Rally Cyprus Review

It’s been a few days coming, but here’s the wrapup of the WRC action from last weekend…

As expected, it was a rough rally for all the factory teams. The biggest victim was Subaru’s Petter Solberg. Solberg started the rally well, and held the lead through the opening stages. Then, a minor incident that bent his Impreza’s front bumper caused dirt to be pushed into the engine’s intake, thus seriously limiting the car’s power. Solberg lost over nine minutes by the end of the first leg, destroying his chances of winning the rally. Despite the setback, Solberg was the most consistent driver, setting the highest number of scratch times and fighting back into points, eventually finishing sixth.

So, who won? Marcus Gronholm. The new Peugeot 307 won its first rally, but it wasn’t without incident either. Gronholm struggled with gearbox problems on days one and two, but managed to get enough of a gap on the field to hold his lead. The win also puts Gronholm on top of the championship bracket heading into the Acropolis rally (more on that in a bit).

Sebastien Loeb had a quiet, measured drive to take second place. He drove consistenly, and the Xsara was reliable enough. Ford’s Markko Martin finished third, after battling for the lead on day two. Martin’s teammate Francois Duval didn’t have a good time, however, retiring on leg two. Citroen’s Carlos Sainz ended up in fourth. Peugeot looked like it could take the top two spots on Saturday, with Harri Rovanpera holding second place. But reliability issues with Rovanpera’s 307 dropped him to fifth overall.

Subaru’s Mikko Hirvonen finished behind teammate Solberg in seventh. Hirvonen has performed quite well for Subaru this season, with only a couple of years of experience under his belt. The Finn will stand on the podium before the end of the season. Ford’s Janne Tuohino took the last of the driver’s points in eighth place. Mitsubishi had another disappointing rally, with both cars retiring. Gilles Panizzi did managed to fight his way into the top eight on Saturday.

The results of the rally have no yet been finalized by the FIA yet, however, as they are examining both the Citroens and Peugeots for possible technical violations with the cars’ water pumps. Should the FIA exclude both teams, Markko Martin would take the win, with Solberg and Hirvonen taking second and third.

So, here’s what the championship looks like:

1. Marcus Gronhom – 34 pts
2. Sebastien Loeb – 33 pts
3. Markko Martin – 32 pts
4. Petter Solberg – 28 pts
5. Carlos Sainz – 18 pts

Quite a close race. Each of the top four drivers have won a rally this season, with Loeb taking the double on Monte Carlo and Sweden. Loeb, Martin, and Solberg actually expressed delight with the positions heading into Greece. Gronholm, thanks to his lead, will be running first on the roads on day one, acting as a sweeper for the rest of the field.