MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION DRIVERS DOMINATE IN THE SNOW ON RALLY NORWAY
EYVIND BRYNILDSEN / DENIS GIRAUDET
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions filled 7 of the top 10 Group N positions
on the opening round of the Production Car World Rally Championship,
Rally Norway, which finished in Hamar this afternoon.
Local hero, Eyvind Brynildsen (Norway) was the fastest of the Lancer
Evolution drivers and fastest of the showroom-type Group N cars.
Brynildsen, classified second in the PWRC, lost his chance of winning
the category outright when he went off the road avoiding another driver
on the opening day of the rally.
Brynildsen and former world champion co-driver Denis Giraudet (France)
were just getting into their rhythm when they were forced to take
avoiding action in the fifth stage. A competitor ahead of them had gone
off into a snowbank and, when Brynildsen’s Mitsubishi arrived on the
scene, the road was full of marshals and spectators trying to get the
other car back on the road.
The stewards of the event allowed Brynildsen to re-start the next day
with notional times, leaving him second in Group N. The Norwegian was
philosophical at the finish, saying: "It’s been a tough rally, the
problem on the first day didn’t help me. It was disappointing. But,
we’re here and we have some very good points on the board from the
first event. As much as I wanted to win this rally, I knew I had to
take points for the Production championship and that’s what I’ve done.
It’s a good start to the season."
One of the highlights of Brynildsen’s event came on the final day, when
his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution recorded the second highest speed of
any of the competing cars down a long stage in the Elverum test. Petter
Solberg was fastest at 208km/h, with Eyvind second quickest, with an
impressive speed of 202km/h.
The one thing Brynildsen and all of the other competitors agreed on
unanimously was the conditions which Rally Norway ran in. Temperatures
running as low as minus 30 Celsius combined with heavy snowfalls in the
weeks leading up to the rally made for the perfect winter rally with a
solid ice and snow base on the road surrounded by two and
Martin Prokop (Czech Republic) admitted he had enjoyed himself,
bringing his Lancer Evolution home third. Prokop said: "We don’t have
snow rallies like this at home, so to come here has been fantastic fun
for me. I was a little bit steady at the start, not pushing too much,
but then I wanted to fight with Armindo [Araujo, Portugal], so we
pushed harder and got past him. The car has been very good here, no
problems at all."
Coming from Portugal, Araujo was another stranger to the wintry
weather. He still managed, however, to bring his Mitsubishi home six
minutes ahead of his nearest competitor. Andis Neiksans (Latvia),
Frederic Sauvan (France), Bernt Kollevold (Norway) and Martin Semerad
(Czech Republic) were the remaining Lancer Evolution drivers who
crowded into the top 10.
At the top of the leaderboard, Sebastien Loeb (France) won the event
after a tight fight with Mikko Hirvonen (Finland). Finishing in third
place was Hirvonen’s Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.
The next round of the Production Car World Rally Championship is the Cyprus Rally (March 12-15).