COMMUNIQUE 5
8 February 2004 Leg 3 Release


2004 FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP - ROUND 1

PAASONEN KICKS OFF SEASON WITH MAXIMUM POINTS
Lancer Evolutions take top four positions in Group N

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Jani Paasonen / Sirka Rautiainen
(Leg 3 - 8 February 2004)

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver Jani Paasonen claimed maximum points in the opening round of the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, the Uddeholm Swedish Rally. The Finn led the 18 registered contenders from start to finish and kicks off his campaign with ten points in this production car series.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Jani Paasonen / Sirka Rautiainen
(Leg 3 - 8 February 2004)
A huge contingent of Group N crews nevertheless entered the rally, one of the favorites in the calendar, and Mitsubishi drivers reigned supreme here as well, Mattias Ekström claiming the overall category victory. In total, Lancer Evolution drivers secured the top four positions in this highly-competitive class.

The final leg of the Swedish Rally took the remaining 51 crews back to the service park in Hagfors, the base for today’s two loops of three stages and 96.60 competitive kilometers. Heavy overnight snowfall transformed the landscape even further and while the organizers sent ploughs through the stages, there was still three centimeters of fresh snow lying on the roads. Temperatures have also dropped to -5° degrees and snow fell for most of the day making conditions even more tricky for the crews.

Jani Paasonen and co-driver Sirka Rautiainen have set the pace in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship and the Finns led the registered crews from the start. Alister McRae pushed them hard, but was ultimately out-paced by the Lancer Evolution crew who pick up 10 valuable points in the first of the series’ seven qualifying rounds.

"I’m very happy to win; I was worried about the engine because we were losing so much coolant, but in the end it was not too bad", said Jani. "It is a very good start to the season".

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Daniel Solà / Xavier Amigo-Colon
(Leg 3 - 8February 2004)
"Dani" Solà, former Junior World Rally Champion, finished third of the registered contenders, the Spaniard having overhauled Karamjit Singh in SS15. The rivals spent the day battling for the position until the Malaysian went off the road in stage 18 and dropped to 10th.

"It’s a good start for me", said Dani, "especially on this rally where I am not specialist and in these conditions. I have a new team and a new co-driver and I hope to improve. It’s important to start on the good foot".

Pole Tomasz Kuchar claimed fourth position. "I am not so happy about my driving on the first and second days", he said, "but today was not too bad and five points is a good start with this level of competition".

Italian "Gigi" Galli finished fifth of the registered contenders and in total, nine of the 15 finishers in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship were driving Lancer Evolutions. "The car is okay apart from the little problem yesterday and fifth place is good", said Gigi. "I think basically the car is very good and I’m looking forward to driving it again in New Zealand".

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Mattias Ekström / Stefan Bergman
(Leg 3 - 8 February 2004)
In the overall Group N leaderboard, Lancer Evolution drivers finished first, second, third and fourth, underlining the superiority of Mitsubishi’s machinery in these conditions. Swedish crews dominated and DTM driver Mattias Ekström won the category in a car prepared by himself and his Swedish friends.

"I have to say I’m very very happy to be here and that we managed to survive in the lead, even with the problem with the center differential (SS18)", said Mattias. "I was very very nervous but it was not so bad as I thought. I’m very happy and surprised that I was beating all the rally drivers and for such a long time".

Former Group N winners and fellow countrymen Kenneth Bäcklund and Stig-Olov Walfridson finished second and third respectively, with Jani Paasonen fourth overall in the category.

Sixteen FIA Production Car World Rally Championship contenders now head to México for the second round of the series. Based in Léon, approximately 400 kilometers northwest of México City, this event is new to the calendar and the first gravel rally of the season.

News from our rivals...

Sébastien Loeb drove superbly and takes the honor of becoming the first non-Nordic driver to win the Swedish Rally in 53 years. Previously, 39 Swedes and 13 Finns have won this winter rally and the Frenchman now joins an illustrious roll of honor. Loeb and his Citroën team now lead both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships having taken two straight wins. Second position was claimed by Marcus Grönholm, his only problem being a spin in the first stage of the day. Petter Solberg took the final podium position for Subaru while Ford’s inspired nomination of Janne Tuohino reaped rich rewards. The Finn finished fourth overall in an M-Sport prepared Focus and claimed five points for Ford. Carlos Sainz finished fifth after suffering with engine problems this afternoon and Henning Solberg, brother of reigning world champion Petter, rounded off the top six in a Bozian Racing Peugeot 206 WRC.

