Harri 3rd after Leg One

Harri 3rd after Leg OneFrom Mitsubishi Press [ 16/09/2005 ].
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After the opening leg of Wales Rally GB, the 12th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 crew of Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen are on the provisional podium, in third. Team-mates “Gigi” Galli and Guido d'Amore have been easing themselves into the pace in their first competitive outing in Wales but have set competitive times to lie 10th overnight.

“A very good day, very satisfying,” said Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports. “Harri showed a good performance from the outset, with a fastest stage time early this morning. He has been constant and stable all day and had no major technical problems. Gigi made a small mistake in the first stage, but otherwise he's showed progress during the second loop of stages this afternoon and gradually closed the gap to his rivals. Tomorrow hopefully he can do the same. Everything is on the right track and we hope to keep the momentum until Sunday.”

After last night's ceremonial start outside Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, HQ for Wales Rally GB, the action kicked off in earnest this morning from the service park in Swansea, 70 kilometers to the north-west. The first leg, to the north and east of Swansea, covered two identical loops of three stages totaling 136.74 competitive kilometers, the longest day of the event. In contrast to yesterday's persistent rain, blue skies and clear conditions were a welcome sight in Brechfa and the Vale of Neath Forests, where all today's action has been played out.

In an event where he has traditionally run well, Harri Rovanperä was on the pace from the outset, the Finn fourth fastest in the opening stage. In the 18.56 kilometer Trawscoed stage, however, the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 driver, co-driven by Risto Pietiläinen, was the pace-setter and set fastest time by three seconds. The Finns have never been out of the top six all afternoon and are just over 10 seconds adrift of second position.

“Today has been fantastic for me and very good for the team on the mechanics home event, every stage has been going well,” said Harri. “The only problem we have had is a suspension link failure in SS5 but we were able to fix it for the final stage. All the stages this afternoon have been very slippy, especially the last one even though it was completely dry. Everyone in the team has worked very hard so I am happy to have a good result at the end of the first day. I need to keep my concentration for the whole weekend, because I'm sure there will be a big fight ahead.”

Team-mate Gigi Galli lost time in the first stage this morning when he overshot a junction and stalled the engine, however the Italian was fifth fastest in the following stage to climb four places up the leaderboard. This afternoon he has increased the pace over the repeated stages and was fifth, eighth and third fastest in the second Lancer WRC05. He holds 10th overnight, in a very close battle for a position in the top six.

“I am pleased with the day, which has gone accordingly to plan, but this rally is harder than I thought,” said Gigi. “The main thing about the event is the grip; sometimes it's slippy and other times not, but I think tomorrow's stages are more twisty and the surface a bit more predictable. We are trying, step by step, but doing these stages in a rally car is something quite different to the recce.”

Adding to the drivers' comments, Roger Estrada, Principal Rally Engineer, said: “We have shown good performance today and apart from one small issue with Harri's car this afternoon, we've had no problems. Even then, he didn't drop time. Both drivers are happy with the set-up and overall performance and we've made the right choice of tire all day. This afternoon the compound was maybe a bit soft, but as overall decisions, they have been right.”

Saturday takes the crews to the north-east of Swansea for another seven stages totaling 103.86 competitive kilometers before returning to Cardiff for an all- new 1.1 kilometer special stage in the world-famous Millennium Stadium, host to numerous international sporting events.