17 May 2002
Gronholm shows the way on day one in Argentina.
The Hyundai Accent WRC3's of Juha Kankkunen and Freddy Loix have been generally reliable, but Armin Schwarz hit problems with a broken wheel this morning (costing him six minutes as he changed the wheel). He then retired with a loss of fuel pressure near the end of SS9.
Loix was unhappy with his performance this morning and the Belgian also felt that his Accent's set-up forced him to drive more aggressively than he'd have liked. But this afternoon's foggy conditions clearly suited him better - after a half-spin in SS8 he went on to set scratch time in SS9 as he became the top non-Peugeot Michelin car in sixth overall. Team-mate Juha Kankkunen could have done even better, since he'd been the top Hyundai for much of the day, but he slid off the road and beached his car on gravel in SS8. Navigator Juha Repo had to run to find spectators to help, and the pair lost about five minutes as a result. They still arrived back in Villa Carlos Paz this evening in 15th.
The third Accent driver, Armin Schwarz, lost six minutes in SS3 when a wheel broke, and any hopes of a recovery were dashed when his car lost fuel pressure and stopped in SS9.
Freddy Loix said: ''It's been a hard day's work and I haven't been happy with my own driving on a few of the stages but at the end, we're in quite a good position and hopefully we can build on that.''
The Skoda Octavia WRCs meanwhile of Kenneth Eriksson, Toni Gardemeister and Gabriel Pozzo have been basically reliable, although Gardemeister did suffered a puncture in SS9.
Gardemeister felt that his times didn't match up with his performance this morning, but the young Finn took more risks in the fog this afternoon (he drove up a bank on a straight in SS8, then set fourth fastest time despite a puncture in SS9) and that helped. He ended the day in eighth. Kenneth Eriksson was happier with his Octavia once he'd changed the rear suspension, and the veteran Swede holds 12th overnight, two places clear of the third Octavia of local driver Gabriel Pozzo.
Toni Gardemeister noted: ''It's been a strange day - even when I thought our times would be good they weren't. But we've ended up in quite a good place and hopefully we can push further tomorrow.''
Mitsubishi's Alister McRae bent his Lancer Evo WRC's steering on this morning's second stage, and then he lost further time with a mousse insert break-up and a puncture in SS5 and SS6. He lost almost all of his brakes for both of the final two stages, and had to use the handbrake to get the Lancer turned into corners. Despite this though he has been able to post respectable times between his glitches and holds 13th at the end of leg one.
Team-mate François Delecour damaged his car's suspension over a jump in SS6, rolled and although he continued with just three wheels, he pulled over before a narrow section instead of risking holding up fellow competitors. He had looked set to hold a top-10 placing but the problems in SS6 broke the car's suspension.
Alister McRae said: ''It's been hard work today with our problems, but we're at least still here. The brake problem was pretty bad, though - I don't like having no stopping power when the fog's as bad as that.''
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