Mixed day for Mitsubishi. The Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart crew of FranÃ§ois Delecour/Daniel Grataloup have set an encouraging pace in the opening leg of the final asphalt rally of the 2002 season, Rallye Sanremo. However, the French pair...
Mixed day for Mitsubishi.
The Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart crew of François Delecour/Daniel Grataloup have set an encouraging pace in the opening leg of the final asphalt rally of the 2002 season, Rallye Sanremo. However, the French pair dropped down the order to 13th when a lack of turbo boost in the final stage cost them dearly. Team-mates Alister McRae and David Senior hold 18th position, having lost time in the second stage.
After last night's ceremonial start in the centre of the Riviera resort, the 44th Rallye Sanremo began in earnest this morning, the 53 competing crews heading north for eight special stages and 147.25 kilometres of competition. While conditions remained dry, the blue skies of the last few days have been replaced by blanket cloud and a forecast of thunderstorms and rain over the weekend have the potential to make the 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship a tricky affair.
François Delecour and Daniel Grataloup have had an almost trouble-free run in the Lancer Evolution WRC2, the French pair enjoying a better pace and increased performance over the mountain roads high above the Mediterranean resort of Sanremo. However, a lack of turbo boost in the final stage of the day dropped them from an earlier 10th to 13th overnight.
"The car has been feeling good, the engine is better and has more torque at lower revs, and if you look at our times there's definitely an improvement," commented François. "Our position before the final stage might not have looked that impressive, but when you think seven of the cars in front were, and still are Peugeots and Citroens, it's actually quite encouraging. It's been a good day, obviously until the problem with the turbo. There were some funny noises coming from the engine bay between stages 7 and 8 and we lost boost before we even started the stage - it's a good job it was a short one. Tomorrow we need to get some time back and start working our way back up the leaderboard."
Team-mates Alister McRae and David Senior dropped down the order early this morning when they made a costly and uncharacteristic error before the start of stage 2. "We stopped at the end of the first stage to adjust the dampers, which was fine, but then I thought I saw some oil smoke coming out from underneath the bonnet as we approached the second stage," commented Alister. "We stopped, opened the bonnet but couldn't see anything wrong, but in our haste forgot to put the bonnet pins back in properly. The bonnet flew up in the second stage, broke the windscreen and we had to stop to secure it. Generally I can't understand what's been happening today. The car feels good, my driving has been okay and other than the bonnet problem, things have been fine. It's just not all gelled. There was patchy fog in the last stage this afternoon and people lost varying amounts of time, but it wasn't too much of a problem for us. Tomorrow we basically need to try and hook it all up better."
Adding to the drivers' comments, Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart team manager Derek Dauncey said: "We're really pleased with François' times, obviously up until his problem. They're better than we had hoped and it's shown we can run at the same pace as the Fords and Subarus. It's just a shame he had turbo problems which drastically reduced engine power, but obviously this will be rectified and hopefully he will be able to continue setting good times tomorrow. Alister's day started badly, but we're now looking to gain development experience that we can carry forward to Monte Carlo, the first event of next season."
Gilles Panizzi (Peugeot), who is still recovering from a shoulder injury, holds the overnight lead and has pulled out a 22.8 second advantage over Philippe Bugalski in a non-registered semi-works Xsara WRC. Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) lost time this morning with a lack of turbo boost, but has climbed back up the leaderboard into third position, just 3.2 seconds ahead of team-mate Richard Burns. Markko Martin has fared well and leads the Fords back into Sanremo tonight in fifth position. Jesus Puras, also driving a semi-works, Citroen holds sixth. Petter Solberg is seventh overnight, the Norwegian now flying Subaru's flag after Tommi Makinen was forced out with a broken front left drive-shaft. Privateer French driver Cedric Robert (Peugeot) holds an impressive eighth ahead of the sole remaining Hyundai of Freddy Loix. Colin McRae has been beset by minor problems throughout the day which have left him 10th. Other leading retirements today include Armin Schwarz (Hyundai), the German out after clouting a barrier and ripping the left rear wheel off in the opening stage. He was soon to be joined by Carlos Sainz (Ford) who was forced onto the sidelines when a hydraulic pipe between the differentials and transmission split at the start of stage 4.
Still to come...
Rallye Sanremo returns to the north of the host town on Saturday for six special stages contested over the same roads, albeit some in different directions. The leg is the longest in the event covering 150.57 competitive kilometres and also includes two runs at the awesome 42.31 kilometre Colle Langan stage, which could well prove to be decisive. The length of this stage has been created by joining the Passo Teglia and Passo Drego stages, which have run separately today.
Rallye Sanremo - Leg 1 results
1. Gilles Panizzi/Herve Panizzi Peugeot 1hr 36min 33.9sec
2. Philippe Bugalski/Jean-Paul Chiaroni Citroen 1hr 36min 56.7sec
3. Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen Peugeot 1hr 37min 12.9sec
4. Richard Burns/Robert Reid Peugeot 1hr 37min 16.1sec
5. Markko Martin/Michael Park Ford 1hr 37min 36.7sec
6. Jesus Puras/Carlos Del Barrio Citroen 1hr 37min 38.6sec
7. Petter Solberg/Phil Mills Subaru 1hr 37min 46.3sec
8. Cedric Robert/Gerald Bedon Peugeot 1hr 38min 06.1sec
9. Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets Hyundai 1hr 38min 42.9sec
10. Colin McRae/Nicky Grist Ford 1hr 38min 59.1sec
13. François Delecour/Daniel Grataloup Mitsubishi 1hr 40min 07.7sec
18. Alister McRae/David Senior Mitsubishi 1hr 42min 01.5sec