Tour de Corse : Ford World Rally Team - Leg 2
Ford World Rally Team continues to hold second and fourth places after today's second leg of the Rallye de France Tour de Corse. Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen maintained second in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car after
a troublefree day in the demanding mountains on the sun-kissed Mediterranean island. Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen climbed to third this morning but were edged out of a podium place on the final stage after a thrilling battle.
Today's action on this fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship followed the same format as yesterday, with two loops of speed tests in the morning that were repeated in the afternoon. This time, however, the action was located north of the rally base in Ajaccio. The opening test of each loop, at 34.66km, was the longest of the rally and drivers tackled 121.72km of competition on this longest leg of the three-day event.
Grönholm opted for BFGoodrich's medium compound tyres this morning and was third and fourth fastest on the opening tests. The 38-year-old Finn softened the damper settings on his Focus RS this morning but was unhappy with the feeling after the opening stage and changed them himself before the second test to the same harder set-up that he used yesterday. His stage positions were identical this afternoon and he returned to Ajaccio 39.7sec behind Sebastien Loeb
and almost a minute clear of Dani Sordo in third.
"Loeb has been exceptionally quick and I've not been happy with my pace," said 38-year-old Grönholm. "My feeling with the car wasn't 100 per cent this morning. I didn't push hard enough but the stages were quite difficult. They were covered in gravel and were slippery and twisty. The handling on the first stage didn't feel as sharp. As the damper settings were the only thing that was different to yesterday, I changed them back again.
"The other top drivers opted for harder tyres than me this afternoon and that could be why I dropped some time to Loeb, but I honestly don't know. Tomorrow I won't try to attack. Second is a good position and there is no point in me risking that in trying to achieve the impossible," he added.
Hirvonen was fifth through the opening stage to move ahead of Alex Bengue from an overnight fourth into third. The 25-year-old Finn was then fastest through the next test from Sordo, who had become his nearest challenger, arriving back in Ajaccio 8.8sec ahead of the Spaniard. Their fierce battle continued this afternoon and although Hirvonen was fourth and third quickest, Sordo edged him out of third to end the day just 5.7sec ahead.
"Everything felt better today and I made no mistakes but Dani was just that little bit faster than me," said Hirvonen. "I enjoy a good battle, that's how rallying should be, and that's exactly what Dani and I have had. I couldn't go any faster but I will try to catch him tomorrow - it's not over yet. There was nothing I could do against him on the narrower sections but on the wider roads I was able to take time back. Asphalt isn't my best surface and I think I still need to improve my driving on it.
"We made some set-up changes to the centre differential last night and in turning the Focus felt more agile. This morning I couldn't keep the temperature in the tyres at the right level so I didn't have as good a feeling as I would have liked. I opted for harder rubber this afternoon and was happier with that choice," he added.
BP-Ford team director Malcolm Wilson said: "We are conscious of the manufacturer points and it's important to preserve them on an event which in my opinion is Loeb's rally. It's also important that Mikko scores good driver points to improve his start position for the forthcoming gravel events."
The final day is the shortest of the rally and is based just to the south of Ajaccio. After restarting at 07.00, drivers again face two identical loops of two stages, divided by service back in Ajaccio. They cover 112.10km of competition before the finish ceremony in the town at 13.50.
Press release Ford World Rally Team