Rd.3 Rally Argentina

Production Car World Rally Championship
3 to 6 May 2007


Seconds Out - SUBARU Entrants Chasing Hard

5 May 2007
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The first full day of competition in this year's Rally Argentina got underway with a brace of nine special stages, five in the morning followed by the Lunchtime Service, resuming with four more in the afternoon. The day was generally overcast and a little damp, and drivers were noticeably anxious to get out on the day's tests - particularly after the unexpected events of yesterday. When the day's stages had been run, the top Impreza was second, a mere 2.6 seconds off the lead, in the hands of Toshi Arai.

Reporting no problems all day, the Japanese is going quite fast but is not on the very edge. "I think we've been losing out to the local drivers because they have so much experience of these stages - especially the faster ones - from running on them in local events. It is to be expected, so I'm not worried. I'm happy with the pace we're running." commented Toshi at lunchtime.

Niall McShea had loose suspension on SS12, but the returnee fixed it on the road section after the stage, and then took it easy on his way back to Service. "I'm really enjoying my Rally Argentina, and the car's working well. I feel the brakes are not perfect so we'll be changing the pads for tomorrow. Everything else on the car is basically perfect and we're driving bang-on the team's strategy for this event."

Mirco Baldacci suffered from an intercom failure just a couple of kilometers into the first stage of the morning; followed by a fogged windscreen. Both of these were remedied at the end of the stage. He also broke an air filter after going through a watersplash too quickly and had to be careful thereafter for any further water crossings. The afternoon saw the San Marino native make a wrong tyre choice, something that really hampered his pace throughout the day's latter stages. "I am a little disappointed with the afternoon because our appointed tyre choice was not the right one and it prevented me from really pushing on what are some of my favourite stages, Santa Rosa, Las Bajadas and Ambon."

Reigning P-WRC champion Nasser Al Attiyah had a fairly big moment on SS12, the third stage this morning, where landing after a jump broke the airbox out of the wheel arch. Subsequently going through one of the many watersplashes on this event, he inducted a little water into the engine, causing a misfire. That cost him a little time, though he was able to progress onto the afternoon's stages until the final test where a mistake led to a damaged suspension and unfortunately, retirement. He is not expected to go onto SupeRally tomorrow.

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Kristian Sohlberg started off this morning with an electrifying time on the opening stage - much quicker than anyone else. However, on the second test of the day he bent the steering slightly. As a result of that problem he made a small mistake and went off the road, tearing a wheel off the car. He will not be startingunder SupeRally tomorrow.

Patrik Flodin was another to fall foul of the tricky conditions. He took a very steady start, then made a small error over a fast crest and didn't quite make it through a gate, taking the right rear wheel off the car and going into retirement. Patrik needs as much experience here as he can get, and he will be re-starting under SupeRally tomorrow.

Leszek Kuzaj started the morning with a very severe cramp in his right arm, to the point that he almost had to stop. It eventually dissipated, but he was in a lot of pain. Then on the first of the afternoon stages (Santa Rosa 1) he had a huge spin due to an incorrect distance notation in his pace notes. On the last stage of the day, he broke his suspension and has retired. It has not yet been determined whether he will return tomorrow under SupeRally.

Travis Pastrana started off at a great pace, following on from his stunning debut in Mexico. However, a few stages into the morning he hit a watersplash far too quickly, causing the car to spin. He was thereafter much more careful, to the point that he took solid water over the bonnet on a subsequent crossing, which caused the car to misfire badly for a while. Fortunately it cleared and he continued throughout the afternoon, making good progress in the field until he damaged his suspension on the last of the day's stages. That cost him a minute or so, dropping him out of the points, but he's very much still in the fight.

Spyros Pavlides managed to run the whole morning with broken suspension. His car took a lot of hits due to that, including his gearbox. At the Lunchtime Service, all components were replaced, and his progress throughout the afternoon was much improved. As a result, he is really enjoying Argentina rally and really feels he's learning the sport on every kilometer he does.

Loris Baldacci had a puncture near the end of SS10, causing only a small time loss. Otherwise, he was pleased with the progress made today. Alexander Dorosinskiy felt a little unsettled by the loss of yesterday's stages so has been taking a careful approach. He is making progress as he gets to grips withthis very demanding event.

George Donaldson

STI Group N Project General Manager:
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"What can we say? A typical Rally Argentina day - I believe that would be accurate. Toshi has measured the pace perfectly. He told me he's been driving slightly slower than he normally would in Argentina due to the extremely rough conditions; it looks like he's pinned it absolutely correctly. Of course the locals will have far greater knowledge of these stages as they compete on them two or three times a year besides this event, and many of them have been running here for up to ten years. These local guys are fabulous drivers; they're very, very good. Give them a small advantage and they're very hard to beat. Toshi's the lone SUBARU out at the front, but doing a supporting role is Niall McShea and Mirco Baldacci - both having their own little problems, but still very much in touch. Niall has done an incredible job for us here, coming in with a fairly strict strategy from his team. He's kept his nose completely clean and finds himself in fifth position at the end of what amounts to the first day of Rally Argentina. He's very much in the fight.

"Mirco was anxious to try and get a clear run this afternoon, and thus is bitterly disappointed when his tyre choice let him down badly. Nasser was really fighting in the top 3 or 4 drivers, but he's had some problemon the last stage, and unfortunately that's put him out of the rally. Spyros is learning fast, and quiteenjoying the challenge. He's getting a lot of advice from his teammate Kristian Sohlberg who's been ignoring his bitter disappointment after retiring so early.

"Travis is doing a great job on what is a much more technical event than Mexico. One small mistake on the last stage has cost him a bit of time and a few positions, but even with that, he has demonstrated amazing tenacity and survivability - both essential qualities for a top driver.

"Patrik Flodin - what a surprise. The man with a reputation for never making a mistake and hardly ever retiring went out on what was really the third stage of the rally. It left him very bemused on this, his first P-WRC rally. But make no mistake, he'll come back and give us a great performance in Greece.

"As predicted, there were 12 drivers in with a shout of winning this event, and seven of those drivers are holding the top seven places. That means that five of the top guys have gone, which is very much the case. We're very disappointed for Nasser - that was a dreadful shame for him. He was doing what he does admirably which is to sit there right at the front of the pack. We don't know what the problem was, but he certainly knocked a wheel off the car and into retirement. You couldn't put a piece of paperbetween the performance of all the drivers this morning."

Tomorrow's stages are among the toughest in the entire championship, and include two passes of the mythical El Condor stage before ending with a last run at the Cordoba superspecial.

Pos Driver Car Name Time   Diff  
1 Federico VILLAGRA Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:55:44.7 -
2 Toshihiro ARAI SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 1:55:47.3 +2.6
3 Juho HÄNNINEN Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:56:02.9 +18.2
4 Gabriel POZZO Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:57:42.6 +1:57.9
5 Niall McSHEA SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 1:57:43.3 +1:58.6
6 Mirco BALDACCI SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 1:57:49.2 +2:04.5
7 Marcos LIGATO Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:58:09.8 +2:25.1
8 Andreas AIGNER Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:59:32.2 +3:47.5
9 Alexande DOROSINSKIY SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 2:00:12.2 +4:27.5
10 Travis PASTRANA SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 2:00:12.2 +4:32.3