Tour of Corsica - leg 2 Delecour remains on target for points in Corsica FranÃ§ois Delecour and Daniel Grataloup maintained their strong challenge for a points finish during today's second day of the Tour of Corsica rally. The Ford Martini pair...
Tour of Corsica - leg 2
Delecour remains on target for points in Corsica
François Delecour and Daniel Grataloup maintained their strong challenge for a points finish during today's second day of the Tour of Corsica rally. The Ford Martini pair ended the longest leg of the three-day event in fifth at the wheel of their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car after another tough day over winding asphalt roads in the mountains of the Mediterranean island.
Team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist are 12th in their Focus RS. The British pair hit problems late in the day after a gritty performance which saw them climb the leaderboard and move within striking distance of joining Delecour in a points placing on this 12th round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Conditions north of Ajaccio, where all but one of today's seven speed tests covering 155.55km were based, were very different from yesterday. Early morning sunshine gave way to overcast skies and when the rain eventually began to fall, the wet roads brought a big improvement in the performance of the Pirelli tyres fitted to both Focus RS cars.
Delecour posted a third and fourth fastest time on the wet roads to climb to fourth. He looked comfortable until a big vibration in a rear tyre on the final 30.11km stage caused a complete loss of brakes and cost 45 seconds to drop him to sixth.
"It was quite frightening on the stage because I didn't know what the problem was," said 39-year-old Delecour. "I thought perhaps I had made a mistake when we swapped wheels and hadn't tightened the wheel nuts properly. I wondered whether it would be safer to stop when we lost the brakes but we decided to carry on, but more slowly than normal." The problem was traced to broken a EMI anti-deflation system in the rear left tyre, the vibration knocking the brake pads back into the calipers.
"It is forecast to rain tonight and also tomorrow. If it does then I think we have a chance of re-passing Petter Solberg. That's my aim," added Delecour.
McRae also benefited from the rain. Third quickest time and a stage win on the next test, a remarkable 10.9sec faster than anyone else, propelled the 33-year-old Scot up the leaderboard to seventh. But on the penultimate test McRae hit a rock which damaged the power steering. He had to complete the next stage before repairs could be made and the time loss of 4min 30sec dropped him down the order.
"We hit a rock about 10km from the end of stage 11," said McRae. "It forced the sump guard up against the power steering pump and broke the pump. There was nothing we could do but struggle on through the final stage but on such twisty roads it was very hard work. It was disappointing because earlier in the day when it was raining we pulled back quite a lot of time. Our tyres certainly work better in the wet."
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson said: "One point would be a bonus for the team now but I think that is unlikely as François is not nominated to score. Hopefully we will get all our bad luck out the way here and look forward to the remaining rallies in Australia and Britain."
News from our Rivals
Jesus Puras (Citroen) kept Gilles Panizzi (Peugeot) at bay with five fastest times from the seven stages, extending his lead to 23.5sec. Didier Auriol (Peugeot) drew level with Panizzi after the opening stage but whereas the Sanremo Rally winner escaped the rain on the next test, Auriol did not, losing almost 30sec in the wet after narrowly escaping going off the road twice. Delecour split team-mates Petter Solberg and Markko Martin (both Subaru) who had no mechanical problems, although Martin suffered daylong back pain which caused him to black out briefly at one point. Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) retired from fourth when the Finn tore a rear wheel from his car after a collision 2km from the end of stage 8. Although he finished the stage the damage was too severe to continue. The other major retirement was Armin Schwarz (Skoda) who stopped for safety reasons after his car's power steering failed in stage 9. Risto Mannisenmaki, co-driver to Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi), will remain in hospital in Marseille over the weekend following yesterday's accident. He will undergo an operation on his back on Monday morning and surgeons say he is expected to make a full recovery.
FIA Super 1600 Championship
All four surviving Ford Pumas in the junior world championship category came through the second leg. Norwegian Martin Stenshorne, third in the championship, is the top Puma pilot in 10th, despite dropping four minutes after stopping to change a puncture in the final stage. He is followed by Paraguay's Alejando Galanti in 11th, Frenchman Patrick Magaud, who punctured in stage 10, in 12th and Saladin Mazlan in 18th.
The final leg is the shortest of the three. After leaving Ajaccio at 08.50, drivers face just two loops of two long stages to the south-east of the town comprising 111.68km. They return for the finish at 14.50 after 394.04km of competition in total. <pre> Leaderboard after Leg 2 1. J Puras/M Marti E Citroen Xsara 2hr 47min 24.7sec 2. G Panizzi/H Panizzi F Peugeot 206 2hr 47min 48.2sec 3. D Auriol/D Giraudet F Peugeot 206 2hr 48min 14.6sec 4. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza 2hr 50min 03.1sec 5. F Delecour/D Grataloup F Ford Focus RS 2hr 50min 47.3sec 6. M Martin/M Park EE Subaru Impreza 2hr 51min 05.1sec 7. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 2hr 51min 43.9sec 8. H Rovanperä/R Pietilainen FIN Peugeot 206 2hr 52min 49.3sec 9. P Liatti/C Cassina I Hyundai Accent 2hr 52min 59.3sec 10 A McRae/D Senior GB Hyundai Accent 2hr 53min 25.0sec