ANOTHER DOUBLE POINTS HAUL FOR MITSUBISHI LANCER WRC05 RovanperÃ¤ 4th and Galli 7th in tricky Swedish Rally; both crews claim stage victories The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team scored points with both its nominated Lancer WRC05s in the...
ANOTHER DOUBLE POINTS HAUL FOR MITSUBISHI LANCER WRC05
Rovanperä 4th and Galli 7th in tricky Swedish Rally; both crews claim stage victories
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team scored points with both its nominated Lancer WRC05s in the Swedish Rally, the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen exceed their result in Monte-Carlo by finishing fourth, rounding the event off with a fastest stage time in only their second event with Mitsubishi. Team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore not only scored points in only their fifth event in a world rally car, but proved to be the revelation of the rally by setting a hot pace and one fastest stage time in one of the series' most specialized events. The finished a fine 7th, equaling their best world rally result (Catalunya 2004).
Mitsubishi's double points haul from both Monte-Carlo and Sweden means it now lays third in the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers, on the same points as five-time World Champions Peugeot.
"Overall it was a good weekend for us again", said the President of Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Isao Torii. "Both cars finished and scored points again and our stage times were always close to the top teams. Gigi's performance was impressive and his consistent stage times proved it. Harri is now more confident with the car, and also had one fastest stage time and a great fight with Henning Solberg for fourth overall; that is a good outlook for México. We have decided to nominate Gilles Panizzi as our second driver in México, but Gigi's spirit this weekend was so excellent that we will take him to the event to do the recce and gain more experience for the future".
The final leg of the Swedish Rally saw the crews leave Karlstad at 05:40 hrs for two loops of three identical stages. Both the first and fourth stages were reduced from 22.33 kilometers to 10.17 kilometers, for safety reasons, and while overnight snow left a light dusting over the stages, strong winds added to the challenge in the closing kilometers.
In the opening stage, Harri Rovanperä showed the same form that saw him win the event in 2001. Third fastest, just 5.4 seconds adrift of stage victor and rally winner Petter Solberg, powered him up the leaderboard from an overnight seventh to sixth. He and Risto Pietiläinen then set fifth fastest time in the following stage, but again moved up the leaderboard when Marcus Grönholm rolled and was forced to retire from second position. Fourth fastest in stage 17 consolidated their position and the Finns went into the final loop of stages just 7.5 seconds adrift of fourth overall. In the penultimate stage of the rally, however, the Finns lost fifth gear but even so, set the fastest time in the final stage to claim fourth after Loeb's retirement.
"In the end it was a good weekend for Risto and I", commented Harri. "During the first day and a half I never thought a result like this was possible, but now the feeling is good and my confidence with the car is much better. Next week we will be gravel testing and I am looking forward to going to México".
Gigi Galli and Guido D'Amore remained focused on finishing the event; however they slid wide at the start of the first stage and dropped a position to Daniel Carlsson. They maintained a steady pace in the closing stages, although posted a second-fastest time in the penultimate stage of the rally.
"This is only my fifth event in a world rally car, so I am very happy to finish in the top ten", said a delighted Gigi. "The small technical problems yesterday took me away from a potential podium position, but I don't feel so bad about that because I think we made a good performance anyway. I always try to do my best and that is what matters at the moment".
Adding to the drivers' comments, Technical Director Mario Fornaris said: "Six different manufacturers in the top 10 and Mitsubishi finished in fourth and seventh positions. This shows that the rally was very tough, but the final result always shows us that we have to improve our reliability and performance to be among the top teams and get onto the podium. Looking ahead to México, we have a test next week and will decide after this whether we use the active center differential. Our development program is in line with our schedule, but we will take the safe option with regard to new components".
The FIA World Rally Championship now heads to North America for the first long-haul event of the season. Corona Rally México (March 10-13), running for the second year in the world series, is the first full gravel event of the year and promises more fast and furious action in the mountains high above the host city of Léon.
News from our rivals...
When Marcus Grönholm rolled out of the rally in stage 16, the titanic battle between the Finn and Petter Solberg came to an abrupt end. The Norwegian Subaru driver racked up his first win of the season and claimed victory in his seventh attempt at the Swedish Rally. Sébastien Loeb was close to finishing second, despite having to nurse his Xsara through the closing stages in 'safe mode' to preserve the engine. However, he was then forced into retirement after the end of stage 18 when he couldn't re-start the car. Markko Märtin therefore finished on the podium with Peugeot for the first time, giving some consolation to the French team after the loss of Grönholm. Toni Gardemeister claimed third, his second podium in as many events, scoring more top points for Ford along with its second nominated driver, Henning Solberg. It now leads both the drivers and manufacturers tables.
The final leg turned into a day of attrition and problems for many. Chris Atkinson, driving the third non-nominated Subaru, went off the road in SS18 and lost handfuls of time stuck in a snow bank, while Janne Tuohino, driving the registered Škoda Fabia WRC, was forced into retirement when he took a wheel off.
MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION DRIVER MEDEGHINI SECOND
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver Angelo Medeghini got off to a flying start on his return to rallying, taking his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution to second in class on the Swedish Rally, the opening round of the 2005 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship. The Italian was backed up by Spaniard Xavier Pons, who was fourth in his similar car.
The final leg consisted of six stages, totaling 89 competitive kilometers, in a compact loop round Hagfors. Several centimeters of snow had fallen overnight and a bitterly cold wind beneath overcast skies left competitors in no doubt that they were contesting a winter rally. Grip varied treacherously and, with ice and gravel in many places, staying on the road was akin to walking a tightrope. Predictably, conditions caught out even the best drivers and there were dramatic changes to the leaderboard.
Angelo Medeghini had not contested a rally since 1998 and knew that he had plenty to learn about his car, while re-adapting to the rigors of competition. He admitted that his pace notes needed refining, but his Lancer Evolution ran faultlessly and a well-paced drive yielded a valuable points haul.
"Today has also been very difficult", he said. "The grip changes all the time and it is hard to know where it changes. The important thing for us has been to finish and I am very happy with the car and the result. I know we can be faster in future".
Xavier Pons demonstrated his potential with a number of category fastest stage times in his Lancer Evolution, fighting back from an accident on the first stage to take fourth in the PWRC.
"The rally started very badly for us, so I am very pleased with this result", said Pons. "It is a very difficult rally always and you have to be so careful. Next time I think we can do better".
It was an encouraging rally for Japanese driver Fumio Nutahara too. He displayed great determination to recover from an early mistake to finish fifth in his Lancer Evolution.
"This is a very hard rally - one of the most difficult I have ever done", he said. "The third leg has been a bit smoother, so that has made it easier for the car. I am glad to have finished".
Fellow Lancer Evolution driver Riccardo Errani finished sixth of the contenders, the last of the nine crews registered for points in Sweden to finish.
In the overall Group N category, Jussi Välimäki was fastest of the Mitsubishi crews and the Finn finished fourth in the standings.
The FIA Production Car World Rally Championship resumes in very different conditions on the opposite side of the globe with the Rally of New Zealand, which takes place from April 8-10.