DIFFICULT OPENING LEG FOR MITSUBISHI WRC CREWS The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crews experienced a difficult opening leg of the Rallye de France - Tour de Corse and the trio of Lancer WRC05 crews hold 10th, 12th and 16th overnight, with...
DIFFICULT OPENING LEG FOR MITSUBISHI WRC CREWS
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crews experienced a difficult opening leg of the Rallye de France - Tour de Corse and the trio of Lancer WRC05 crews hold 10th, 12th and 16th overnight, with "Gigi" Galli/Guido d'Amore the highest-placed.
"We were expecting something better, so it's disappointing for us", said Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports. "The weather hasn't helped us, but this is not just one event; we have Spain next week, with similar conditions, and the important thing is to find a solution and prepare again. We had some technical problems, but all the time we are learning and we will try again tomorrow. This is a tricky rally and who knows what will happen in the next two days. We have all three cars at the finish tonight, there has been some improvement this afternoon and we will find a way forward".
This year's event - the 49th in its history - kicked off last night with a ceremonial start alongside the Port but the real competition started this morning with the opening two stages to the south-east of Ajaccio. Clear skies and warm temperatures greeted the crews as they embarked on the first run through these stages, totaling 60.67 kilometers, and while conditions remained clear this afternoon, gravel and mud pulled onto the roads ensured a tricky run through the repeated stages.
In his first outing in the Tour de Corse in a world rally car, Gigi Galli is piloting the lead Lancer WRC05, although the Italian has experienced some problems during the day. His feeling with the car on these treacherous mountain roads has however improved during the afternoon as he continues to gain valuable experience. He and co-driver Guido d'Amore hold 10th overnight.
"We have had some understeer during the day, but it's maybe also to do with my driving style", said Gigi. "We will try some different things at the rear to make the car more loose and try to understand what difference it makes. I had better confidence this afternoon, but I really expected more from myself. The new Pirelli tire for dry conditions is good, I like it; there is always more that can be done, but it's definitely going the right way. Really I am concentrating on getting a good set-up for the future; that is the important thing".
Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen hold 12th overall after losing time with transmission related problems during the leg. "This morning we had to switch to the manual gearshift and it's not so easy when you are trying to shift quickly driving one-handed on fast and narrow roads", said Harri. "We've had similar problems this afternoon and also a big tire vibration from a broken EMI in both stages. We ended up swapping the right rear with the spare, then put that one on the front right as well as the front left! It's very difficult to feel where the problem is, but it was obviously the rear left!"
Gilles and Hervé Panizzi have lost time throughout the day with a broken shock absorber this morning and failing brakes this afternoon. They overnight in 16th after a frustrating day of competition.
"Obviously we lost a lot of time with a broken shock absorber this morning, but then we also lost the brakes this afternoon", said Gilles. "They were sometimes okay in SS3, but then they went completely in SS4 and every time I went to brake the pedal just went to the floor. For me, the car is generally very nervous; it's difficult to imagine it is the same car with the same set-up as during our first lap at shakedown yesterday..."
Adding to the drivers' comments, Principal Rally Engineer Roger Estrada said: "It's disappointing to have had such technical problems today, but some things improved this afternoon and we are looking at more solutions for tomorrow and Sunday".
The second leg of the Rally de France - Tour de Corse takes the crews over another two loops of two identical stages to the north of Ajaccio. In total, the leg covers 124.88 competitive kilometers, marginally the longest of the event.
News from our rivals
Sébastien Loeb has once again dominated the opening leg, the Frenchman winning all four of today's stages to pull out a 41.3 second advantage over Citroën team-mate François Duval, who has climbed from fourth this morning. Third is held by Toni Gardemeister, who was just ahead of Marcus Grönholm before the Finn experienced gearbox problems in the time control at the end of the final stage. Despite frantic efforts to get the car back to service, the crew had to retire from the leg. Subaru team-mates Petter Solberg and Stéphane Sarrazin hold fourth and fifth respectively. Retirements from the leg also include Subaru's Christopher Atkinson, the Australian out with clutch problems.