Peugeot's reigning World Champion Marcus Gronholm has ended leg one of the Sanremo Rally in a strong third place.

Three-time Sanremo winner Gilles Panizzi is sixth, less than a minute and a half off the lead of the Italian event, while World Championship leader Richard Burns has ended a frustrating day in tenth.

Crews faced six challenging asphalt stages on the opening leg of this year's Sanremo event, round eleven of the World Rally Championship. Fog shrouded some of the morning stages, but conditions remained dry throughout the leg. Today's mountain stages were typical of the entire rally: tight, twisty and unforgiving.

Gronholm had no mechanical problems, and enjoyed his run over the slippery stages. In the morning, he had a soft brake pedal that caused him to back off slightly, but the problem was fixed at service and from then on he was able to attack. Although Gronholm is still relatively inexperienced on asphalt, he ends the day just 49 seconds behind the leader Sebastien Loeb, and 17 seconds behind Markko Martin in second place.

"It's been a good day in general," said the Finn, "In the morning I was maybe a little too cautious, and then we had the problem with the brakes. Afterwards the car felt good, although I don't think I could have gone any quicker. I still have a lot to learn on asphalt so I think we are doing well so far. It will be very difficult to catch the cars in front, but I am here to try!"

Panizzi was unhappy with his car's set-up on the first two stages, and reverted to some other settings he was more familiar with at first service. This improved the situation, but Panizzi felt frustrated that he was not able to reach the podium today. Otherwise, his Peugeot 206 WRC ran reliably, but he was hindered by fog on the last stage.

"I haven't been very happy with our progress," said Gilles. "I am driving quicker than ever, but our times are still not quite there. This morning, I changed virtually the entire set-up at service. But we are still not setting the fastest times that I know I am capable of. Now we have to see if we can improve the car some more, and hope for better things tomorrow."

Burns lacked confidence in himself and the car from the very start, although he felt more comfortable on the middle two stages, which he knew well. He experimented with set-ups at service, but was unhappy to finish out of the points and is determined to improve his position tomorrow.

"It's been a bad day for us," he said. "There have been no mechanical problems, but for some reason I've not felt comfortable with the car. I'm not sure why, but we've been trying different things to try and solve the problem. The car seems quite vague at the front, and I've not got a good feeling with it."

The crews will face only four stages tomorrow, but this includes two runs over the longest stage of the rally - the 52 kilometres of Teglia. More uncertain weather is predicted, which should make the notorious challenge of Sanremo even tougher.



Loading Comments...