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Old 11-02-2005, 10:04   #1
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2005 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship (Round 1/8)

Mitsubishi Motors drivers will be among the favorites when the opening round of the 2005 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, the Swedish Rally, begins tomorrow. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution has been the most successful car in the championshipís 17-year history and is once more the choice of many of the top drivers.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Xavier Pons / Oriol Juliŗ

The Swedish occupies a unique place in the World Rally Championship as the one true snow rally. The weather has become far less certain, but that has done nothing to make it easier. Little snow and mild temperatures mean that there are no snowbanks this year. Instead, drivers face a mixture of sheet ice and frozen gravel that can easily puncture tires designed for snow. A thin covering of snow now makes the ice hard to spot, while rocks threaten tires and suspension. More snow is expected during the rally and the winner is likely to need luck to go with skill and bravery.

Mitsubishiís front-runner may well be Spaniard Xavier Pons, the winner of two rounds of the Production Car World Rally Championship last year in his Lancer Evolution.

"This is my third time on the Swedish Rally and these are the most difficult conditions I have seen", said the Spaniard. "Itís important to finish and score points, but that is not going to be easy".

Japanís Fumio Nutahara is contesting the Production Car World Rally Championship for the second year in his Lancer Evolution, but although he has plenty of international experience, he expects the Swedish to tax him to the limit.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
The PWRC contenders

"We have snow in Japan, but this will be a very difficult rally", he said. "It is very slippery and very fast, and we also have new tires from Yokohama. Itís the first time they make studs for us, so it is a new experience. I am very happy to be contesting this championship again".

Italyís Fabio Frisiero will also drive a Lancer Evolution and he too is aiming for a points-scoring finish to lay the basis for a championship challenge.

"We donít have so many snow rallies in Italy, so I donít have so much experience in these conditions. Itís very easy to make a mistake and I will be happy if we just finish", Frisiero said.

After the ceremonial start in Karlstadís main square this evening, the rally begins in earnest on Friday morning when competitors head north towards Hagfors. They face seven stages, including the most northerly of the rally, totaling 106 kilometers.
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Old 12-02-2005, 04:30   #2
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After day 1 first 3 Group N4 cars are Spec C STi's .....

20. J.Ketomaki (Tommi Makinen Racing)
21. T.Arai (Subaru Team Arai)*
22. M.Higgins (Top Run)*
23. J.Valimaki (Ralliart Italia SRL)*
25. A.Teiskonen (Syms)*
26. S.Blomqvist

(*) score points for the PCWRC

Leg one report from the Subaru PCWRC site:


New spec C IMPREZA Running 1-2-3
SUBARU also dominates Group N overall

Event News
11 February 2005
Leg One of the opening round of the 2005 PCWRC will be remembered for the resounding success SUBARU achieved as their latest evolution Group N car, the spec C Impreza, swept the top three spots on the Group N leaderboard. In PCWRC, Toshi Arai lead Mark Higgins and Aki Teiskonen in a show of strength on the car's international debut. After seven of the event's 20 competitive stages, SUBARU machinery also occupies fifth place with Fabio Frisiero. There are a couple of interlopers running Imprezas as well; the super-quick Jukka Ketomaki, and Norweigen Anders Grondal.

The morning featured a group of three tests: Likenas, Hata, and Torntorp, covering 52 competitive kilometres. These three stages were run again in the afternoon before competitors headed down to Hagfors for the Super Special in the early evening.

Toshi started off first among the SUBARU cars on a beautiful morning with lovely sunshine and clear skies. The weather and very, very cold - good because it meant the stages were all frozen. Therefore, it has not become as badly rutted as might have been expected.

On SS1, Toshi was easily quickest, beating 2nd-placed Mark Higgins by some 12 seconds. Neither driver reported any problems over the opening test, though Aki Teiskonen caught the car in front of him after only 4 kilometres. The vehicle quickly moved out of the way, but the Finn had lost a few valuable seconds by then. He also caught another car right at the end of the stage for another small time loss, though it wasn't serious.

Fabio Frisiero reported no problems with his car over the first three stages, though felt his suspension was far too hard for the conditions and so softened off the setting somewhat at the lunchtime service.

Joakim Roman started off nice and steadily this morning, however on SS3 he retired with a broken engine. An unfortunate start to the local driver's 2005 PCWRC campaign, though he will be back fighting for a result on Round 3 in Cyprus.

On SS2 and SS3 Mark and Toshi both had a very good set-up, running 1-2 on both stages. The conditions were much more rutted as the stages were farther south and just a little bit softer than SS1.

The leaders in PCWRC were cautious about picking up punctures on SS2 and SS3 so they both backed off a little bit. All around them there was havoc; Nutahara in one of the leading Mitsubishis retiring in SS1, and Xavier Pons ending his rally on the following stage. The Spaniard touched the outside of a corner with the back of the car, breaking a wheel and retiring on the spot.

Both Nutahara and Pons will be back in action tomorrow, thanks to the SupeRally format. It means however, they will be penalized 5 minutes for every stage they miss today and a further 5 minutes off the fastest time on the stage they retired.

