The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of Gilles and Herve Panizzi has powered the new Lancer WRC04 up the leaderboard during the second leg of Rallye Monte Carlo. The French pair now holds seventh overall with just four stages remaining in the opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

The second leg got underway early this morning, the 32 remaining contenders leaving the tiny Principality at 06:40 hrs for a scheduled five special stages and 140.79 competitive kilometers up in the frosty French mountains.

As the longest of the rally, the opening stage (SS7) provided a sharp wake-up call for the crews, but the 34.41 kilometre run from Lantosque to Col de Braus came to a premature end when Nicolas Vouilloz crashed on black ice and blocked the mountain road. All the crews were given a notional time, leaving the leaderboard unchanged. The tenth stage was then also cancelled for safety reasons, leaving just three stages in which to make an impression.

Conditions have been equally typical of the event today, with stretches of snow, ice, dry and wet tarmac all conspiring to catch out the unwary. However, thick fog in the stages this afternoon reduced visibility to 50 metres in places, adding to what was already a treacherous combination.

The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Team started the day with a gearbox change on Panizzi's car, this and adjustments to the set-up adding to the Frenchman's confidence in the Lancer WRC04. Significantly, the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Team has already made progress with the car during just two days of competition, Panizzi now much closer to his rivals as everyone gains greater knowledge and understanding of the new car. Gilles went on to set fifth fastest time in the first stage of the day run without problems [SS8] and was sixth in the proceeding stage, also benefiting from retirements higher up the leaderboard. After another fifth fastest time in the final stage of the day, Gilles and Herve are placed seventh overnight in their debut outing with the team.

Commenting on the team's progress, Sven Quandt, MMSP's head of motorsport, said: "We have made a big step forward compared to yesterday. The car is now running better and better, as you can see from the stage times, and we are closer to our rivals."

Confirming his thoughts, technical director Mario Fornaris added: "We have had fewer problems than initially anticipated, especially when you consider this is the first time the car has run in these conditions."

Tomorrow's final leg of Rallye Monte Carlo covers two loops of two stages over 104.40 competitive kilometres, before the crews return for the finish at 14:30 hrs [GMT+1].



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