WRC » 5 September 2003
Loeb on top in Australia after day one.
Rovanpera's rally didn't start well with the brake problems which dropped him to tenth place after the day's opener. He climbed back up the leaderboard after a clean run through the afternoon to finish eighth overall.
"This morning was quite difficult," commented Burns, "We were on some new roads and I wasn't fully confident to commit to the notes, the afternoon – although it was dry – the conditions were much more consistent. The consistency was better for us, it meant I could see where I was going to get grip to slow the car down. I'm reasonably happy, the two drivers ahead of me are drivers who desperately want to win the rally and close the gap on my championship lead."
Rovanpera added: "I'm not sure what the brake problem was, but the pedal was going soft after just a few kilometres of the first stages this morning. Then we had a really bad tyre choice in the last two stages, not a great day."
At Ford all three Focus RS WRCs have run without mechanical problems through leg one.
Markko Martin's fortunes were mixed today though: the Estonian set a fastest time, but then also suffered some time-consuming spins and overshoots. He was also concerned that his pace notes weren't quite right in some of the stages, he'd made them too slow for the pace he was driving at. As a result he finished up fifth.
Francois Duval is just outside the top ten, gaining more experience of the roads. The suspension and tyres on his Focus were too hard for the second loop of stages, but that aside he hadn't suffered any problems. It was the same story for Mikko Hirvonen, who is driving these roads for the first time in his 2002 Focus.
Martin said: "I made more mistakes today than I have made for the rest of the year combined. I also made my first bad tyre choice, so it hasn't been a great day. I don't know how much time we've lost in total, but it must be quite a bit – we dropped 25 seconds trying to get out of a picnic area this morning."
Duval continued: "It has been very slippery in places today, very difficult conditions. The notes weren't perfect in stage six. Our recce car broke down in there and we had to use a right-hand-drive road car, which wasn't perfect – but I'm not saying this as an excuse."
Hirvonen commented: "It was quite tricky this morning for the first two stages, but then on the third I went flat out and got a good time, I was really happy with that."
At Skoda Didier Auriol and Toni Gardemeister were happy with the way their Fabia WRCs ran through leg one.
Auriol was the leading Skoda driver throughout today, happy to report that he wasn't feeling any pain from his shoulder. The Frenchman admitted he had found the conditions quite difficult in places through the opening leg, however he still managed to end it in tenth place.
His team-mate Gardemeister – who is driving with a broken bone in his right wrist – also reported slippery roads, but the Finn was taking no chances and made a cautious start to the event. He speeded up through the second loop, but felt the car was nervous on the high-speed sections of the stages.
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