17 May 2002
Gronholm shows the way on day one in Argentina.
Marcus Grönholm said: ''It's obviously gone very well today. In some places running first on the road hasn't been so nice, because there was some quite deep gravel in places and we were sweeping it off the road. This afternoon in the fog was really bad, with visibility down to five metres in some places. But in general, I'm pretty happy because we've been setting good times and the car has been reliable. The gap looks good but if the weather stays bad then you can lose a lot of time in just one stage. We just have to try to maintain our pace tomorrow.''
Team-mate Richard Burns noted: ''I've rarely seen fog and low cloud as bad as it was this afternoon. The problem here is that you only have to go slightly off-line and you can have a big off, so it was a case of who was willing to take more risks than others. Clearly Marcus was comfortable with pushing very hard, because his times were good.''
Tommi Mäkinen's Subaru Impreza WRC2002 hit gearbox problems in the day's closing two stages - the car started to change gear without any input from the driver and was restricted to fourth, fifth and sixth for much of SS8. Mäkinen had a full compliment of gears for SS9 but even then, the 'box was still changing without input. He and team-mate Petter Solberg both suffered from cracked windscreens for much of the afternoon as well, after they were hit by flying rocks on the twin-track superspecial stage at lunchtime. Solberg's car completed the final pair of stages with low hydraulic pressure in the centre differential, making the Impreza unpredictable under braking.
Despite this Mäkinen has battled with Richard Burns for second overall during much of today's mileage. Gearbox problems in SS8 seemed to have relegated the Finn to third, but he got a full compliment of gears for the last test and fought back to inch into the runners-up spot overnight. Team-mate Petter Solberg clipped a rock in SS2 and punctured, but the young Norwegian recovered during the afternoon tests. Despite a fluid leak in his centre differential, he moved into the top six and he holds fourth overnight.
Tommi Mäkinen said: ''The gearbox problem was awful - it must have cost me at least one and a half minutes, because there were hairpins were we came into the corner in fourth, fifth or sixth gear and it stalled. We even stopped the car for a while to reset everything, but it didn't make any difference. It's a shame because I had a really good feeling in the fog and I know I could have taken more time off some of the other guys.''
Petter Solberg added: ''I pushed hard this afternoon and had a few moments, but it paid off because we moved up the leaderboard. The visibility was awful, though - like about half a metre in some places. As for tomorrow, we're not too far behind Richard so hopefully we can attack. I think the fact that it's our second run over the stages will help me a bit as well.''
Over at Ford Carlos Sainz's Focus RS WRC02 lost its power steering this morning, but that aside, the Spaniard's car and those of his team-mates Colin McRae and Markko Martin have been reliable. As such the team has been left puzzled as neither Carlos Sainz or Colin McRae has been able to seriously threaten the pace of either the Peugeots or the Subarus.
McRae spun in a narrow stretch of road in SS3 and had to move his car back and forth several times before he could continue, losing around half a minute. He holds ninth overnight, while Sainz is the leading Ford in fifth and Markko Martin is 10th.
Carlos Sainz said: ''The power steering problem this morning was very annoying. Just like in Cyprus, I didn't actually hit anything but all of a sudden it went very heavy and we had to do about 10 kilometres with no power assistance. All we can do is keep trying to find something that will bring us closer to the Subarus and Peugeots but right now, it's clearly very difficult. We'll see what the weather conditions are like tomorrow morning and make a decision based on that.''
Colin McRae noted: ''We haven't really had any mechanical problems but when we come to the end of the stage the times just aren't there at the minute. As for this afternoon, I just wasn't prepared to take risks in conditions like that.''
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