2003 WRC

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9 February 2003 LEG 3 - Karlstad - Karlstad (568.20 km) Special Stages 13 - 17 (120.75 km)
Uddeholm Swedish Rally - 2003 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 2
2003 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship / Round 1

Category and championship victory for Mitsubishi drivers in Sweden
(Revised, please CLICK HERE to see note)
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Kenneth Bäcklund / Bosse Holmstrand
(Leg 3 - 9 February 2003)

Mitsubishi’s all-conquering machinery has once again dominated the Group N category in the Swedish Rally, the opening round of the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship. Local man Kenneth Bäcklund has clinched the category victory in his Lancer Evolution, with no fewer than four Mitsubishi drivers hot on his heels. In total, Mitsubishi drivers claimed six of the top eight positions, with Janusz Kulig also taking maximum Championship points in the opening event of the seven-round series.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Gianluigi Galli / Guido d'Amore
(Leg 3 - 9 February 2003)

The final leg of the 2003 Swedish Rally took the contenders north for five special stages, again based around the service park at Hagfors Airport. It was however no cruise to the finish for the remaining 60 competitors who left Karlstad in damp and overcast conditions this morning. Temperatures once again climbed overnight to just above freezing, promising a difficult day of competition as the crews powered over frozen roads awash with melting and slushy snow. The final stage of the rally - another mammoth 39.85 kilometre stage - also ensured there was little respite for the crews as they vied for honours in the only true winter rally of the season.

Competition has been wide open and the quality of contenders in Group N machinery was underlined by the fact that no fewer than three different crews set fastest stage times during the five-stage, 120.75 kilometre leg. Victory ultimately went to Kenneth Bäcklund, the local Mitsubishi driver who finished second in 2001 and third last year. The Swede has been in the thick of a battle with fellow countryman Stig-Olov Walfridson for the duration of the rally however Walfridson was forced into a gutting retirement in the penultimate stage with engine problems, having led the rally since stage three on Friday.

"It is really nice to win the production class here again", said Bäcklund. "It was bad luck on Stig-Olov to have problems so near the end, but we were still driving hard and it goes to show that you must always keep trying".

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Oscar Svedlund / Björn Nilsson
(Leg 3 - 9 February 2003)

Second in the category was Mitsubishi driver Gianluigi Galli. After slipping down the order to fifth yesterday, the Italian set fastest time in stages 13 and 14 to move back up to third. Going into the final stage Matthias Ekström held a slim three second advantage over the Italian, however a mammoth push in the last stage not only rewarded Galli with his third stage victory of the day, but more importantly second position.

"I am very happy. This is a very nice rally and it is fantastic to be fighting with the Swedes on the snow", said Galli. "I still don’t have much experience here, so to be second is quite special for me".

Ekström, the DTM circuit racer, powered up the leaderboard from sixth overnight but ultimately missed out on second position in the run through the final stage. A consistent performance has nevertheless rewarded him with one of his best results. Oscar Svedlund, last year’s Group N winner in Sweden and Great Britain, maintained his fourth position throughout the final leg.

The closing stage proved decisive for Mitsubishi drivers registered in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship. Swede Stig Blomqvist, driving the lead Subaru, and Janusz Kulig went into the stage split by just 2.5 seconds however a stunning drive by the Pole saw him overhaul the former World Rally Champion to claim maximum points in the Championship. With the newly-introduced points-scoring system that rewards the contenders with 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 point for sixth position, Mitsubishi man Kulig therefore leads the 25 registered crews as they head to New Zealand for the second round of the series.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Janusz Kulig / Jaroslaw Baran
(Leg 3 - 9 February 2003)

"This is amazing for me!" said Kulig, who also claimed fifth in the Group N category. "We don’t drive on snow that much in Poland and I had never done this rally before. There was so much pressure at the end against a driver with as much experience as Blomqvist. To take maximum Championship points is like a dream".

Behind Blomqvist, reigning World Champion Karamjit Singh finished third in the Championship standings, with Britain’s Martin Rowe fourth. Possum Bourne, competing in the full series for the first time, finish fifth in his first outing in Sweden, with Krzysztof Holowczyc sixth after incurring a four minute penalty last night when he was deemed to have infringed the regulations.

