Rally Mexico: Mitsubishi leg one summary

Panizzi Sets Pace For Mitsubishi on Rally Mexico Mitsubishi in ninth after strong run by Panizzi Galli back in competition after early brake problems Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports had a confident start to the 2004 Corona Rally México with...

Panizzi Sets Pace For Mitsubishi on Rally Mexico
Mitsubishi in ninth after strong run by Panizzi
Galli back in competition after early brake problems

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.

The first world status Corona Rally México began on Thursday evening in spectacular style with a colorful and vibrant opening ceremony in the ancient city of Guanajuato, 60km from the León Rally HQ base. The opening leg proper on Friday took crews through 108km of competition over four special stages. Overnight rain rendered the driving conditions muddy and wet on the first group of stages but 26°C and bright sunshine soon dried out the roads making way for a drier run in the afternoon. The 29.06 km Ortega-La Esperanza opening stage, repeated in the afternoon as SS4, took crews to the highest altitude that crews will see on the event and sets the record as the highest stage of the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship.

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sport lead crew Gilles and Hervé Panizzi had a good day and four ninth fastest stage times means the French crew hold ninth position overall, despite experiencing an oil leak on the first stage of the day resulting from damage after hitting a rock.

"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".

Italian team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore made a cautious start after losing their brakes at the end of the first stage, forcing them to contest the 22.61 km Santana-Cubilete stage following with minimal brake assistance. Their Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04 returned to a fit state of health after work in service by Mitsubishi technicians and permitted the crew a better run on the afternoon's stages. "Gigi's" regained confidence resulted in a tenth and eleventh fastest stage time, the likeable Italians quickly working their way back up the leaderboard from 28th to 12th position.

"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".

"The brake problems that we had at the beginning of the day we had again at the end of stages three and four", explained MMSP Technical Director, Mario Fornaris. "The good news is that we have improved the transmission and it has given us no problems".

Adding to their comments, Sven Quandt, MMSP's Head of Motorsport, said: "Today was not easy for us but we have finished it despite a few problems and both Gilles and "Gigi" found a good pace on stages three and four so we can look forward to tomorrow".

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.

News from our rivals...

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.

Mitsubishi Driver Sola Sets Scorching Pace on Rally Mexico

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.

The Corona Rally México is a new addition to the FIA World Rally Championship, but it has produced its share of surprises even for those familiar with the mountainous terrain around León and Guanajuato in the north of the country. Dry weather is anticipated at this time of year, but the first stage was slippery thanks to overnight rain and a violent hailstorm at the very end of the leg slowed most of the Production runners. It has added to the challenges posed by varied, testing stages and high altitudes that tax engines to the limit.

Former FIA Junior World Rally Champion "Dani" Solà has made full use of last year's experience to stamp his authority on the class from the outset in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. "I drive fast, but not maximum attack. I like the stages, the car is good and I want to show that I can be fast on gravel. So far it works well", Solà explained. The Spaniard is leading the Production class ahead of Subaru driver "Toshi" Arai followed by Finn Jani Paasonen.

Spanish Mitsubishi driver Xavier Pons put in an encouraging performance to hold eighth place in his Group N Lancer Evolution on his first attempt at the rally. "I am very happy with the rally so far. We try not to take too many risks and I hope we can score some championship points", Pons said.

Japanese driver Fumio Nutahara is contesting the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship for the first time and has given more than a glimpse of his potential by recording a fastest stage time on the third special and holds ninth in his Lancer Evolution after the first leg.

Former Polish Rally Champion Thomas Kuchar holds 11th in the Production class followed by local favorite Mexican Ricardo Triviño and Mitsubishi driver Kristian Sohlberg, increasing his WRC experience on this event, lies just behind after dropping time on the opening stage with a puncture.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Jani Paasonen , Hervé Panizzi , Kristian Sohlberg , Guido D'Amore , Fumio Nutahara , Xavier Pons , Ricardo Trivino , Markko Martin