Mitsubishi to step up a gear in Cyprus

Mitsubishi to step up a gear in CyprusFrom Mitsubishi Press [ 10/05/2005 ].
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The FIA World Rally Championship is firmly based in the Mediterranean for the next two months and the sixth round of the series takes the crews to the eastern island of Cyprus. Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen will once again be leading the team assault on this rough and demanding event, while Gilles and Hervé Panizzi return to competitive action for the first time since Rally México in early March. "Gigi" Galli and Guido D’Amore will also be on the island with the team, gaining important knowledge by undertaking the recce.

The Cyprus Rally was first held in 1970 and before long established itself as one of the foremost rounds of the FIA European Rally Championship. It was first included in the FIA World Rally Championship in 2000 and is viewed by many as one of the toughest rallies of the season. Not only are the stages littered with boulders and rocks, but endlessly twisty roads and searing heat make it a real test of reliability, survival and physical stamina; a far cry from the image of tranquil days on the beach on this holiday island. The event is also renowned as one of the slowest in the Championship and, being that the speed in the Troodos Mountain stages is so slow, engine cooling is a highly significant factor as temperatures invariably top 30 degrees. Tire durability is also a crucial element, as the roads that wind their way through olive groves are unforgiving and few escape punctures. For the crews, cockpit temperatures soar to over 50 degrees, largely due to the lack of air-flow in the car, demanding peak fitness. Cyprus is truly a rally of survival.

Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen have contested the event on four occasions and the pair has a good finishing record. They did not compete when the event first appeared in the FIA World Rally Championship calendar in 2000 and were forced out with broken suspension the following year, but in 2002 they narrowly missed out on a podium position, finishing fourth. In 2003 however, they mounted the podium in second, demonstrating their ability to conquer the conditions.

"Cyprus has very twisty mountain roads and it’s a very rough, bumpy and difficult rally", commented Harri. "For sure we can see that our current set-up for rough events is working well, having set some good times in Sardinia, and I am quite confident the small changes we will make for Cyprus will work well; we had a long test a few weeks ago and our work focused on this event. We know the car is strong and hopefully we can perform in the same way as Sardinia. It’s not one of my favorite events; it’s so hot, twisty and rough - a Mitsubishi Pajero is more suited to this event than a rally car!"

Team-mates Gilles and Hervé Panizzi have fared less well in Cyprus, three retirements from four outings underlining the grueling nature of this event. The French rallying brothers are however looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05.

"For sure this is maybe not my best event for results, as we have had many punctures and engine problems in previous years", said Gilles "I cannot say it is one of my favorites, because it is really rough and hard on the car, tires and driver. But the team seems to be making good progress at the moment, especially after seeing the performance in Sardinia. Our last test was also good so I am happy about the job at the moment. Since the team got back from Italy I have spent a few days in Rugby, learning some things around the car and about how to change certain components; this work could prove very important ahead of an event like Cyprus where nearly everyone experiences problems".

Adding to the drivers’ comments, Technical Director Mario Fornaris said: "The specification of the Lancer WRC05 will be the same as it was in Sardinia, but the set-up is obviously specific to this event; in particular the ride height, damper settings, shortened gear ratio and high temperature spec. For the first time we will also be using Pirelli’s XR tires, which have been specially designed for such rocky conditions. After our performance in Sardinia things look quite good for Cyprus, but it’s another different type of rally. We’ve made a big step on rough gravel events, especially if you compare back to our performance in México. It’s going to be a tough weekend, but we are definitely moving in the right direction".

"Cyprus is another rally of survival", commented Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports. "I think we have made a successful step forward and in this second quarter of our strategy the drivers are being asked to really push. We saw from Sardinia that we have made a lot of progress with the car and I feel very satisfied with the way our drivers are developing the more they gain confidence. We need to eliminate some small technical problems, but I think if we can survive the heat and rocks of Cyrus, then a podium is possible".