Gronholm extends Cyprus Rally lead on day two

2004 Cyprus Rally
FIA World Rally Championship, round 5 of 16

For immediate release
Saturday, May 15th, 2004


Engine failure for Mitsubishi's Sohlberg; Loeb up to second overall; Panizzi out

LIMASSOL (Cyprus): Finland's Marcus GrŲnholm and co-driver Timo Rautiainen held a 21.3 second lead after nine timed stages of the Cyprus Rally, the fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, on Saturday.

GrŲnholm began the day's six special stages across punishing gravel tracks in the Troodos mountains with a 10.7 second advantage over Peugeot team mate Harri Rovanperš, but his fellow Finn slipped back with gearbox problems.

This paved the way for CitroŽn's Sebastien Loeb to make his move into second position. The French winner of both the Monte Carlo and Swedish rallies heads into the final nine timed stages a mere 7.1 seconds ahead of Ford's Markko Martin.

The Estonian had lost time on Friday running first on the road in his Ford Focus, but moved into third position at the mid-point service in Limassol today, despite minor problems. ~We bent a steering arm and three tyres came off the rim in the ninth stage,~ groaned British co-driver Michael Park.

CitroŽn's decision to opt for a specific tyre pattern over the first loop of three stages cost Spaniard Carlos Sainz some time, but the former FIA World Champion held fourth position, ahead of fifth-placed Rovanperš. Subaru's Mikko Hirvonen completed the top six in a Subaru Impreza WRC 04 after settling into a pace where he could be competitive but also conserve his Pirelli tyres.

Last year's Cyprus Rally winner Petter Solberg began the day in 11th position in his Subaru Impreza, after losing considerable time when dust was ingested by the engine's air intake on Friday. He set the fastest time on the opening two stages and moved back into ninth position, behind his brother Henning's Peugeot. ~I set the fastest time on the first two and then had an overshoot on SS9,~ said the Norwegian.

Cypriot Andreas Tsouloftas was the leading local driver in 12th position at the wheel of a Group A Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6. Cypriot Yiotis Hartoupalos led the Group N category in his 13th-placed Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6.

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sport's continued development of the new Lancer WRC04 suffered a setback in the eighth stage, when Finland's Kristian Sohlberg stopped with terminal engine problems. French team mate Gilles Panizzi was pressing on in eighth position, despite the team's lack of suspension development for rough gravel terrain. The Frenchman eventually retired on the road section to Limassol after the ninth stage. He had been lying in a points-scoring eighth overall.

Another day two retirement was Argentina's Luis-Perez Companc. He left the road in SS8 and a driveshaft failure forced his Peugeot 206 out of the rally.

After a repeat of the morning's three stages on Saturday afternoon, six special stages take place on Sunday, with the event reaching a conclusion on the seafront in Limassol at 14.14 hrs on Sunday afternoon.

2004 Cyprus Rally - positions after SS9 (unofficial - top 7 only):
1. Marcus GrŲnholm (FIN)/Timo Rautiainen (FIN) Peugeot 307 2h 44m 51.3s
2. Sebastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (F) CitroŽn Xsara 2h 45m 12.6s
3. Markko Martin (EE)/Michael Park (GB) Ford Focus RS WRC 04 2h 45m 19.7s
4. Carlos Sainz (E)/Marc Marti (E) CitroŽn Xsara 2h 45m 57.9s
5. Harri Rovanperš (FIN)/Risto Pietilainen (FIN) Peugeot 307 2h 46m 04.6s
6. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Subaru Impreza WRC 2004 2h 48m 59.4s
7. Janne Tuohino (FIN)/Jukka Aho (FIN) Ford Focus WRC 02 2h 52m 08.5s


For further media information:
2004 Cyprus International Rally Press Office, Media Centre, Limassol,
Tel: + 357 25873962, Fax: + 357 25716593,
E-mail: pressoffice@actionprgroup.com or ndppublicity@compuserve.com

Date issued: 15/05/2004

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