Sweden : Mitsubishi / P-WRC - Finnish
Portugal's Armindo Araujo collected a fine fourth position on his debut in the Production Car World Rally Championship in Sweden. His Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution ran without fault through the final day of the Karlstad-based Swedish Rally.
having contested the P-WRC series before, Araujo admitted he was a little unsure of the pace at the front of the field. Despite this being his P-WRC debut, Araujo had already made the world rallying headlines last season, when he beat five-time world rally winner Markko Martin on last year's Rally Portugal. Now, however, he is among the sport's elite and has made the transition to the world stage comfortably with some cracking times along the frozen roads of the Varmland region.
Araujo, co-driven by Miguel Ramalho, was never far from the sharp end of the pace, despite an absence of knowledge of how to drive the snowy stages. Today's final leg took competitors through two loops of the Backa and Malta stages near Hagfors, before the crews headed south to take in the superspecial in Karlstad for the final test. The temperatures plummeted for the final day's action, with -23 Celsius registered at the end of the day's second stage.
"I had only done one small snow rally before the start of this event," said Araujo. "I am pleased with this result, but it has been quite tough.
It didn't really start very well for me – I had two spins on the very first stage! After that, I settled down a little bit and drove well. The car was great. Okay, we had a small clutch problem early on, but it didn't slow us down on the stages. Today was so cold, it was incredible. It's always going to be tough to come here and fight with the Swedish drivers, but for a start in the championship this is good for me."
Finland's Juho Hanninen had led Group N through the final day, but he was excluded and stripped of what would have been a debut win in the Production Car series after his car was discovered to have three fuel pumps, contravening FIA regulations.
However, two places behind Araujo and fifth Production runner was Fumio Nutahara. The Japanese driver said: "It's been hard to try and keep up with the local driver here, but I am happy with points. I have done some snow rally at home in Japan, but not with studs – it's not quite the same. The car has been very good for me. The only problem for me was dropping some time with a puncture earlier in the rally, otherwise it has been good."
Two other Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution drivers, Eyvind Brynildsen (Norway) and Michal Solowow (Poland), starred in the event, taking fourth and sixth respectively in the Swedish Rally's overall Group N standings. Italy's Fabio Frisiero collected the final Production Car World Rally Championship point in his Lancer Evolution.
There was more to celebrate for Mitsubishi at the front of the field, with Toni Gardemeister guiding his privately run Lancer WRC 05 to sixth overall at the finish. The Finn, who led the event after the first stage, was pleased with his result and the car.
"This car really suits me," he said. "It's very nice for me to drive. It was nice to lead a rally for the team and nice to have the chance to push hard again this morning. I was driving flat-out on today's five stages. I really enjoyed that, okay we bounced off a lot of snow banks, but the sliding and the driving was fantastic."