Stohl close to the podium

Stohl close to the podiumFrom Peugeot Press [ 22/09/2006 ].
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The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team had mixed feelings at the end of the first day of the “Cyprus Rally 2006”. Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor moved up from fifth to fourth overall place in the afternoon and are only 25 seconds behind a place on the podium. OMV Teammate Henning Solberg, on the other hand, had bad luck. The Norwegian was blinded by the sun on the last special stage and slipped off the road. But he will once again take up the fight for one or more WRC-points on Saturday thanks to SupeRally.

Better than last year
Even though the ranking compares somewhat unfavourably to last year, the time difference does show Manfred Stohl’s improvement. In 2005 the OMV driver had been in second place and 2:05 minutes behind leader Sebastien Loeb (Fra) after the first day. One year later he lies in fourth place but only 1:50 minutes behind front-runner Marcus Grönholm (Fin). No wonder that Stohl see things positively: “One can see that we are getting closer to the top, even though it is almost impossible for a privateer to match with the top works teams. On he other hand, we’ve left many works teams in our wake. That is a great success for the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team and Bozian Racing, as well." But this is still not enough for the 34-year-old Viennese. On Saturday he plans to reach or the podium. He is only missing 25 seconds on Mikko Hirvonen (Fin/Ford). A time difference that is no cause for relaxation, especially in Cyprus.

Lots of bad luck for Henning Solberg
Friday afternoon started very promising for Henning Solberg. Following the seventh special stage the Norwegian OMV driver moved up from seventh to fifth place. Then the fates struck. During the last SS of the first day he was blinded by the glaring sun and literally couldn’t see anymore. The difficult gravel roads of the Rally Cyprus are definitely not made for a blind flight and therefore he slipped off the road. Luckily driver and co remained unhurt but they are understably annoyed. Solberg: “This has never happened to me before. But I couldn’t do anything at the spur of the moment – I became a passenger. Now all we can do is to take full risk on Saturday. Perhaps then one or more WRC-points are still possible. After all, one has seen today how many victims this rally has already claimed." In the overall ranking the OMV driver currently lies 7:36,3 minutes behind in ninth overall place.

Loeb puts the pressure on Grönholm
Marcus Grönholm (Fin/Ford Focus WRC) dominated the special stages in the morning. But in the afternoon Sebastien Loeb (Fra/Citroen Xsara WRC) once again fought back. At the end of leg one the French double World Champion only lies 6,4 seconds behind his Finnish opponent. Mikko Hirvonen is already further behind. The Finnish Ford works driver has already lost 1:25,1 minutes. The Red Bull Skoda Team was most unfortunate. Both cars had to retire after the first special stage due to electronics poblems.