Fate Holds Umbrella Over Loeb

Fate Holds Umbrella Over LoebFrom General Article [ 26/07/2003 ].
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SS 8, mostly narrow country roads with fast curves and now, due to a few showers, had standing surface water in places, caught out many of the drivers on tyre choice. Armin Schwarz chose intermediates which he had no problems with, whilst Colin McRae, placed the blame firmly on Michelin for supplying the wrong tyres. Richard Burns however just blamed himself, saying "The tyres weren't the problem, I was too slow." Due to this and the fact that he won the stage, Marcus Gronholm was now within 0.7s of the overall leader. After being confident with intermediates on SS8, drivers decided that they were the wrong choice for SS9 (Peterberg 1) and slicks would have been more useful. Gronholm took the lead even though he too suffered from choosing the wrong tyre type.

Marcus Gronholm continued to put faster times in than Burns on SS10, Erzweiler 1 a stage that's surface is not like tarmac at all, but rough concrete, very slippy (dusty) and abrassive. Sebastien Loeb, currently in third position began to close the gap. Markko Martin overtook Philippe Bugalski who developed turbo charger problems just before the finish and set fastest time.

SS 10, Erzweiler 2, saw no incidents of note. Sebastien Loeb gained 3 seconds on rally leader Marcus Gronholm over the tyre ripping surface.

SS 11, Panzerplatte West 1, was incident packed. Philippe Bugalski retired before the start of the stage with turbo charger problems causing engine failure, Armin Schwarz only had the use of his top 3 gears, Petter Solberg broke his right rear suspension after a jump and Toni Gardemeister also succumbed to broken suspension. Jani Paasonen's Co driver Arto kapanen was found to have minor back and shoulder injuries after being transfered to hospital as a result of an accident. All competitors not starting stage 11 received the identical time of 22:54.7.

Markko Martin set fastest time on SS 11
"Both stages were dry and quite dirty, with a lot of debris dragged onto the road but there was more grip in the dry and not so many slippery places," said Märtin. "We found all the junctions OK this time but it's difficult to judge the pace to ensure we get the best from our tyres and maybe I could have pushed harder. We've been quick on the Baumholder roads all rally. We've made many changes to our pace notes since last year. Almost every corner is one gear higher and that shows in our times.

"We're less than two seconds off a podium position and that's a lot better than it looked last night. We can't change what happened yesterday, that's done, so we have to try and get the best out of the situation, keep pushing and battle with Colin and Richard," he added.

The 27-year-old Estonian returned to the day's penultimate service park at Bostalsee still in fifth. But he is now only 0.9sec behind fourth-placed Colin McRae (Citroen) and just 1.7sec behind Richard Burns in third.

Special Stage 12 - Erzweiler 2 Marcus Gronholm suffered two front punctures on the stage,but was still third fastest through the stage and maintained the rally lead.

Special stage 13 - Panzerplatte West 2 Gronholm was forced to drive this stage with one puncture, allowing Sebastian Loeb to seize the overall rally lead in SS13 by 1.8 seconds. Toni Gardemeister's Skoda Fabia retired on this stage with a broken drive shaft which eventually blocked the rear right wheel.

Special stage 14 - Peterberg 2 - At the start of this stage, heavy rain started to fall. Most drivers had opted for slicks, resulting in a difficult drive with many spins. Gronholm anxious to reclaim the rally lead lost to him when he suffered two punctures, equalled Sebastian Loeb's fastest time through the stage. Despite complaining of problems with his brakes, Gilles Panizzi was next quickest on the stage. Francois Duval stalled four times at the beginning of the stage costing him approximately twenty seconds.

Special stage 15 - Bosenberg 2 - Markko Martin was the fastest through the stage with no other driver able to complete the stage in under nine minutes.

Super Special Stage 16 - St Wendel 2 Roman Kresta was gifted his first fastest stage time of the rally, as many of the front running cars chose not to risk their positions on the slippery surface on this section of closed off motorway. Andy and Rowena ended the day in first position, first to get to the media centre, and first to head to the bar...