WRC Top teams prepare for gruelling Troodos challenge
2005 Cyprus Rally
FIA World Rally Championship, round 6 of 16
For immediate release
Thursday, May 12th, 2005
TOP TEAMS PREPARE FOR GRUELLING
TROODOS CHALLENGE IN CYPRUS RALLY
Factory M-Sport Ford Focuses fitted with internal seat coolers;
Mitsubishi team confident of top result in Troodos mountains;
Grönholm fastest in Thursday's traditional shakedown stage
LIMASSOL (Cyprus): Citroen's defending FIA World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb and fellow French co-driver Daniel Elena led a capacity 60 teams into the first stage of the Cyprus Rally, round six of this year's FIA World Rally Championship, today (Friday). The event began with an official ceremonial start on the Promenade in Limassol on Thursday evening.
With temperatures climbing into the high thirties over the last 24 hours, the leading WRC contenders can expect punishing heat, bone dry surfaces and tyre-shredding rocks to threaten their chances of reaching the finish in Limassol on Sunday afternoon.
To combat the effects of excessive heat within the cockpit of their cars, Britain's M-Sport have fitted seat coolers to their Ford Focus factory cars for the first time and both Finland's Toni Gardemeister and the Czech Republic's Roman Kresta will benefit from additional cooling on the special stages. ~No-one is expecting really excessive temperatures this year,~ admitted a spokesman. ~The rally should be easier on engines and team personnel than it has been in the past, although temperatures did climb higher today (Thursday).~
Peugeot's former FIA World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm is confident that he can make in-roads into Sebastien Loeb and Petter Solberg's WRC points' advantage. But the 2002 Cyprus Rally winner admits that it will not be easy to push through the first stage.
~It would be nice to have a strategy whereby you could take it easy and watch the game plan of the other teams,~ said Marcus. ~But these events are short and compact and you do not have the time to do that. For sure, it will not be possible to attack in the opening stage. It is very rough and rocky and not the time or the place.~
Mitsubishi took heart from an encouraging performance by Finland's Harri Rovanpera in Sardinia and Team President Isao Torii is confident that a Mitsubishi Lancer WR05 can be competitive in the Troodos mountains. ~Harri drove very well last year on the three Mediterranean rallies for the Peugeot team and I am confident that he can deliver a good result for us. Gilles (Panizzi), our second driver, is clever and is also competitive and determined to do well here.~
Meanwhile, Skoda is still developing and improving the 2005 Fabia model, which made its debut in Mexico. ~The car has good aerodynamics and we are always working on stability and handling,~ said German driver Armin Schwarz, a winner of the Cyprus Rally when it was a round of the FIA European Rally Championship in 1996. ~There have been a few changes to the format of the event since then,~ recalls Armin. ~It started in Nicosia then, but the stages were really twisty and rough. That is the nature of the terrain here in Cyprus.~
Subaru's Chris Atkinson is looking forward to his first Cyprus challenge. ~We are used to this heat in Australia,~ said Atkinson. ~We have done several rallies at home in these temperatures and also in the Asia-Pacific region. But rocky stages are new and I will need to find a good rhythm and feed myself in gently to a faster pace.~
On Thursday teams took part in the traditional two-kilometre shakedown stage to finalise car set-up and Peugeot's Grönholm set the fastest time of 1m 15.6s on his fourth and final run. Subaru's Petter Solberg also managed to break the 1m 18s mark, as did Daniel Carlsson in a Bozian Racing Peugeot 206 WRC, with a best time of 1m 17.2s.
Competitive action begins at 09.35 hrs on Friday morning with the first of six timed stages in leg one. A further six special stages take place on both Saturday and Sunday, with the event reaching a conclusion on the seafront in Limassol at 15.15 hrs on Sunday afternoon.
For further media information:
2005 Cyprus International Rally Press Office, Media Centre, Limassol, Cyprus.
Tel: + 357 25 872211, Fax: + 357 257 74197