24 March 2001
One down but Citroen still on top.
Team-mate Markko Martin continued to suffer from ignition and gearbox problems, however: his Impreza cut out more than five times in the first run over today's longest stage, and he had to jam the 'box in third on a few occasions. These problems would drop him out of the top ten.
”Today has been one of the most difficult I can remember – we've had problems all day, and it is difficult to develop a rhythm or any confidence, so even when the car has behaved, we have suffered the odd spin, like on SS11,” said the unhappy Estonian.
After yesterday's encouraging start to the all-asphalt Rally of Spain that saw both Skoda Octavia WRC's challenging for a top ten position at the completion of leg one, today's daunting 900km and 16-hour schedule took its toll on Skoda Motorsport.
Belgian crew Bruno Thiry/Stephane Prevot lost time on this morning's opening three stages with tyre related vibrations costing the Belgian around 30 seconds. Such is the closeness of the competition within the upper echelons of the FIA World Rally Championship that the time lost dropped Thiry down the leader-board.
However, faster times in the afternoon plus the misfortune of others, moved the Octavia back into the top ten and within striking distance of a points finish by the time the day's final stage was cancelled on grounds of safety due to an excessive numbers of spectators.
''You need to cut the corners and therefore you are always running the risk of punctures and wheel damage,'' says the 38-year-old Skoda ace. ''Although the Michelin ATS mousse system worked well to prevent deflation, the resulting vibration was pretty bad. We were also forced to slow down at the end of today's third stage by spectators running around in the road – the situation was very dangerous. Otherwise the Skoda has run well all day. This is my first event in the car on dry asphalt – I'm benefiting from experience and I'm sure all the lessons we are learning will help us in the future.''
Having started today in 12th place after a trouble-free on the open leg, the second Octavia of Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer was forced to retire from the Iberian event with power steering problems.
''About 30km into this morning's long road section, the steering started to lock solid in certain positions, so we radioed ahead and the team's technicians changed the complete steering rack during the 10-minute service halt before the first stage,'' explained Schwarz. ''But the problem returned almost immediately. We started the stage but, for obvious reasons, it wasn't safe to push hard. Then, about 17km into the stage, the steering jammed on a straight and it just wasn't possible to continue any further. It's a bit of a mystery as we have never experienced this kind of problem before.''
Hyundai continues to gain valuable data on how the latest evolution Accent works on asphalt, but neither Alister McRae or Piero Liatti has been able to break into the top ten positions.
Piero Liatti's Accent WRC2 has however been generally reliable today, but Alister McRae's example suffered from an overheating wastegate on this morning's opening pair of stages. Disabling the car's anti-lag system helped ease the problem, and the unit was changed at service.
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