Rd.7 Rally Ireland

Production Car World Rally Championship
16 to 18 November 2007


Mud-strewn tarmac stages wreak havoc on drivers

16 November 2007
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Rally Ireland got off to its promised demanding start this morning as crews faced inordinate amounts of mud on all of the first day's stages. Competitors taking deep cuts on corners brought the slippery stuff on to the roads, causing difficulties for those following behind.

The third stage of the day, SS4 was stopped and the P-WRC runners were thus given a representative time for the stage. On the second pass through the same test in the afternoon (SS7) P-WRC competitor Andreas Aigner (Mitsubishi) rolled out of the lead in Group N. Again the P-WRC drivers were given a representative time for the stage.

Unfortunately for Niall McShea, who had led the IMPREZA charge earlier in the day, a gamble worked against the Northern Irishman when the tests he had chosen his tyres for were both halted. Conversely, current leader and rival Mark Higgins (Mitsubishi) benefited each time the safety crews were called out.

Nasser Al Attiyah took a cautious approach to the morning group of stages, having had no testing here prior to the event start. He was seventh at Service A, 34.7 seconds in arrears of leader Mark Higgins in the Mitsubishi. Steady driving through the next groups of stages saw the Qatari move up first to sixth, and end the leg in fifth place.

Misfortune struck Swedish driver Patrik Flodin early on, an unattached oil feed on the turbo robbing him of any chance at setting decent stage times. The problem was fixed at Service A, but a wrong tyre choice for the next group of tests, further scuppered his chances of a decent showing on leg one. For the final trio of tests he took things more easily, hoping to save the car.

Leszek Kuzaj went well in the morning, despite driving like a 'grandmother' on the first group of tests. Unfortunately for the Polish ace, a mistake on SS6 caused a roll and subsequent move onto SupeRally.

Driver comments:

Niall McShea:
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"It's very tricky. Everybody's cutting the corners far too much. Here in Ireland the roads are perfectly okay, but when you cut the corner, there can be holes, rocks, stones - everything. There's no need to cut them but they have, so you have to take the same cut because there's only one clean line. It's unfortunate but the roads are dirty now anyway so nothing can be done about that. Tyre choice is incredibly important here, and avoiding punctures is also going to be a prime concern. Punctures will decide the outcome of this rally."

Nasser Al Attiyah:
"There's a lot of mud on the roads, I've never seen anything like it. You can get a good rhythm at various times, but we're just aiming to improve as we go along. Our target is to have a good race, learning along the way."

Patrik Flodin:
"It was absolutely crazy because the roads are so narrow. I don't like these conditions - don't like tarmac at all so it will be difficult. I really have to try to go as fast as I can and see what I can do."

Leszek Kuzaj:
"We're experiencing very difficult conditions on the stages. There's lots of mud and it's very slippery in places. This morning we chose the wrong tyres so it's been very, very slippy. I drove like a grandmother early on, and then rolled after increasing the pace. It's very disappointing but we'll be back tomorrow under SupeRally."

George Donaldson

STI Group N Project General Manager:
"As a day, it's not exactly what we wanted, but we've got Niall McShea in there fighting hard in fourth place, not too far off the lead - and Nasser Al Attiyah next up in fifth. Niall was delayed by a couple of punctures today, and wasn't completely happy with his tyre choice. Niall's still very much in there in the fight and he'll do what he does best, he'll hang in there and make the best of the situation. Hopefully he'll have a chance to get back closer to the front.

"Leszek Kuzaj was another driver pushing very hard, at one point lying second. He hunted Higgins and Aigner for a while before making a small mistake and rolling off the road. However, the car's been fixed and he'll be back under SupeRally tomorrow.

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"Patrik Flodin had another day he'd rather forget, suffering problems with the turbo, then the wrong tyres before ending the day with a steady pace, hoping to save the car for Wales Rally GB in two weeks' time. He went very well in the test here and we'd like to see him rewarded for all his effort.

"Nasser Al Attiyah has had a very good day today. He wasn't able to attend the pre-event test, and yet he's ahead of World Rally cars driven by local drivers. He's doing a remarkable job, and is only a little over a minute off the lead in Group N.

"We're promised just as tricky conditions tomorrow, I think it's going to be a heck of a day. I wouldn't dare predict what's going to happen."

Tomorrow's total competitive distance is 118.36kms, about 50kms shorter than today. Rain is expected, so it could be even more of a challenge than today has been.

Pos Driver Car Name Time   Diff  
1 Mark HIGGINS Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:41:58.9 0.0
2 Armindo ARAUJO Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:42:54.6 +55.7
3 Gabriel POZZO Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:43:06.4 +1:07.5
4 Niall McSHEA SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 1:43:18.2 +1:19.3
5 Nasser Saleh AL-ATTIYAH SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 1:44:44.5 +2:45.6
6 Simone CAMPEDELLI Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:45:49.6 +3:50.7
7 Stuart M. JONES Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:46:04.3 +4:05.4
8 Štěpán VOJTĚCH Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:46:48.0 +4:49.1
9 Philip MORROW Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:46:59.1 +5:00.2
10 Fumio NUTAHARA Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:47:09.2 +5:10.3