Stohl scores points on Xsara debut

Stohl scores points on Xsara debutFrom Citroen Press [ 23/01/2005 ].
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The first run of the World Rally Championship is over. And OMV driver Manfred Stohl wrote down yet another piece of Austrian rally history. With place six overall the 32-year-old Viennese reaped three WC-points and moved into the limelight at his Citroen WRC premiere. Furthermore the OMV Team Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor proved to be the best private team at the Monte and clearly outdistanced several works drivers.

The beginning, in fact, hadn’t been too auspicious. The initial times on Friday were reason for concern even when taking into account that one had to get acquainted with the new “work tool”. But as expected the OMV driver improved kilometre by kilometre. In the beginning Stohl lost three seconds per kilometre but his third best special stage time on the last stage was an absoulte highlight. In the end he didn’t lose even four tenth of a second per kilometre. The Austrian explains: „In the beginning we braked like on gravel. But you have to drive much harder on tarmac. The moment we got used to this it showed in the times. This is hard work, though. But at the end of the rally we were already so fast that the road became uncomfortably narrow.“

Playing with the best
At the end of the rally Stohl also won a prestigious duel. On SS 12 he overtook Mitsubishi works driver Harri Rovanpera. Before the last 31,19 kilometres he had a narrow lead of 9,9 seconds – which he extended to 20 seconds. It is also remarkable how little he lost on the man in front of him. After 360 special stage kilometres two-times World Champion Marcus Grönholm (Fin/Peugeot) had a lead of only 35,1 seconds. Stohl: „It does boost your self-confidence when you realise that you can keep up with the best. Only Loeb was in a league of his own." Back to statistics

After a warming up phase the OMV World Rally Team improved considerably. A delay of 4:05 minutes on the first day was reduced by Stohl to 3:06 on the second leg. And on day three he only lost 58 seconds. Nine special stage top-10-times (among them a third and fourth time) also met expectations. The Austrian’s WRC-balance is equally remarkable: after Wales 2003 (7th), Greece 2004 (6th) and Wales 2004 (8th) he scored for the fourth time in a row.

Big success for Kronos
For Kronos Racing the Rally Monte Carlo was definitely worth the trip. After two unfortunate participations last year (two retirements) this year Citroen Sport’s trust was justified already at the first run. „We’re extremely happy. Manfred did a great job and came to grips with the car eventually. Now we are looking forward to the gravel rallies that are Manfred’s forte ", Kronos Team Manager Marc van Dalen sums up.