Australia : Mitsubishi / PCWRC
Lead FIA PCWRC Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver Fumio Nutahara stepped up his pace on the final day of Telstra Rally Australia, narrowly missing out on a podium finish to end the rally in fourth position in both the PCWRC and overall Group
The third and final day of the rally took competitors east of Perth for the closing 103.32 competitive kilometers, featuring two identical loops of three stages and some fantastic competition to close the last round of the 2005 PCWRC.
On an eventful rally, many PCWRC crews hit problems as the unforgiving stages penalized anyone who ventured even the slightest bit off line. But Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution favorite Nutahara drove a perfect rally with no mistakes, rewarding him with five points to add to his total, to finish fifth overall in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship driver standings.
“The car has an even better feeling today as we took a softer compound tire,” commented the six-time All Japan Rally Championship winner. “Unfortunately we had a slow puncture and we overshot a junction this morning but we managed to stay on the pace. This afternoon has been fine and although a podium would have been good, I am happy with fourth and this is the highest we have finished in the PCWRC.”
Lancer Evolution driver Federico Villagra enjoyed his first taste of Australian roads and with the exception of a few brake issues on the first day, the Argentine drove a trouble-free event to finish his debut PCWRC season on a high, taking three points in the process for his sixth place finish.
“This is my first time here and I have really enjoyed the rally. It's incredibly difficult but I came here with a plan to finish the event to gain experience and to prepare some good pace notes for next year, and we have achieved both,” explained three-time Argentine champion Villagra. “This is my first year in PCWRC so all the rallies except Argentina were new to me. The level of competition has been very high this year but we have scored some points so I'm very happy.”
Italians Fabio Frisiero and Riccardo Errani were also competing for PCWRC points and both finished confidently in seventh and eighth place respectively. After an enjoyable rally, Frisiero said: “Today has been fine and we haven't had any problems so I was just enjoying it. I'm disappointed for Aki [Teiskonen] who retired this morning but it means we scored another point. At the beginning of the season I would have paid to score just five points and now I am incredibly happy as we have finished the season with 17 – I can't believe it!”
Errani's event was a little more difficult than his fellow Lancer drivers but the Italian was happy to take home a point. “For me it was important to finish and we have done everything we needed to do that. It has been a very difficult rally but I'm happy with our performance here.”
The first round of the 2006 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship is scheduled to be Rallye Monte-Carlo running from January 20-22.