WRC Loeb extends Cyprus Rally lead through day two

2005 Cyprus Rally
FIA World Rally Championship, round 6 of 16

For immediate release
Saturday, May 14th, 2005


Austrian privateer Manfred Stohl maintains second place;
Norway's Solberg and Estonia's Martin locked in battle for third place

LIMASSOL (Cyprus): CitroŽn's defending FIA World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb and French co-driver Daniel Elena had extended their overall lead in the Cyprus Rally to over three minutes, after 11 times special stages in the Troodos mountains, north of Limassol, today (Saturday).

Loeb began the day's six timed stages with a 2m 04.2s advantage over the Austrian privateer Manfred Stohl in his OMV-backed CitroŽn Xsara. The Frenchman extended that advantage to 2m 14s through the Platres stage, as Estonia's fourth-placed Markko Martin closed the gap on third-placed Norwegian Henning Solberg to three seconds.

Loeb continued to move clear through the ninth stage, where Solberg took advantage of Stohl's slower stage time to close to within 40 seconds of second position. Martin finished the Galatareia section a mere second behind the Norwegian's M-Sport Ford Focus RS and headed into the regroup in fourth position, as the pair fought a frantic battle for third overall.

Over the final loop of three stages, Loeb consolidated CitroŽn's sizeable overall advantage. Stage 11 was stopped following a fire involving Francois Duval's stricken CitroŽn and the third overnight podium position was settled in Solberg's favour when Martin was baulked in SS11 and the 12th stage was stopped on safety grounds following delays after SS11.

~I was pushing quite hard and not worrying who was behind me,~ said Henning, brother of Petter Solberg, the 2003 World Rally Champion. ~There are a lot of people with more experience than me and with better cars, so I am pleased with my position.~

The second Ford privateer Anthony Warmbold held fifth place in his Focus RS, despite breaking a rear anti-roll bar on the first loop of stages. But the German stopped with no oil pressure in the 11th stage. Duval lost sixth place when he rolled into retirement in SS11, handing fifth to a resurgent Finn Toni Gardemeister, who came within 0.2 seconds of setting his first ever fastest WRC time with co-driver Jakke Honkanen in SS9.

Mitsubishi's Harri Rovanperš, Ford's Roman Kresta and Finland's Janne Tuohino - in the sole-surviving Skoda Fabia - held sixth, seventh and eighth places entering the final stage of the day, but the luckless Rovanperš was delayed with serious suspension problems which caused him to lose a wheel in the second punishing Galatareia test. Germany's Armin Schwarz left the road in the 11th stage in the second Skoda and was unable to regain the track.

Former World Champions Marcus GrŲnholm and Petter Solberg - who had been sidelined with engine problems on Friday - failed to restart this morning, both the Peugeot and Subaru teams preferring to preserve their car's engines for the Rally of Turkey.

Frenchman Brice Tirabassi held a two-minute plus advantage in the FIA Production Car World Championship category, after Britain's Mark Higgins had been forced out with a car fire on the fourth stage on Friday and both Japan's Toshi Arai and Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah hit transmission and suspension problems.

Argentina's Sebastien Beltran and Marcos Ligato were second and third overall after nine stages, with Oman's Hamed Al-Wahaibi up to fourth, ahead of Al-Attiyah who restarted on Saturday morning under the controversial Super Rally ruling.

A further six special stages take place on Sunday, with the event reaching a conclusion on the seafront in Limassol at 15.15 hrs that afternoon.

2005 Cyprus Rally - positions after SS11:
1. Sebastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (F) CitroŽn Xsara 3h 24m 44.2s
2. Manfred Stohl (A)/Ilka Minor (A) CitroŽn Xsara WRC 2004 3h 27m 58.2s
3. Henning Solberg (N)/Cato Menkerud (N) Ford Focus RS WRC 04 3h 28m 54.2s
4. Markko Martin (EE)/Michael Park (GB) Peugeot 307 WRC 3h 29m 08.5s
5. Toni Gardemeister (FIN)/Jakke Honkanen (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 04 3h 30m 25.9s
6. Harri Rovanperš (FIN)/Risto Pietilainen (FIN) Mitsubishi Lancer WR05 3h 30m 55.8s
7. Roman Kresta (CZ)/Jan Mozny (CZ) Ford Focus RS WRC 04 3h 33m 04.7s
8. Janne Tuohino (FIN)/Mikko Markkula (FIN) Skoda Fabia WRC 3h 37m 21.5s
9. Daniel Carlsson (S)/Mattias Andersson (S) Peugeot 206 WRC 3h 38m 36.3s
10. Brice Tirabassi (F)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Subaru Impreza WRX STi (N) 3h 46m 22.9s
11. Sebastien Beltran (RA)/Edgardo Galindo (RA) Subaru Impreza WRX (N) 3h 48m 40.2s


For further media information:
2005 Cyprus Rally Press Office, Media Centre, Limassol, Cyprus.
Tel: + 357 25 872211, Fax: + 357 257 74197
E-mail: koulla.c@actionprgroup.com

Date issued: 14/05/2005

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