FINAL OVERALL CLASSIFICATION

  Driver / Co-driver Nat. Car Gr/Cl Total Time Difference
 Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena F/MC  Citroën Xsara WRC A/8 3.26.17.7   
 Marcus Grönholm / Timo Rautiainen FIN  Peugeot 307 WRC A/8 3.27.04.1  + 46.4 
 Petter Solberg / Phil Mills N/GB  Subaru Impreza WRC 03 A/8 3.27.39.2  + 1.21.5 
 Janne Tuohino / Jukka Aho FIN  Ford Focus RS WRC 03 A/8 3.27.59.8  + 1.42.1 
 Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti E  Citroën Xsara WRC A/8 3.28.44.7  + 2.27.0 
 Henning Solberg / Cato Menkerud N  Peugeot 206 WRC A/8 3.30.35.3  + 4.17.6 
 Markko Märtin / Michael Park EE/GB  Ford Focus RS WRC 03 A/8 3.31.56.0  + 5.38.3 
 Daniel Carlsson / Mattias Andersson S  Peugeot 206 WRC A/8 3.32.08.1  + 5.50.4 
 Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen FIN  Subaru Impreza WRC 03 A/8 3.35.35.9  + 9.18.2 
10   Andreas Eriksson / Per-Ola Svensson S  Ford Focus RS WRC A/8 3.38.55.1  + 12.37.4 
11   Tobias Johansson / Bo Holmstrand S  Ford Focus RS WRC 02 A/8 3.39.37.6  + 13.19.9 
12   Mattias Ekström / Stefan Bergman S  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 3.40.15.0  + 13.57.3 
13   Kenneth Bäcklund / Johan Olsson S  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 3.40.42.1  + 14.24.4 
14   Stig-Olov Walfridson / Lars Bäckman S  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 3.41.06.1  + 14.48.4 
15   Antony Warmbold / Gemma Price D/GB  Ford Focus RS WRC 02 A/8 3.42.18.9  + 16.01.2 
16   Jani Paasonen* / Sirka Rautiainen FIN  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 3.43.14.9  + 16.57.2 
17   Alister McRae* / David Senior GB  Subaru Impreza N/4 3.44.06.8  + 17.49.1 
18   Jari Viita / Timo Hantunen FIN  Ford Focus RS WRC 03 A/8 3.45.05.3  + 18.47.6 
19   Oscar Svedlund / Björn Nilsson S  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 3.45.08.7  + 18.51.0 
20   Daniel Solà* / Xavier Amigo E  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 3.46.28.5  + 20.10.8 
21   Stig Blomqvist / Ana Goni S/YV  Subaru Impreza N/4 3.47.32.9  + 21.15.2 
22   Tomasz Kuchar* / Maciej Wodniak PL  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 3.47.55.3  + 21.37.6 
23   Patrik Malteskog / Görgen Carlsson S  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 3.48.17.0  + 21.59.3 
24   Gianluigi Galli* / Guido D’Amore I  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 3.48.38.9  + 22.21.2 
25   Per-G. Andersson / Jonas Andersson S  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 3.48.44.5  + 22.26.8 
26   Toshihiro Arai* / Tony Sircombe J/NZ  Subaru Impreza N/4 3.49.12.1  + 22.54.4 
27   Mirco Baldacci / Giovanni Bernacchini RSM/I  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 3.52.24.9  + 26.07.2 
28   Michal Solowow / Maciek Baran PL  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 3.56.27.8  + 30.10.1 
29   Anders Gröndal / Trond-Inge Ostbye N  Subaru Impreza N/4 3.56.42.9  + 30.25.2 
30   Nasser-S. Al-Attiyah* / Steve Lancaster QA/GB  Subaru Impreza N/4 3.57.25.0  + 31.07.3 
31   Sergio Lopéz* / Guifré Pujol E  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 3.58.41.8  + 32.24.1 
32   Joakim Roman* / Ragnar Spjuth S  Subaru Impreza N/4 4.00.12.7  + 33.55.0 
33   Karamjit Singh* / Allen Oh MAL  Proton Pert N/4 4.00.18.5  + 34.00.8 
34   Alfredo De Dominicis / Rudy Pollet I  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 4.00.26.7  + 34.09.0 
35   Georgi Geradzhiev* / Nikola Popov BG  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 4.02.59.9  + 36.42.2 
36   Ricardo Triviño* / Jordi Barrabàs MEX/E  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 4.03.25.5  + 37.07.8 
37   Sebastian Vollak* / Michael Kolbach D  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 4.03.56.9  + 37.39.2 
38   Fabio Frisiero* / Giovanni Agnese I  Subaru Impreza N/4 4.06.15.9  + 39.58.2 
39   Ferran Font / Miquel Amblas AND/E  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 4.07.47.4  + 41.29.7 
40   Pierfrancesco Zanchi / Mitia Dotta I  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 4.08.10.7  + 41.53.0 
41   Anders Wänn / Pär Näs S  Honda Civic Type R N/3 4.15.06.3  + 48.48.6 
42   Shaun Gallagher / Richard Pashley IRL/GB  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 4.16.49.1  + 50.31.4 
43   François Duval / Stéphane Prevot B  Ford Focus RS WRC 03 A/8 4.19.26.6  + 53.08.9 
44   Xavier Pons* / Oriol Julià E  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution N/4 4.34.35.0  + 1.08.17.3 
Nationalities: AND=Andorra/ B=Belgium/ BG=Bulgaria/ D=Germany/ E=Spain/ EE=Estonia/ F=France/ FIN=Finland/ GB=Great Britain/ I=Italy/ IRL=Ireland/ J=Japan/ MAL=Malaysia/ MC=Monte Carlo/ MEX=Mexico/ N=Norway/ NZ=New Zealand/ PL=Poland/ QA=Qatar/ RSM=San Marino/ S=Sweden/ YV=Venezuela/