28 April 2006
Loeb profits from Gronholm's woe in Argentina.
As for the Junior WRC, Guy Wilks has led from the off for Suzuki and already looks to have the class win in the bag, providing he can just finish. His main rival and Suzuki team-mate, Per-Gunnar Andersson retired from the leg in SS3, while Patrick Sandell is currently the only other JWRC runner still going in his Renault Clio, albeit 4 minutes adrift. Jaan Molder is classified third, despite going out on SS5, when he a rock in a water-splash and damaged the steering on his Fiesta. Assuming he can re-start, he will be over 25 minutes adrift but still set to take third, as P-G, will be a further 8 minutes behind.
Of the rest, there were three 'works' retirements. Xavier Pons was the first to go when he managed to hit something at the start of Cabalango-Carlos Paz 1 [SS6]. Although he continued he had to stop later on when his Kronos Xsara caught fire, probably due to an oil or fuel leak.
Next out was Gronholm when he stalled at a bend 8 kilometres from the start of the second run through Capilla del Monte-San Marcos [SS8]. When he tried to re-start he was unable to find any drive and was thus forced out of the leg.
His team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen followed him onto the sidelines in the very next test, when his Focus went down to two cylinders. Although he stopped and changed the spark plugs it made little difference and as such, rather than risk further damage to his car, he had to pull off on the side of the road. Not a good day then for the BP Ford squad, who had looked set to fight for the win and score some 'big' points.
Assuming those three will be able to re-start under the SupeRally format on Saturday, Hirvonen will do so from 14th, over 10.5 minutes off the lead, while Gronholm will start from 20th, a further 5 minutes or so back. Pons is currently classified 33rd, 25mins 23.2seconds off his team-mate.
The action now resumes on Saturday at 08.48 hours local time [12.07 hours British time] - eight stages lay in wait, amounting to around 150 competitive kilometres.
There is still a long way to go...
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