Nasser Al Attiyah inside top 10 in Rally 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
Saturday, July 17th, 2004
QATAR'S NASSER SALEH AL-ATTIYAH
INSIDE TOP 10 IN RALLY ARGENTINA
Qatari star gains crucial PWRC experience; Finland's Marcus Gronholm leads the way
VILLA CARLOS PAZ (Argentina): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson held 19th position in the overall standings and ninth in the Group N category after 12 timed special stages of the gruelling Rally of Argentina in Villa Carlos Paz on Saturday.
The Qatari began his challenge for success over Friday's gravel stages by moving up to fifth in the showroom category, as a fierce battle developed between Finland's Jani Paasonen, Japan's Toshi Arai and Britain's Mark Higgins. The battle waged throughout the opening leg over the punishing tracks through the Punilla Valley and Al-Attiyah held his own to complete the day in a strong position at the wheel of the Autotek Motorsport-run Subaru Impreza WRX STi, which runs with support from the Doha-based Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation.
The rate of attrition was high and when Paasonen slipped down the leaderboard and both Arai and Higgins were sidelined with mechanical problems, it was left to Gabriele Pozzo to take the lead in the showroom section in his Subaru Impreza. Argentina's Marcos Ligato was second overall and Austria's Manfred Stohl, Italy's Gianluigi Galli and Spain's Daniel Sola completed the top five.
~The pace has been fierce,~ said Al-Attiyah. ~But this is what I expect from a round of the PWRC. I have managed to stay in contention and the final two days will give me a great chance to move up the leaderboard and score more points in the PWRC. I began the second leg in ninth position, but there is a long way to go and I know that I have the pace and determination to move higher over the weekend.~
Finland's Marcus Gronholm began Saturday's second leg with a 8.4 second advantage in his Peugeot 307 WRC, with Spain's Carlos Sainz and French WRC leader Sebastien Loeb in second and third positions in a pair of Citroen Xsara WRCs. Belgian Francois Duval held fourth after 12 special stages and Mitsubishi's Kristian Sohlberg was an excellent fifth overall. Finland's Harri Rovanpera held fifth after the opening stages, but a broken hydraulic pump in his car's axle cost almost nine minutes and he slipped to eighth.
There was disappointment for the early leader Petter Solberg near the end of the first leg when his Subaru's engine failed after a fire. He was joined Estonia's Markko Martin on the retirement list. Martin had earlier been airlifted to hospital after a serious crash put his Ford Focus RS out of the rally. He had been lying second overall in a Ford Focus RS.
~Markko's jump came at the end of a long straight,~ explained co-driver Michael Park. ~We took a slightly different line and on landing the car's differential guard hit a rock. The impact kicked the car into the air and it landed on its nose before rolling end over end down the road. The first impact took much of the speed out of the accident so the car didn't roll too many times. Markko's door was ripped open so we both climbed out that side and I went back down the road to warn following cars.~
Today's (Saturday) second leg offered a balance of seven flowing stages in the Calamuchita Valley to the south and the Punilla Valley to the north. The competitive action totalled 129.39 kms, including a further two runs through the 'super special' stages on Saturday evening and stages in the Amboy, Santa Rosa de Calamachita and Cosquin regions.
Sunday's shorter final day ends amid the rocky speed tests high in the Traslasierra mountains and brings the return of El Condor and Giulio CÚsare, two of the most famous and toughest stages in the entire championship, which peak at almost 2200 metres.
It consists of a mere five special stages, totalling 84.96 kms. The action begins with a run through a 14.81 kms stage between Villa Carlos Paz and Cabalango and visits the area around Cosquin, Villa Allende and the eerie lunar-type moonscapes near Mina Clavero and Giulio Cesare.
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