MITSUBISHI LANCER WRC05 & ROVANPERA 3RD OVERNIGHT Fastest time for Galli but problems slow the Italian The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen have enjoyed a great day of competition in the second leg...
MITSUBISHI LANCER WRC05 & ROVANPERA 3RD OVERNIGHT
Fastest time for Galli but problems slow the Italian
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen have enjoyed a great day of competition in the second leg of Rally Italia Sardinia, the fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The Lancer WRC05 crew hold third position and are set for a titanic battle over tomorrow's closing stages. Team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore have experienced a problematic day, but set fastest time during one of the stages.
"I am very satisfied today; I talked to Harri and Gigi and told them to go maximum because we are now entering the second phase of our strategy", said Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports. "Harri has had a great fight and I'm very impressed with his driving and how he took care of the car and tires. He has driven cleverly and shown his speed; I would like to still be smiling like this tomorrow... Gigi has also done a good job; I asked him for some good results and he set a fastest time. He has done a very good performance overall, despite his problems".
Today took the crews to the south-west of Olbia for another five stages and 144.01 competitive kilometers. The day kicked off with the two longest stages of the rally and proved demanding for a number of crews. After the mid-leg service halt in Olbia, the crews headed to the short 5.01 kilometer stage, before completing another two runs over this morning's stages.
Harri Rovanpera claimed sixth fastest in the opening stage and moved up into third position following the retirement of Mikko Hirvonen from the leg. After a 46 minute delay before the start of stage 8, the Finn set another sixth fastest time, finding himself in the thick of a battle with Ford's Toni Gardemeister and Peugeot's Markko Martin. Top times this afternoon ensured he maintained position but he and Risto Pietilainen are set for an exciting battle for third position tomorrow, as both Marcus Gronholm and Markko Martin hunt down the Finnish Lancer WRC05 crew.
"These two days have been the best of the season", said Harri. "I'm very happy and fighting hard like this is very nice. Marcus and Markko are pushing hard but we see what happens tomorrow; it's another long day. Today has been great and the car is better; the small changes we made from the test seem to be helping us in rougher conditions. The last stage was really good for me; I was pushing like crazy and we had one big moment off line, but if you keep pushing, keep the car in shape and can be lucky over the rocks, then you get a good time".
In contrast, team-mate Gigi Galli has had a day filled with problems. The Italian was awarded a notional time in stage seven, as he was unable to complete the stage competitively having been stuck behind a car blocking the stage. And an engine sensor failure in the following stage brought his Lancer WRC05 to a halt and forced him to make emergency repairs. On the positive side, he and Guido set a blistering pace in the shortest stage of the rally, setting fastest time, but problems with the automatic gearshift at the end of stage 10 meant the Italian had to switch to the manual system for the last stage of the leg and the longest of the rally. He was also slowed again when Tobias Johansson blocked this last stage.
"I am tired... quite tired today!" said Gigi at the end of the leg. "But, despite our problems, I decided I was really going for it in the short stage - that one was ours before we even started it! I drove like mad because after a day like today I needed that. Winning was very satisfying and we continue to make more kilometers, so there is always something positive".
Adding to his comments, the team's Technical Director Mario Fornaris said: "So far it seems that everything is going well for Harri. He is driving well and we've had no problems with his car. It's been a nightmare for Gigi and almost like someone just doesn't want him to be in this rally. But, we have one car in third position and a big fight ahead so I am happy".
In the Group N classification, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution drivers hold five of the top nine positions. Sergio Pianezzola has moved up one position into second, with Stefano Marrini and Paolo Liceri fourth and fifth respectively.
The final leg of Rally Italia Sardinia takes the remaining crews to the west of Olbia for the concluding stages. Two loops of three stages lay in wait and a total of 66.32 competitive kilometers before the finish in Porto Rotondo at 14:30 hrs (local).
News from our rivals
Sebastien Loeb has extended his lead over Subaru's Petter Solberg to 55.2 seconds going into the final leg and the Frenchman looks set to rack up a second consecutive victory this season. Behind Solberg in second, and Rovanpera in third, the fight for position has been intense with Marcus Gronholm powering up the leaderboard into fourth. The Finnish Peugeot driver is just 13.2 seconds behind Rovanpera, with team-mate Markko Martin also hot on his heels 5.9 seconds further behind. Mark Higgins, driving a privately-run Ford Focus, rounds off the top six. While some have reveled in the conditions, others have fallen by the wayside and the rate of attrition has been high with no fewer 26 cars out today. Mikko Hirvonen, third overnight, took two wheels off his Focus, while Daniel Carlsson went off the road, got stuck on a rock and was unable to get going again. Armin Schwarz was forced out of the leg when his clutch caught fire and Skoda team-mate Janne Tuohino spun out in the last stage. Ford's Toni Gardemeister stopped in the final stage when the oil pressure warning light came on and he pulled over for fear of damaging the engine. He retired from the leg while holding fifth position and his five-minute penalty for not completing the stage drops him to eighth overnight. The Finn hopes to re-start tomorrow under SUPERally regulations. Stephane Sarrazin, in the third Subaru, also retired with clutch failure.