Ajaccio, Corsica - The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of "Gigi" Galli and Guido d’Amore finished the Rallye de France - Tour de Corse, the 14th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, in ninth position. Team-mates Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen were 10th, claiming the final Manufacturer’s Championship point, while Gilles and Hervé Panizzi failed to re-start this morning following what is now confirmed as a problem with the engine ECU.
"This weekend’s result is not what we expected," said Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports. "However, Gigi and Harri finished and drove their maximum the whole event. On the positive side, we know our development priorities and confirmed the direction we need to head for further improvements."
The third leg of the Rallye de France was the shortest but again took in two loops of two identical stages. The route covered 95.46 competitive kilometers before the finish in Ajaccio at 13:50 hrs (local). Surprisingly, the weather over all three days of competition remained clear, fine and hot with barely a cloud in the sky; a stark contrast to the event’s reputation of having the most changeable and unpredictable weather conditions in the series.
Gigi Galli remained focused on finishing the event, gaining valuable experience in his first outing on the island in a world rally car. The Italian fought hard over the closing stages but was overhauled by Peugeot’s Nicolas Bernardi after more set-up changes to the Lancer WRC05.
"It’s been a very difficult weekend," said Gigi at the finish. "The thing I am the most sorry about is that every day I have not been able to do what I like with the car; this is the first time with the Lancer I have felt like that. Every other rally I have been able to make something good, even if it was only for one stage. That is frustrating, but I am confident things will be better in Spain."
Looking ahead to Spain next week, team-mate Harri Rovanperä tried a totally different set-up for the final two stages but ultimately it proved difficult to accurately evaluate due to harder tires this afternoon.
"It’s disappointing that the car hasn’t worked as we thought this weekend," said Harri. "It’s not what we expected and all we can say really is that we finished. On the positive side I am happy with the evolution of Pirelli’s dry weather tire; that is good news for the future and we are certainly closer to the competition now."
Adding to the drivers’ comments, Roger Estrada, Principal Rally Engineer, said: "It’s been a difficult event for us with technical problems, but the team is doing its best to resolve these issues in a very short time-frame before Catalunya. The performance of Pirelli’s dry tire was encouraging and this is a good step forward though."
The FIA World Rally Championship contenders now head immediately to Spain for the penultimate round of the series. As back-to-back rallies, engines and body shells from Corsica will remain the same for the RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada (October 27-30) and the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team will be fielding a two-car entry in the final asphalt event of the season. Harri Rovanperä/Risto Pietiläinen will be joined by "Gigi" Galli/Guido d’Amore in the second Lancer WRC05.
While this event was a qualifying round of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship, a number of Group N crews were fighting for their own category honors. Frenchman Marc Valliccioni finished second in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution behind Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala.
Mitsubishi was however celebrating a victory this weekend. The Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution crew of Luc Alphand/Gilles Picard clinched a superb victory in the 19th Baja Anta Da Serra 500-Portalegre today, the fourth round of the FIA International Cup for Cross Country Bajas.
News from our rivals
In a remarkable feat of supremacy and consistency, Sébastien Loeb set another record by winning every stage of the event to claim his first victory on the island. The Frenchman had a winning margin of one minute 51.7 seconds over Ford’s Toni Gardemeister, the Finn equaling his best results of the season. Petter Solberg finished third with Subaru team-mate Stéphane Sarrazin equaling his best FIA WRC event result, in fourth. Roman Kresta gave Ford a double-points haul with fifth position while Škoda finished sixth with Alexandre Bengue in the Fabia WRC. François Duval, who had held second, retired after losing a wheel this morning.
Rallye de France - Tour de Corse – Final Results
1. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena Citroën Xsara WRC 3 hr 35 min 46.7sec
2. Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen Ford Focus RS WRC04 3 hr 37 min 38.4sec
3. Petter Solberg/Phil Mills Subaru Impreza WRC 2005 3 hr 38 min 28.8sec
4. Stéphane Sarrazin/Denis Giraudet Subaru Impreza WRC 2005 3 hr 39 min 20.9sec
5. Roman Kresta/Jan Tomanek Ford Focus RS WRC04 3 hr 41 min 08.2sec
6. Alexandre Bengue/Caroline Escudero Škoda Fabia WRC 3 hr 41 min 14.5sec
7. Xavier Pons/Carlos del Barrio Citroën Xsara WRC 3 hr 41 min 28.5sec
8. Nicolas Bernardi/Jean-Marc Fortin Peugeot 307 WRC 3 hr 42 min 18.8sec
9. Gigi Galli/Guido d’Amore Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 3 hr 42 min 24.5sec
10. Harri Rovanperä/Risto Pietiläinen Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 3 hr 45 min 09.2sec
FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers
Sébastien Loeb 117
Petter Solberg 71
Marcus Grönholm 71
Toni Gardemeister 58
Markko Märtin 53
Harri Rovanperä 31
François Duval 29
Roman Kresta 22
Manfred Stohl 16
Carlos Sainz 11
Gigi Galli 10
Henning Solberg 9
Chris Atkinson 8
Mikko Hirvonen 8
Gilles Panizzi 7
FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers
- Hayley Maxfield, Mitsubishi Motors MotorSport-
photos Mitsubishi and automobilsport.com Luc Depiesse