FIA World Rally Championship 3 - 6 May 1998 42nd Tour de Corse - Rallye de France Monday 4 May 1998 _________________________________________________________________ After the...
FIA World Rally Championship 3 - 6 May 1998 42nd Tour de Corse - Rallye de France Monday 4 May 1998 _________________________________________________________________ After the first leg of the 42nd Tour de Corse-Rallye de France, the British crew of Colin McRae and co-driver Nicky Grist leads the field in their Subaru Impreza 555 WRC with a 20,7 seconds gap over the Peugeot 306 Maxi of Frenchmen François Delecour and Daniel Grataloup. Third is McRae's team-mate, Italian Piero Liatti who, after losing just less than a minute with a puncture and a spin on the first stage, closed the gap on the leaders by winning three of today's six stages During the 134 kilometres of the first leg, the 80 competitors had to face many different weather conditions, from dry to damp and foggy, to heavy rain. With stages changing accordingly and with the quality of Corsican asphalt, very rough and abrasive, tyre choice has been a very difficult task.
With one stage totally different to the next, drivers faced the choice of compromising speed on one stage, where tyres were not ideal, to be quick on the next, when they were perfect.
The day has already had its drama, with reigning world champion Tommi Makinen sidelined by a mysterious electrical fault.
After a night of rest in Ajaccio, the competitors will re-start tomorrow, tackling another six stages for just less than 130 kilometres. The day will include the longest stage of the rally, the 31.91 kilometres from Morosaglia to Campile, in the mountains north of Corte and weather, according to forecast, will be as fickle as today. Mitsubishi
Finn Tommi Makinen retired just before starting today's fifth stage, the 20.94 km from Pont d'Acoravo to Zerubia. The electrical trouble which silenced his Lancer, was too long to trace and, when Makinen was eventually able to drive the car back to the final service point, he was already out of maximum lateness. Makinen who had been leading after two stages, was then in second place. "It's been a tough season so far," commented the Finn, "but there is still a long way to go, so I' sure we can fight back."
Richard Burns is taking his time to adapt to the particularly difficult conditions of the Corsican event, where he is debuting. "I'm quite happy. We are where we expected to be, maybe a bit better," said the Briton. "We are eighth, but we are only 25 seconds behind the championship leader Carlos Sainz and we lost that time while I adapted to the conditions on the first stages." Subaru
Scot Colin McRae made his intention clear from the outset, posting fastest time on the opening stage, fighting hard in the treacherous conditions and eventually winning stage 5 to grab the lead. "This rally always end up being a gamble with tyres and it has happened today," said McRae. "I feel very heartened that we are leading, but twenty seconds doesn't mean we can sit back and cruise."
Team-mate Piero Liatti fought back after a bad start and ended the day only three seconds away from second position. "In the first stages I punctured and, thanks to a loss of concentration, I also had a spin and dropped to 17th place," said the Italian, but as the day went on, things improved and, at the end, everything was working absolutely brilliant, tyres, car setting, everything. I'm very pleased and I feel very confident." Ford
Bruno Thiry lost ten seconds after a spin in the very first corner of the rally. "The tyres were still quite cold and we lost grip," said the Belgian, who holds tonight fifth place. "I couldn't select reverse gear quickly enough to turn the car around and we dropped a handful of seconds, but we put that right by setting fastest time on the second stage."
Four times world champion Juha Kankkunen, found the weather difficult to master: "There was a lot of thick fog on stage three," said the Finn. "Today has been a bit of a lottery, because we had to cope with wet roads, dry roads, damp roads and fog, everything but snow in fact!" Toyota
A clever combination of tyre choices enabled the two Toyotas to hold first (Sainz) and third (Auriol) after four stages, but the last pair of sections of the opening day held further challenges and resulted in both drivers dropping from their front running positions.
"When our road checking crews went through those stages, the roads were just damp," explained Spaniard Carlos Sainz, "so we chose lightly grooved tyres. But, at the time we started the stages, it suddenly started to rain and there was nothing we could do."
Team-mate Auriol, chasing his seventh victory in the Corsican event, holds tonight sixth place. "This is purely because of the two last stages," complained the Frenchman. "Here in Corsica on one side of the mountain the weather can be dry, while on the other it can be raining heavily and we were taken in this gamble. But I believe there is still a lot we will be able to do the next couple of legs." Other Teams
Although traction should have been a premium throughout the day, Frenchman François Delecour has succeeded in bringing his two-wheel drive Peugeot 306 Maxi ahead a list of four-wheel drive machinery. "I like this conditions," said Delecour, "I wish all the rally will be like this."
Production Cars Cup leader Manfred Stohl is first in the category with a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo5. Isik Volkan of Toyota Mobil Team Turkey leads the FIA Teams' Cup in a Celica. TODAY STATISTICS
Leg 1 covered 329.45 km, including 134.65 kms, on 6 special stage. Starters: 80 cars (44 Group A + 36 Group N), started the rally. Leading retirements (French unless stated): Makinen (FIN). SS1 Vero (18.22 km) 1 McRae (GB), Subaru 13m31s09 2 Sainz (E), Toyota 13m34s02 3 Bugalski (F), Citroën 13m34s07 SS2 Lopigna (25.77 km) 1 Thiry (B), Ford 17m06s09 2 Panizzi (F), Peugeot 17m07s03 3 Delecour (F), Peugeot 17m14s06 Leaders after SS2 1 Mäkinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 30m58s07 2 McRae (GB), Subaru 31m01s02 3 Panizzi (F), Peugeot 31m05s02 SS3 Verghia (26.55 km) 1 Sainz (E), Ford 17m29s08 2 Panizzi (F), Peugeot 17m37s06 3 Delecour (F), Peugeot 17m41s02 Leaders after SS3 1 Sainz (E), Toyota 48m36s08 2 Panizzi (F), Peugeot 48m42s08 3 McRae (GB), Subaru 48m48s03 SS4 Filitosa (22.63 km) 1 Liatti (I), Subaru 15m12s09 2 Magaud (F), Citroën 15m19s07 3 Mäkinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 15m24s01 Leaders after SS4 1 Sainz (E), Toyota 1h04m04s03 2 Mäkinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 1h04m13s04 3 Auriol (F), Toyota 1h04m17s07 SS5 Pont d'Acoravo (20.94 km) 1 McRae (GB), Subaru 13m28s07 2 Liatti (I), Subaru 13m28s07 3 Magaud (F), Citroën 13m37s03 Leaders after SS5 1 McRae (GB), Subaru 1h17m54s00 2 Delecour (F), Peugeot 1h17m58s02 3 Sainz (E), Toyota 1h18m08s08 SS6 Aullene (20.54 km) 1 Liatti (I), Subaru 13m46s00 2 Magaud (F), Citroën 13m50s04 3 McRae (GB), Subaru 13m52s03 Leaders after SS6 1 McRae (GB), Subaru 1h31m46s03 2 Delecour (F), Peugeot 1h32m07s00 3 Liatti (I), Subaru 1h32m09s09 TOMORROW Tuesday 5 May Leg 2 starts from Ajaccio, Margonajo Harbour, at 07h00 and covers 486.79 km, including 129.88 kms on 6 special stages. The first car is expected in Ajaccio, Margonajo Harbour, at 20h10. Weather forecast Stormy, with frequent showers.