Of the 21 competitors signed up for this year's PCWRC, nine have made the trip to Sweden to start their campaign on Round 1 of the championship. Since we have one driver completely retired already (Joakim Roman), any remaining PCWRC entrant who makes it to the end of the event stands to take home at least one championship point!

At the Lunchtime Service, all the drivers were busy enjoying the beautiful sunshine and glorious conditions before setting out again for the afternoon's tests. Everybody was happy with conditions in the morning, though they were being very cautious on the stages as the ruts and stones can spell disaster. The top three cars in PCWRC were Toshi, Mark and Aki as they prepared for the second group of stages. Without the need for any major repairs on any of the vehicles, it was a case of simply filling up the washer bottle and sending it out nice and clean and with fresh tyres.

In the main Group N field, we have a Tommi Makinen Racing-prepared spec C Impreza (car #65), with Finnish driver Jukka Ketomaki at the wheel. He was intensely involved in the tussle for the lead of Group N with Toshi and Mark throughout the day, and at the end of the Leg One was some 11.5 seconds ahead of PCWRC leader Toshi Arai!

Toshi had no problems to report from the afternoon run other than losing 90% of his power steering assistance on the last stage. This happened after a very heavy jump on the Super Special stage in Hagfors. It was pretty spectacular to watch, Toshi running fastest in Group N on that stage. The jump lost him no time, though the car is being repaired in Service. Toshi Arai: "It's been an interesting first day, we're very happy to be leading. Overall, I'm happy. It's always nice to win stages."

Mark Higgins, while not cruising by any means, but not pushing to the absolute limit either, is very happy with his 2nd place in Production in the TopRun spec C. "I'm incredibly happy with the car. It's really very comfortable to drive and a pleasure competing in." said the Englishman, his enthusiasm readily apparent. "I realise I shouldn't push too hard, for risk of throwing away all the hard work and our 2nd place. I know that maintaining a good pace throughout is paramount." Mark did break a rim on SS4; though badly damaged, the tyre stayed inflated and he was able to change the tyre on the flollowing road section without losing any time. The rim was certainly good for nothing after that!

Further down the field, Anders Grondal (Car #75) is also campaigning a Prodrive-built new spec C Impreza, and put in some respectable times throughout the day. A very young driver, he was 9th in Group N at lunchtime, less than a minute off the leaders' pace. Not bad for a driver who has only Norweigen national championship experience under his belt. By the end of the day, he had risen a couple more spots and now lies less than a minute behind Aki Teiskonen. With this as his first proper international event, we may have a future Petter Solberg on our hands!

As far as road conditions the second time through the stages, there was naturally more rutting; this meant the drivers had to change their style from a flat-out drift to a rattle-down-a-toboggan run. Very exciting to watch, and very exciting to drive; though it has its risks. If you pop out of these 'tram rails', it can be difficult to get back in. And once you're out of them, you can very quickly go flying off the road.

Aki Teiskonen had a fairly easy afternoon, though he lifted his pace slightly to see if he could make an impression on Mark Higgins, and it looks as if he might be able to. He has a small problem with the gearbox, but this will be seen to in Final Service. On another note, his co-driver, brother Mikko Taiskonen, is not talking to the driver after he spun on the last stage, losing the pair valuable time.

Fabio Frisiero has no particular problems to report, though he feels the car isn't handling properly on fast corners. "It turns in okay, but the car tends to fall off in the corner a little bit." He's talking to his engineer about softening the suspension a little to try and combat the problem for tomorrow's tests. Considered by some to be a gentleman driver, he takes fewer risks than those topping the timesheets, but is clearly enjoying himself and setting some steady, consistent times and looks great on the stages.

Generally, the stages never really softened up this afternoon. It's looking like it's going to remain cold, with a nice clear evening, and should continue until the morning. Tomorrow is also expected to be cold.

In Group N overall, we still have Jukka Ketomaki leading all the PCWRC cars, making a sweep of three spec C Imprezas at the top of the N4 category. With the first three cars in the Production championship also SUBARU, it has been a fantastically rewarding opening day to the 2005 PCWRC.

STI Group N Project Manager George Donaldson:
"We have three spec C cars occupying the top three places in Group N overall after the first day of competition. Add to this our position among the PCWRC competitors, and it's just fantastic. All in all, we're very happy with how the car has been performing, and we'll be looking to build on this over tomorrow's stages."

Tomorrow sees competitors tackle one of the most famous - and feared - stages in all of rallying, the notorious Fredriksberg. It features long, high-speed straight sections that require serious commitment and a good deal of courage if full advantage is to be taken. These are coupled with tight, twisty sections that catch out a few drivers every year. All in all, a true test for all competitors, and a stage they'll all be thinking about overnight.

This year, the unseasonably warm weather means that the snowbanks drivers famously bounce off to decrease speed will not be a feature. However, competitors may have bigger weather-related problems on their minds, such as how their snow and ice tyres can maintain grip on the gravelly conditions.
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Old 14-02-2005, 08:57   #3
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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.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Angelo Medeghini / Barbara Capoferri

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.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Jussi Všlimški / Tero Gardemeister

"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 Všlimški 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.
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