The drama began late last night when leader Petter Solberg (Subaru) received a five minute penalty after his car was illegally pushed into the final service park when it refused to start and he dropped to 13th. However, the Norwegian was fastest...
The drama began late last night when leader Petter Solberg (Subaru) received a five minute penalty after his car was illegally pushed into the final service park when it refused to start and he dropped to 13th. However, the Norwegian was fastest on all six stages to climb to fifth!
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) therefore started in the lead but the Frenchman's car landed on a rock after a jump on stage six. The impact cracked the sump and although the crew tried to make repairs on the following liaison section, the oil leaked from the engine and they retired. Midway through the previous stage the power steering broke on Marcus Grönholm's (Peugeot) car and he drove that test and the following two with no power assistance. He lost almost five minutes, dropping to seventh before regaining a place.
Team-mate Harri Rovanperä dropped 16 minutes on stage seven when his car's front right suspension arm broke shortly before the finish. The Finn stopped to remove the wheel before completing the stage on three wheels. Carlos Sainz (Citroen) is the closest challenger to Märtin, although he drove the afternoon stages on the same rubber he used this morning when his team mistakenly nominated exactly the same tyres.
Behind the Spaniard is Mikko Hirvonen (Subaru), the Finn escaping with damaged suspension after hitting a rock on the final stage of the first loop. Gearbox problems this morning and an overheating engine this afternoon slowed Gilles Panizzi (Mitsubishi) while team-mate Gigi Galli retired on the first stage with broken suspension.
Ford BP Rallye Sport drivers Markko Märtin and Michael Park led the Corona Rally Mexico after today's dramatic second leg through the tough mountain roads of central Mexico. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car headed Carlos Sainz by 14.5 seconds with Ford BP team-mates François Duval and Stéphane Prévot 18.1seconds behind in third place in a similar car, after a day in which the demanding gravel tracks proved too much for many of their rivals.
Markko Martin / Michael Park: "It was a strange morning," said 28-year-old Märtin. "I finished yesterday in fifth, started this morning in fourth and then within two stages I was leading. But I'm not complaining! My driving was better than yesterday but still not perfect. I'm fighting against myself and still can't find exactly the right rhythm so it was all a bit messy sometimes." "We always have to hope, but to expect a lead like this yesterday was too optimistic to think about. It's a good example of how unpredictable rallying is. We have to expect the unexpected and hope it doesn't happen to us. It's been hard work today, certainly not a joy ride, but I'm happy and I have to ensure I don't make a mistake tomorrow," added the Estonian.
Francois Duval / Stephan Prévot: "We've had a really good attack today," he said. "Tomorrow will be exciting but I would prefer to finish third than risk going off the road chasing second. I need to finish in the points for Ford and I need to finish to improve my experience here so to go off wouldn't be good. I've made no mistakes and the car has been absolutely perfect but there's still a long way to go."
Tyre wear was Carlos Sainz's main concern after he competed over 150 kilometeres of stages without a tyre change. Sebastien Loeb retired at the start of SS7, broken oil sump.
Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: No comments.
Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: "It wasn't easy. That last stage we had to start with a puncture and two left tyres on the right side... We're second and it's not bad. Rallies are rallies and strange things happen. The worst decision was to start with the puncture because when it had done so many kilometres the mousse might not work."
Petter Solberg and the new Subaru Impreza WRC2004 dominated the action on today's second Leg of Corona Rally Mexico. Solberg was fastest on each of the day's six stages, to close the gap on the leader by more than 1min 31sec and move up the leaderboard from 13th to fifth place. His Subaru team-mate Mikko Hirvonen also moved up the points table and ended the day in overnight fourth. With five more stages remaining, both Subaru drivers are well poised ahead of tomorrow's final Leg.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: It's been a very, very good day. I haven't been going crazy and this was the speed I planned to be doing today anyway. Last night I was so fed up, I really didn't want to drive at all. But today after the first stage I thought well, maybe this isn't so bad after all. I'm trying to do my best, I'm happy with the car and my driving has felt good all day. I'm just hoping to do the same again tomorrow.
Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: On those last three stages, for me it was the wrong tyre choice. Petter drives more smoothly than I do and half way through SS9 I began to struggle. I had a small spin in SS10, but the car is in one piece and I've had no problems otherwise. The stages have been much better than they were yesterday and are drier with fewer stones and the car's running extremely well. For tomorrow, I'm going to try and find the speed again, we'll just have to see.
Both Marcus Gronholm and Harri Rovanpera have hit problems on the second leg of Rally Mexico - but neither driver is giving up the fight. Marcus ends the day sixth after suffering a power steering failure in the morning, while Harri is 16th as a result of a broken steering arm on the third stage of the day.
Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: "It was very frustrating to have all these problems as I am sure that we could have been challenging for the lead otherwise. We've all got to work hard to make sure that none of these failures happen again. It was an extremely difficult morning and my arms felt very sore, but the afternoon was a bit better until the hydraulics failed on the road section before the final stage. This meant that we had no differential pressure for the last stage and we also had to use the manual gear-change. Things can only get better tomorrow !"
Harri Rovanpera / Risto Pietiläinen: "It was a real pity, as the steering arm broke without warning on a right-hand corner. We spoke to our engineers who told us to remove the wheel, and then we were able to limp out of the stage. But 16 minutes is too much time to lose, so now it is a question of gaining as much experience of the car as possible, in order to help us for the future. We've also got a few things to test tomorrow. When we have no problems the car feels very good, and I think we have shown that we have the pace to run near the front"
Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sport experienced a difficult second leg of Corona Rally México under bright sunshine and 27° C but Gilles and Hervé Panizzi ended the day in eighth position despite battling with transmission and engine complaints. Team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore were unlucky as a damaged suspension on the opening stage of the day forced the Italian crew into retirement. Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sport lead crew Gilles and Hervé Panizzi suffered transmission problems only minutes after leaving the early morning service and had to struggle through the first group of stages, although they managed to hold onto their eighth position by the midday service.
Gilles Panizzi / Hervé Panizzi: "I don't know what the cause of the transmission problem was this morning but it was exactly the same as we had in Monte Carlo", explained Gilles. "In service we changed back to yesterday's gearbox and it felt fantastic again but we then had a small problem with the engine. On the slower parts where there were lots of corners it overheated but then it was OK again in the faster sections and we had no real problems on the final two stages. The roads were also hard on the shock absorbers and they received quite a beating".
Gigi Galli / Guido D'Amore: "We're not too sure what happened to be honest. The stages were quite rough and I think that was the reason the front right suspension broke about two thirds of the way through the first stage this morning. We managed to make repairs and drive out but we couldn't continue", said "Gigi". "I'm a bit disappointed as I really need to cover as many kilometers as possible in this car for experience. But with rallying you have to expect the unexpected".
Mitsubishi Motors driver "Dani" Solà has pulled out a commanding lead in the Production class on the Corona Rally México, the second round of the 2004 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, and is the clear favorite to achieve another victory for the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
Remaining Event Timetable
Tomorrow's final leg of the Rally Mexico consists of six stages, once more split into two groups of three. The first car has an early start from Leon at 0630, and the winner is expected on the finish ramp at 1430.
Chance of storms and showers.