Stohl makes history in Cyprus

Stohl makes history in CyprusFrom General Article [ 15/05/2005 ].
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The OMV World Rally Team (Citroen Xsara WRC) made rally history. Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor have achieved an almost incredible feat with their second place at the “Rally Cyprus”, the sixth WC-run of the season. In the end the only one to beat the OMV Team was World Champion Sebastien Loeb (Fra/Citroen). The Austrian private team managed to stay in front of Peugeot works driver Markko Märtin (Est) who takes third place in the WC intermediate ranking.

Putting Märtin in his place from the start

Manfred Stohl was 40 seconds ahead of Henning Solberg (Nor/Ford) and 59 seconds ahead of Märtin (Peugeot) at the beginning of the final day of the Rally Cyprus. But before the Peugeot works driver could even try to catch up Manfred Stohl showed him the fruitlessness of his efforts. For the OMV World Rally Team achieved the second-best overall time behind Sebastien Loeb on the 25,24 kilometres long first special stage (the longest one of the day). Stohl: “I wanted to make clear right from the start that we were going to defend our ranking and that we were able to keep up with the best.“ Following this the performance of the 32-year-old Viennese was a tactical masterstroke. Co-driver Ilka Minor was constantly being informed about the latest SS-part times by Kronos Racing Team Manager Marc Vandalen. Thus Stohl was able to react immediately and adjust his speed accordingly. In the end he had 32 seconds lead on Märtin who had overtaken Solberg.

Chasing records on the Island of the Gods

The reporters in the service area were hard pressed as to which feat they should congratulate the OMV World Rally Team for first. Foremost was, obviously, the second overall place. This was also the all-time best result of an Austrian in a full-blown WC-run. Then there is the achievement of the private team. The last private driver to reach the podium was Piero Liatti (Ita) in San Remo in 1993. Stohl, furthermore, has never lost less time (4:09,4 min.) on a winner. And even the most industrious statistics-freaks were unable come up with the last time a female co-driver had been among the top three of a WC-run. Stohl: “It’s incredible what one can achieve with a second place. Normally I’m not interested in statistics but this is really rather impressive.“

It will take time to realise the importance of the achievement

Manfred Stohl had still been a bit reserved at the last service but on the podium and at the following press conference he was finally smiling broadly. Stohl: „I still don’t grasp this second place. But I want to thank those that made it possible – my sponsor OMV, the Kronos Racing Team, Michelin and all those who have always supported me. Maybe I can pay back a bit with this result.“ The organisers had also obviously been doubtful whether a team from Austria would be able to reach the podium – on Saturday they had finally started to search an Austrian flag for the presentation ceremony.

Cards will be reshuffled in Greece

The OMV World Rally Team now has a break of five weeks. The next assignment will be the Rally Greece from 26th-28th of June. Manfred Stohl remains guarded as to the expectations for his fifth start with the Citroen Xsara WRC. „We surely won’t have our head in the clouds. The cards will be reshuffled in Greece. There the works cars will once again have increased motor capacity and therefore their advantage will increase, as well. But now we’re in seventh place in the WC with eleven points to our score. That is reassuring.“