Sunday 11th February Harri Rovanpera secured his first World Rally Championship victory by winning the International Swedish Rally. Rovanpera eventually won by 27 seconds from Thomas Radstrom after Tommi Makinen rolled 2.7km in the final stage.
Sunday 11th February
Harri Rovanpera secured his first World Rally Championship victory by winning the International Swedish Rally. Rovanpera eventually won by 27 seconds from Thomas Radstrom after Tommi Makinen rolled 2.7km in the final stage.
In previous days, running at the head of field had been a penalty as the following cars benefited from 'cleaner' roads. But with the snow falling for the most of today all was equal and Rovanpera stayed in the front. His choice of tyres, with longer studs than his rivals also proved to be correct.
"It was my first World Championship victory and it's fantastic. We just take it step by step. The last three or four years have been quite difficult. But last year I had two good chances with Toyota and now we will see. After the first leg I had the feeling we could win" said Rovanpera.
Despite the success of Rovanpera, Peugeot had not registered him as eliglible for Manufacturers points. So Peugeot remain on zero manufacturers points, while Rovanpera holds equal lead in the Drivers championship!
Didier Auriol who is still suffering from bronchitis, retired today after the transmission failed in his 206.
Harri Rovanpera: "The car has been fantastic with virtually no problems at all, and even though I'm still learning more about it on every stage I already know it's the best car I've ever driven. I can't wait for Portugal now - I was strong there last year and I think we can do even better this time."
It went from a great result for Mitsubishi to a good result. 2.7km into the final stage and just 20km from securing 2nd position Tommi Makinen rolled his Mitsubishi Lancer out of the rally. Promoted to second though was team mate Thomas Radstrom which was certainly one of the best drives of the event. Radstrom has drafted into the team for this event only and secured valuable manufacturers points. Mitsubishi now have a solid lead in the Manufacturers championship.
Freddy Loix climbed into 13th position today gaining experience but little else.
Tommi Makinen said "The tyre choice was very good, we were very happy with that, but we simply made a mistake and went off the road. It was quite a fast section and the car was completely off in a snowbank, there was no way to recover. Very disappointing, obviously".
Thomas Radstom said "The last stage was the most difficult one I’ve ever done on this rally. It was like an ice-hockey rink in parts. The car was all over the place, it was so slippery. Then, when we passed Tommi and saw him off the road, I knew we absolutely had to get the points for the team. The pressure was on, I was anxious not to get passed by Carlos and I was shaking like a leaf the whole stage!"
Second place for Sainz secures his equal lead in the Drivers Championship. He spent the day battling the Thomas Radstrom for third and fourth positions and was just 4.2 seconds behind Radstrom heading into the final stage. Sainz couldn't quite catch him but was more than happy with the final result.
François Delecour and Daniel Grataloup also finished fifth and Colin McRae and Nicky Grist completed a superb fightback from their first day accident to finish ninth and claim two manufacturers’ points. Ford was the only team with both nominated drivers in the points to retain second in the series.
Quotes: Carlos Sainz said "We tried very hard to catch Thomas in the last stage but conditions were very tricky with snow lying on top of icy ruts. It’s encouraging to come away at the top of the championship after the two most unpredictable rallies of the series and we must now capitalise on that start."
Colin McRae said "After losing so much time on the first day and having to come from so far back, it’s quite satisfying to score points for the team. That was my only target. It was an exciting rally and during our run of fastest times, the feeling was fantastic."
Despite not being in contention for outright victory, Richard Burns completely dominated todays stages, winning every one of them. Team mate Markko Martin was also fast, setting several top 3 stage times and was the only driver to challenge Burns.
Richard Burns: "But we have made good use of the time – yesterday we worked on some settings, but today we just went at it hard to see what we could achieve."
Petter Solberg: "I know I can drive fast, but for me this has been the hardest rally ever. I just had to make sure that I finished the job for the team, and as an extra prize, I won a point too. It started so badly here, but the rally just got better and better"
Markko Martin: "I was taking it reasonably easy today, and I was really surprised to see that except for Richard we were often the quickest car. After our difficulties on the first day, the rally has just got better and better for us, and it is great to get the car home."
In the final event for the first generation Hyundia Accent, Kenneth Eriksson was lucky to retain 8th postion and 3 manufacturers points. Eriksson was on maximum attack all day trying to keep Colin McRae behind him - and with speed and a jammed gearbox in the Ford, he succeeded. The next generation Accent will be launched at the Rally of Portugal.
Kenneth Eriksson: "I have been fighting very hard all day. I’ve been flat out at maximum attack. I had no choice as I had to keep Colin [McRae] behind me and he’s been setting excellent times for the whole rally. The conditions were perfect on the stages and the car also felt perfect all day."
Bruno Thiry benefited from the demise of Tommi Makinen, picking up tenth position and one manufacturers point for Skoda. Skoda are now third in the Manufacturers championship.
Thiry: "I found a good pace on the opening two stages and was pleased with the feel of the car. The combination of falling snow and the high speeds of the stages have made this morning a real challenge but Stephane and myself are both really enjoying this event.”
The next round of the FIA World Rally Championship is the Rally of Portugal, 8-11 March