Rally of Great Britain: Mitsubishi preview

MITSUBISHI WRC CREWS POISED FOR FORESTRY ACTION Rovanperä and Galli set for mixed conditions in Wales The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team completed its final preparations for Wales Rally GB this morning and both crews are focused on ...

Rovanperä and Galli set for mixed conditions in Wales

The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team completed its final preparations for Wales Rally GB this morning and both crews are focused on achieving their personal objectives in this, the 12th round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Harri Rovanperä/Risto Pietiläinen will be pushing hard for a top result, while "Gigi" Galli/Guido d'Amore are set on gaining experience in their first competitive outing in the Welsh forests.

"Everything went well for us during shakedown; just one small intermittent problem with the brakes on Harri's car", commented Principal Rally Engineer Roger Estrada. "The car and tires are working well and the drivers seem happy, so we are all hoping we can make a good result ahead of Rally Japan".

Hosted in Cardiff but based around the service park near Swansea, 71 kilometers to the west, Wales Rally GB is renowned for its inclement weather and, even though it is in its second year run in September, conditions today were akin to the November days of old. Persistent rain during the shakedown provided standing water, wet and muddy conditions, keeping the drivers on their toes ahead of the start of one of the oldest rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Some of Harri Rovanperä's best results in the series have come in Rally GB and from the Finn's nine outings he has been on the podium twice and had a number of other top results. He is determined to push hard in an event he enjoys.

"Yes, I like this event and have many good results", he said. "The weather is always something to talk about here, because normally it is wet, and I think we have an interesting weekend ahead. The car is very similar to the Finland specification and I think our Pirelli tires will work well here, as usual. For me, I hope it dries out a bit for Saturday and Sunday, but we have to wait and see and the conditions will be the same for everyone, anyway".

Team-mate Gigi Galli has limited experience of Rally GB. The Italian has only previously undertaken the recce on two occasions and so 2005 represents his first competitive outing.

"The particular thing here is the rain and mud and really I prefer to drive in dry conditions; it's 'easier'", said Gigi. "I feel happy from our test and we only needed to do two runs at shakedown just to confirm settings and check everything was okay. We need experience of this rally and have to pace ourselves. We have a good car and good tires, but our goal remains to gain knowledge and understanding. Hopefully for Harri he can go well, taking the chance to use all our good things".

The base for Wales Rally GB is in the Welsh capital of Cardiff, but all the action is around the service park near Swansea. The event kicks off with a ceremonial start in Cardiff tonight, with the crews then heading immediately to Swansea in preparation for Friday's opening day of competition. The first leg, to the north and east of Swansea, covers two identical loops of three stages totaling 136.74 competitive kilometers, the longest day of the event. The organizer of Rally GB also confirmed today that Britain's round of the FIA World Rally Championship will continue to be hosted in Wales until 2011.

2005 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship (Round 6/8)


While weather conditions in South Wales take a turn for the worse the day before the rally proper gets underway, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution drivers remain buoyed as 19 in total make last-minute preparations for some tough competition among a 39-car-field aiming for Group N4 victory.

Traditionally a winter event, Rally GB has always delivered rain, fog, mud and cold temperatures, but a move to a position on the WRC calendar in late summer has brought more temperate conditions. Over the last few weeks the UK has seen a long stretch of dry weather which ensured much of the rally reconnaissance was dry and fast. But heavy overnight rain lasting well into today has turned conditions around, returning the roads to a familiar muddy state for the final shakedown test. With sunshine forecast for the weekend, it remains to be seen what conditions the crews will be presented with for the rally proper tomorrow. Despite the wet conditions, large numbers of fans still flocked to the shakedown stage, the rally's final pre-event test, north of the Swansea service Park in South Wales.

Front-running Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver Riccardo Errani is looking forward to the rally. Despite a relative lack of experience on the Welsh forest stages, he is hoping his consistent run through the season to date will continue to set him up for a good finish and some FIA Production Car World Rally Championship points.

"The shakedown is not really like the rally stages so it's difficult to judge how it will be but I feel good and the Mitsubishi feels perfect!" said the jovial Italian. "Four years ago I started this rally but I only got as far the first stage before we had differential problems and had to retire; so this year is really our first time. Personally I hope it dries out a bit but my aim is to finish here - it's important for me and for the team, and if I can get points as well; all the better".

Also contesting the event, among seven other British Lancer pilots, is fellow Lancer Evolution driver David Higgins. As a Group N privateer who is not registered for the FIA PWRC, Higgins isn't eligible to make use of the shakedown test but as reigning British Rally Champion he will be driving his Lancer in conditions fairly familiar.

"The recce went very well. The first day was fast and dry and the second day was wet in places but even after the rain we've had today I think the stages are going to dry quite fast", he explained. "My aim here is to win so I will have to drive flat-out from the start and judge the conditions quickly as best I can. The stages tomorrow are the trickiest and they were also the wettest on the recce so after this rain it could be even more so. But the mixed conditions will suit us well; I'm used to it when they constantly change, unlike many of the overseas drivers, so I'm hoping that might work to our advantage".

Cardiff's Millennium Stadium will play official host to Wales Rally GB but the real action kicks off tomorrow morning (September 16) when crews head to the Welsh forests north east of Carmarthen for their first and longest day of action over a repeated trio of stages.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Harri Rovanpera , Risto Pietilainen , David Higgins , Gianluigi Galli , Riccardo Errani