the Norwegian's closest rival, was promoted into the lead. Peugeot's Marcus Grönholm lies 8.4 seconds adrift of the Frenchman in third and a trouble-free run throughout the leg for Carlos Sainz puts the Spaniard in third ahead of Solberg's newly adopted position of fourth. Markko Märtin holds fifth in his Ford, despite a sixth gear spin on the final stage of the day.

Subaru

After ending Leg 1 in first place, Petter Solberg will receive a penalty of 40seconds overnight for a late time control arrival. Mikko Hirvonen has driven competitively and lies in eigth.

Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "It's good, no problems at all. The first stage was a bit damp and the second one completely dry. We based our tyre choice on the first stage and I'm pleased with how fast we were. I pushed as hard as I could without going crazy and the feeling was good, especially on the high-speed sections. It's giving me good confidence which I think is to do with the aerodynamic changes."

Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: "Perhaps I was a little too cautious on the first stage, but the second one was better. We had a right rear puncture on the first stage (SS1), but it didn't cost us much time and the car has been feeling very good. The next stage (SS3) is a tricky one, so we're going to concentrate on setting a good time there, and not push too hard."

Citroen

The Xsara WRCs of Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Carlos Sainz/MarcMarti returned to León tonight lying in first and third positions respectively. They are therefore in excellent places heading into the longest leg of the rally tomorrow.

Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "They are forecasting rain for tomorrow. That is not 'seasonal' weather, and it could create some surprises."

Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: Carlos Sainz drove the first two-stage loop with slightly different suspension settings to those used by his team-mate. "This option could have been very competitive on dry ground, but it proved to be slightly too 'hard' for the damp stages we had today."

Peugeot

Marcus Gronholm has finished the opening leg of the all-new Rally Mexico in second overall, on the provisional podium at the end of day one. Marcus had a fast and reliable run throughout today's four stages and is confident of another strong performance tomorrow. His team mate Harri Rovanpera, making a return to the Peugeot team after an absence of two rallies, has ended day one in sixth.

Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: "Today has been fine, but I still don't think I have 100% confidence," said Marcus. "It's been a reasonably productive four stages, but there is still more to come from myself and the car. This morning's conditions were quite tricky, but I think we can try some different things tomorrow that will help us. The car is still very new and we just have to work with what we've got for now."

Harri Rovanpera / Risto Pietiläinen: "It's not been an easy day as we've had a lot of problems," said Harri, who won the Rally Mexico two years ago. "But the main thing is that we are still in a competitive position, and I plan to make the most of it. The car is still quite new to me, so we are making progress all the time. I'm feeling more and more confident and there's a long way to go."

Ford

Markko Märtin and Michael Park lie fifth in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car while team-mates François Duval and Stéphane Prévot are seventh in a similar car after a day in which the sport's new rules played an important part.

Markko Martin / Michael Park: Märtin and Park held a strong fourth place for most of the day in their Castrol-backed Focus RS but a scary sixth gear spin midway through the final test cost one place. "We were travelling at about 170kph when I entered a left corner too fast. I think the back of the car caught in some loose gravel and the car went sideways for about 150 metres before ending in a ditch. We had to reverse out and dropped about 30 seconds," said Märtin. "Something was missing from me but I'm not sure what. Because of the altitude the engine doesn't produce the same kind of power and I struggled to learn how to drive the car with less power than I'm used to. It's not so nice to drive the car in the high mountains but that's the same for everyone."

Francois Duval / Stephan Prévot: "When the roads are flat then I have no problems. But when they are undulating with lost of crests, then I cannot see properly and that has cost some time today. We will raise the seat tonight,"

Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports had a confident start to the 2004 Corona Rally México with lead crew Gilles and Hervé Panizzi ending the first leg in ninth position. Italian teammates "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore had a more difficult start and finished leg one in 12th place overall after experiencing some brake problems in the first two stages.

Gilles Panizzi / Hervé Panizzi: "We had no technical problems at all this afternoon", said Gilles. "I tried to push a bit more and we went off the road at one point but the car is feeling much better and it's good that we have two Mitsubishi's still running at the end of today with a gearbox that feels much better. I'm quite happy - I just have to be patient as we have a good team of people and the car is improving steadily".

Gigi Galli / Guido D'Amore: "The afternoon was much better than this morning", commented "Gigi". "This car is a more professional car than I am used to driving, so I'm getting used to it slowly but there are still things that I am unfamiliar with and I think it is for this reason that I have been a bit over-cautious with the brakes as I am still driving on the safe side. It will be better once I am more familiar with the best way to use the brakes".

Production WRC

Mitsubishi driver "Dani" Solà has used his Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution to brilliant effect to build up a commanding lead in the Production class after the first leg of the Rally Mexico, the second round of the 2004 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship. Mitsubishis are occupying 13 of the top 20 places in this hotly fought contest, with current FIA Production Car WRC leader Jani Paasonen close behind Solà in third.

Remaining Event Timetable

The second and longest leg of Corona Rally México takes crews into the mountains northeast of León for a further six stages covering 154 competitive kilometers. Stage five (25.58 km, also stage eight) is a very technical route providing a combination of tight and twisty sections contrasted with fast and flowing roads. Spectacular jumps on stage six (23.56 km, also stage nine) should provide and excellent photo opportunities and the flowing roads on the open and spectacular plains of stage seven (28.03 km), repeated as stage ten, are reminiscent of Kenya.

Weather Forecast
Storms and showers are expected to continue.

-fia/wrc-

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About this article
Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team