WRC » 11 May 2003
Gronholm wins in Argentina.
Ford's Martin retired with an engine problem 11.4 kilometres into the first stage this morning. Francois Duval suffered gearbox and engine trouble. Mikko Hirvonen's car ran without mechanical fault.
Martin's efforts to win his first ever round of the FIA World Rally Championship, came to nought in the first stage this morning. Duval had started the day seventh and would have moved up one place at the expense of his team-mate. Unfortunately he went in the opposite direction after gearbox problems and then engine problems slowed him on his run in through the final leg. He ended the event in eighth place.
Hirvonen enjoyed the final day more than either of the previous two. Running at the head of the field was an advantage for him, the warm, dry weather creating dusty conditions for those following him.
Martin said: ''The engine felt fine for the first ten kilometres of the stage, but then we started to lose power and the oil pressure warning light came on. I asked the team what to do and they told me to switch off, otherwise the engine would have been destroyed. This is another big disappointment. It was always going to be hard work keeping Marcus behind, but we would have given it a really good go. Certainly I think we could have kept Carlos and Richard behind.''
Duval continued: ''On the first stage this morning, we only had three gears [first, second and third] after one kilometre. Then it started to change gear by itself. On the second stage, the gearbox was stuck in second gear. Everything was getting very hot, the engine, transmission everything. The team changed the gearbox, but we still had problems on the final loop.''
Hirvonen noted: ''The car has been perfect today. I enjoyed the first two stages this morning, but then for the last three I decided not to push too hard, really I was just checking my notes. This is good experience for me to finish this event.''
Team boss Malcolm Wilson commented: ''I'm disappointed, but once again we have shown the pace that the car has. We always said that Greece would be a fair place to judge the new car. I'm sure that we will have got rid of these gremlins before then. We know what the problem is with the transmission on the car and I know it won't be a problem for the next rally.''
Hyundai's Armin Schwarz retired from the event on SS24. The engine on his Accent WRC had failed. Freddy Loix retired the sister car on day one with a broken boost pressure sensor.
Schwarz had maintained his sensible pace, holding sixth overall after the second run at the La Falda test. The German's only problem until then had been the dust on the first three stages. He had found visibility particularly difficult in the high-speed sections of the stage. Schwarz pulled over two kilometres from the end of the SS24, reporting engine failure.
A team spokesman said: ''We don't know exactly what the problem with the car is, but it sounds like it may be the head gasket. This is a big blow for Armin, Manfred and the whole team. Sixth place would have given both Armin and Hyundai a lot of points. It's a real shame. Armin had done precisely what we asked of him, driving to make sure he got to the finish. Then this happens, it's a tough sport.''
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