PEUGEOT-MICHELIN TRIUMPHS IN THE SNOW... WITH HARRI ROVANPERA Peugeot Sport's keen eye for talent spotting has earned the French manufacturer a repeat success for the 206 WRC-Michelin this weekend in snowy Sweden. Following the car's win ...
PEUGEOT-MICHELIN TRIUMPHS IN THE SNOW... WITH HARRI ROVANPERA
Peugeot Sport's keen eye for talent spotting has earned the French manufacturer a repeat success for the 206 WRC-Michelin this weekend in snowy Sweden. Following the car's win in Karlstad twelve months ago that started the team's success story rolling with Marcus Grönholm in 2000, honours this time round went to relative newcomer Harri Rovanpera.
Like Grönholm, the 34-year old hails from neighbouring Finland. And, like the defending World Champion, he has been more or less plucked from anonymity to represent the French carmaker at world level. That choice today paid dividends as he showed unshakeable maturity to ward off pressure from Thomas Radström (2nd, Mitsubishi-Michelin) and Carlos Sainz (3rd, Ford) to secure his first ever WRC victory.
The result takes Michelin's run on the Swedish Rally to 20 wins from the last 22 events!
There was a sense of déjà vu on the Monte Carlo Rally. Today, in Karlstad, there was the same eerie feeling. For exactly as last year, when Marcus Grönholm was first past the flag, a new Flying Finn - Harri Rovanpera - has sprung to international attention by winning the 2001 Swedish Rally for Peugeot-Michelin ahead of a Mitsubishi-Michelin (that of Thomas Radström) and a Ford (Carlos Sainz)!
Only the conditions were different, with this week's immaculate snowy backdrop and polar temperatures marking a welcome contrast to the milder - and less traditional - weather that has greeted competitors in Sweden in recent years.
From the beginning, Harri Rovanpera approached his maiden outing with new employer Peugeot Sport with remarkable aplomb, finishing Day 1 in second position behind the experienced Sainz before taking command half way though the second leg. Then, as observers began to debate his ability to resist such hardened campaigners as Mäkinen, Sainz and Radström, Rovanpera calmly got on with the business of compounding his lead, commenting even that the pressure was on his chasers, not him!
Even the expected disadvantage of being first on the road on the final day, and therefore first to tackle the fresh snow that had fallen in abundance on the Sunday morning, failed to intimidate the latest in a glorious line of world class Finnish drivers.
Second overall going into the last stage, Mitsubishi-Michelin's Tommi Mäkinen looked on target for his seventh podium in Sweden in as many years. Up until then, the four-times World Champion hadn't put a foot wrong and could be forgiven for wondering how everything might have turned out had he not been first into the stages on the long opening day. Not only did he have the role of brushing aside the grip-sapping powder-snow that covered the otherwise icy Wärmland lanes, but he also had to slow in places as spectators scrambled for the ditches as his Lancer, the noise of which was dampened by the snow, appeared practically without warning. His efforts came to nothing, however, as he rolled 2.7 km into the final test in an all-out effort to snatch victory from Rovanpera.
Despite this last minute disappointment, Mitsubishi could count on local star Thomas Radström to inherit second spot on his home event. On top of that, with winner Rovanpera not nominated to score points in Sweden for Peugeot, Mitsubishi left Karlstad with a welcome ten Manufacturers' championship points, taking its score for 2001 to more than half its total for the entire 2000 campaign!
Despite his efforts to become the first non-Scandinavian driver to win this highly specific event, Ford's Carlos Sainz was forced to settle for third. Always a threat to Michelin runners Rovanpera, Mäkinen and Radström, his final day bid to retrieve the lead lost during Day 2 was firmly thwarted by the Nordic specialists.
Top privateer in Sweden was Finland's Toni Gardemeister who took his Grifone-run Peugeot-Michelin to a remarkable fourth place ahead of WRC full-timers François Delecour (5th, Ford), Petter Solberg (6th, Subaru) and Swedish youngster Daniel Carlsson (7th, Toyota-Michelin).
Kenneth Eriksson's run in the Hyundai Accent WRC-Michelin saw the Swede set a number of top-three stage times and climb as high as sixth at one point. He then unfortunately fell down the leaderboard following gearbox problems to finally finish 8th. Teammate Alister McRae retired on Day 2 with engine problems, and both drivers will now be looking forward to switching to the latest evolution Accent on the World Championship's next round in Portugal.
The other main retirements in Sweden were Peugeot-Michelin's nominated pair Marcus Grönholm, who was halted with an over-heating engine on Day 1, and Didier Auriol who struggled on bravely despite bad flu before falling foul of transmission troubles on the final morning. Finally, Skoda-Michelin's Armin Schwarz crashed out on Saturday.
MICHELIN'S TYRE/STUD PACKAGE BREAKS THE ICE IN WINNING STYLE AGAIN
20 FROM 22... Rovanpera's victory takes Michelin's score on the Swedish Rally to twenty in twenty-two years.
15,128... The Peugeot-Michelin of Harri Rovanpera used exactly 15,128 studs on its way to victory on the 2001 Swedish Rally. In exceptionally demanding conditions (see below), and notably on the second runs through certain icy stages, Michelin's tyre/stud package held up exceptionally well with stud loss on the winning car limited to less than ½% over the three-day event!
HARD AS NAILS... Please excuse this mini-title, which is a loose use of the French for studs (studs = clous, which is also French for nails!). It's just to underline how much harder ice becomes at the sort of polar temperatures experienced this weekend in Sweden (as low as minus 20°C). It meant that studs had a significantly more difficult job breaking into the frozen surface which underlines the crucial importance played by the stud/tyre package on this unique event.
MICHELIN GE OR MICHELIN GA?... Michelin's WRC runners used the asymmetric Michelin GE pattern practically throughout the event. The only notable exceptions were on the final stage when Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi-Michelin), Kenneth Eriksson (Hyundai-Michelin) and Bruno Thiry (Skoda-Michelin) switched to the Michelin GA snow pattern. Eriksson was second fastest on this test, while Mäkinen reports he made the ideal choice. On the same stage, Thomas Radström chose a mix of Michelin GE at the front and Michelin GA for the rear.
GRAND SLAM... In addition to its one-two finish with Harri Rovanpera (Peugeot-Michelin) and Thomas Radström (Mitsubishi-Michelin), Michelin's successful weekend also included wins in both the Teams Cup and Group N categories with Henrik Lundgaard (Toyota-Michelin) and Stig-Olov Walfridsson (Mitsubishi-Michelin) respectively.
2001 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS AFTER 2 ROUNDS
DRIVERS MC S P E RA CY G E FIN NZ I F AU GB Total Tommi Mäkinen (FIN) 10 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 10 Harri Rovanpera (FIN) - 10 - - - - - - - - - - - - 10 Carlos Sainz (E) 6 4 - - - - - - - - - - - - 10 Thomas Radström (S) - 6 - - - - - - - - - - - - 6 François Delecour (F) 4 2 - - - - - - - - - - - - 6 Toni Gardemeister (FIN) 2 3 - - - - - - - - - - - - 5 Armin Schwarz (D) 3 0 - - - - - - - - - - - - 3
= Michelin partner
MANUFACTURERS MC S P E RA CY G E FIN NZ I F AUS GB Total Mitsubishi-Michelin 13 10 - - - - - - - - - - - - 23 Ford 6 8 - - - - - - - - - - - - 14 Skoda-Michelin 5 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - 6 Hyundai-Michelin 2 3 - - - - - - - - - - - - 5 Subaru 0 4 - - - - - - - - - - - - 4
= Michelin partner
Next round: Portugal (8-11/3/2001)