Al Attiyah poised to attack in Rally of Argentina
2004 Rally of Argentina
FIA World Rally Championship, round 8 of 16
FIA Production World Rally Championship (PWRC), round 4 of 7
For immediate release
Friday, July 16th, 2004
QATAR'S NASSER AL-ATTIYAH POISED
TO ATTACK IN RALLY OF ARGENTINA
Nasser finds fast pace early on; Norway's Petter Solberg takes early lead in Argentina
VILLA CARLOS PAZ (Argentina): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson began their challenge for success in the Rally of Argentina by staying in contention for the lead in the Group N category after three timed special stages, today (Friday).
After finishing 10th and fifth overall in the Group N section through the two Pro-Racing 'super special' stages on Thursday evening, near Villa Carlos Paz, Al-Attiyah began to push harder over the punishing tracks through the Punilla Valley to the north on Friday morning.
In the challenging 21.35 kms third stage between La Cumbra and Agua de Oro, Al-Attiyah got his first taste of Argentinean gravel rallying and was on the pace set by the front-runners. England's David Higgins was one of those pace setters in the showroom category, behind Finland's Jani Paasonen and Japan's Toshi Arai, with Argentina's Marcus Ligato, Austria's Manfred Stohl, Spain's Daniel Sola and Italy's Gianluigi Galli in close proximity.
~I wanted to see who the main competition was before I began to challenge harder,~ admitted Al-Attiyah. ~There is a very strong level of entry in Group N and all the drivers ahead of me have the ability to drive factory cars on a regular basis. Several of them have had contracts with factory teams before so I was pleased to be on their pace through the early stages.
~This is a long and difficult rally. I will see what pace develops on the opening leg and plan a strategy for the remainder of the event. This is a fantastic location for a rally. The people have been so friendly and I want to repay them with a great result.~
Subaru's Petter Solberg moved into a 9.3 second lead in the overall standings after beating Estonian arch rival Markko Martin in SS3. Former World Champion Marcus Gronholm was third and Frenchman Sebastien Loeb and Finland's Harri Riovanpera completed the top five.
The event is the eighth round of the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship and the fourth round of the Production World Rally Championship (PWRC) and started with two runs through a 3.02 kms section, where defending World Champion Petter Solberg set the fastest time of 2m 09.1s in his Subaru Impreza WRC. Finland's Marcus Gronholm was second quickest in a Peugeot 307 WRC and Ford's Markko Martin was third.
In Nasser's Group N category, Paasonen set the fastest time of 2m 20.7s in his bid to catch championship leader Daniel Sola in the PWRC standings. Stohl finished just behind the Finn, but Al-Attiyah began cautiously in 10th position, the Qatari not wishing to take risks so early in the rally.
On the second run through the 'super special' in front of massive crowds, Martin set the overall fastest time to move within 0.2 seconds of early rally leader Solberg. Gronholm and Spain's Carlos Sainz completed the top four positions.
Paasonen was again quickest in the Group N rankings, with Galli, Stohl and Sola making up the top four. But Al-Attiyah shot up the rankings after the second stage to set the fifth fastest time and hold 19th in the overall results and seventh in Group N at the start of the first gravel special stages on Friday morning.
The defending Middle East rally champion is tackling the PWRC for the first time at the wheel of an Autotek Motorsport-prepared Group N Subaru Impreza WRX STi. He currently lies equal 11th in the championship after three rounds with the highly-rated Mitsubishi factory driver Gianluigi Galli.
Friday's opening leg began at 07.07 hrs local time in Carlos Paz and consisted of 10 special stages, totalling 168.28 kms. The longest test of the day was the 28.83 kms section from Ascochinga to La Cumbra, which was repeated in the morning and the afternoon. The remaining stages took place around Agua de Oro, La Falda, Valle Hermosa and Villa Giardino, with the two 3.02 kms Complejo Pro-Racing 'super special' stages bringing the action to a close in Villa Carlos Paz.
Saturday's second leg offers a balance of seven flowing stages in the Calamuchita Valley to the south and the Punilla Valley to the north. The competitive action totals 129.39 kms, including a further two runs through the 'super special' stages.
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