Solberg stars on day two of Cyprus Rally

FIA World Rally Championship, round 7

For immediate release
Saturday, June 21st, 2003


Gronholm and Panizzi out; Ford stunned by early retirements

LIMASSOL (Cyprus): Norway's Petter Solberg and Finland's Harri Rovanpera ensured that the second leg of the Cyprus Rally, the seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship, developed into a battle between Subaru and Peugeot today (Saturday).

Solberg and co-driver Philip Mills inherited the lead on the first of the day's eight dry and dusty stages through the Troodos mountains, when Finnish overnight leader Marcus Gronholm was delayed with a propshaft failure and subsequently retired with a broken clutch. Solberg's overall advantage was a mere 14.3 seconds after 10 special stages.

Solberg and Rovanpera fought a tooth and tail battle throughout the day, although the Finn was slowed at times with an overheating engine. The Norwegian had promised an early challenge and he moved into the outright lead after setting the second fastest time behind a flying Makinen on the first section from Kourdali to Asinou today.

~Last year I had no plan or strategy,~ said Solberg. ~I wouldn't mind being second at the end of tonight. But Sunday is the most important day. If you drive under 100% you are not going to be good enough to win this rally.~

Citroen's Sebastian Loeb moved up to third, once Peugeot's Gilles Panizzi stopped in the sixth stage with engine failure. Xsara-driving team mates Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz completed the top five and Britain's Richard Burns was sixth in a Peugeot.

The opening stage of the day was a major disappointment for Ford's Markko Martin and Francois Duval. Both Fords had been running in copious amounts of dust and this caused engine damage, oil pressure problems and eventual retirement for the Estonian and the Belgian.

~It was very disappointing for us,~ said team principal Malcolm Wilson. ~We have worked on the air intake system, but it proves that we still have some development to carry out.~

Skoda's Toni Gardemeister retired when he damaged the underside of the Skoda's engine on a treestump. This is the last official works outing for the Octavia WRC, which is scheduled to be replaced by a new Fabia rally car in Germany next month.

Multiple former World Champion Tommi Makinen broke a wheel on the first loop of stages, dropped over 27 minutes and retired after being classified over his time limit in Limassol.

Japan's Toshihiro Arai and New Zealand co-driver Tony Sircombe continued to lead the FIA Production Car category in their Subaru Impreza. They led former British Champion Martin Rowe and Swedish veteran Stig Blomqvist.

Tomorrow (Sunday) is the final leg of the Cyprus Rally with six special stages in the Troodos mountains preceding the podium finish on the Promenade in Limassol.

Leading positions after SS10 (top 6 only):

1. Petter Solberg (N)/Philip Mills (GB) Subaru Impreza WRC 2003 3h 17m 27.5s
2. Harri Rovanpera (SF)/Ritso Pietilainen (SF) Peugeot 206 WRC 3h 17m 41.8s
3. Sebastian Loeb (F) Daniel Elena (MC) Citroen Xsara WRC 3h 19m 46.2s
4. Colin McRae (GB)/Derek Ringer (GB) Citroen Xsara WRC 3h 20m 27.8s
5. Carlos Sainz (E)/Marc Marti (E) CitroŽn Xsara WRC 3h 21m 07.9s
6. Richard Burns (GB)/Robert Reid (GB) Peugeot 206 WRC 3h 22m 58.5s


For further information contact the Cyprus Rally press centre in Limassol on Tel: + 357 25 66 2964, Fax: + 357 25 66 2967 or E-mail: pressoffice@actionprgroup.com

Images from the 2003 Cyprus Rally can be downloaded free of charge from www.reporter-images.com

Date issued: 21/06/2003

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