The second round of the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship takes the crews to the Southern Hemisphere for one of the longest running World Championship rallies in the Asia-Pacific region, Rally New Zealand (11-13 April). The event is a drivers’ delight and a searching test of skill. The fast and flowing gravel roads around Auckland, on the North Island, are some of the most keenly awaited throughout the season.

Janusz Kulig was today (21 February) excluded from the results of the Swedish Rally. During post event scrutineering the Poles car was deemed to have an illegal flywheel. Stig Blomqvist therefore takes maximum points in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship round in Sweden. The POINTS STANDINGS now reflect this change.
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  Driver / Co-driver Nat. Car Total Time Difference
1  Kenneth Bäcklund / Bosse Holmstrand S  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution  
2  Gianluigi Galli / Guido dAmore I  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution +1.09.3
3  Mattias Ekström / Stefan Bergman S  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution +1.32.6
4  Oscar Svedlund / Björn Nilsson S  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution +1.43.0
5  Stig Blomqvist* / Ana Goni S/YV  Subaru Impreza +3.32.4
6  Karamjit Singh* / Allen Oh MAL  Proton Pert +4.04.2
7  Juha Salo / Mika Stenberg FIN  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution +4.26.1
8  Martin Rowe* / Chris Wood GB  Subaru Impreza +5.25.1
9  Possum Bourne* / Mark Stacey NZ/AUS  Subaru Impreza +5.32.9
10  Daniel Solà / Alex Roman E  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution +6.01.2
11  Krzysztof Holowczyc* / Lukasz Kurzeja PL  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution +9.42.2
12  Lars Hollie / Erik Pedersen N  Subaru Impreza +12.32.9
13  Joakim Roman* / Tina Mitakidou S  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution +14.10.2
14  Lukasz Sztuka* / Per Carlsson PL/S  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution +15.11.1
15  Tony Rickardsson / Joakim Gevert S  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution +15.31.8
16  Anders Feldmann / Klaus Hartmann D  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution +16.03.9
17  Patrick Richard* / Martin Headland CDN/S  Subaru Impreza +17.00.5
18  Bob Colsoul* / Tom Colsoul B  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution +17.10.5
19  Michal Solowow / Dariusz Burlat PL  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution +18.34.2
20  Alfredo de Dominicis* / Giovanni Bernacchini I  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution +18.56.8
* Drivers eligible for FIA Production Car World Championship points
AUS=Australia/ B=Belgium/ CDN=Canada/ D=Germany/ E=Spain/ FIN=Finland/ GB=Great Britain/ I=Italy/ MAL=Malaysia/ N=Norway/ NZ=New Zealand/ PL=Poland/ S=Sweden/ YV=Venezuela/


  Driver / Co-driver Nat. Car Total Time Difference
1  Marcus Grönholm / Timo Rautiainen FIN  Peugeot 206 WRC  
2  Tommi Mäkinen / Kaj Lindström FIN  Subaru Impreza WRC +50.8
3  Richard Burns / Robert Reid GB  Peugeot 206 WRC +1.17.9
4  Markko Märtin / Michael Park EE/GB  Ford Focus WRC +1.45.8
5  Colin McRae / Derek Ringer GB  Citroën Xsara WRC +2.15.8
6  Petter Solberg / Phil Mills N/GB  Subaru Impreza WRC +2.19.1
7  Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena F/MC  Citroën Xsara WRC +3.14.7
8  Toni Gardemeister / Paavo Lukander FIN  Skoda Octavia WRC +3.19.2
9  Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti E  Citroën Xsara WRC +3.24.2
10  Freddy Loix / Sven Smeets B  Hyundai Accent WRC +3.36.4
11  Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen FIN  Subaru Impreza WRC +6.05.7
12  Kristian Sohlberg / Jakke Honkanen FIN  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution WRC2 +6.17.4
13  Armin Schwarz / Manfred Hiemer D  Hyundai Accent WRC +7.21.2
14  Roman Kresta / Milos Hulka CZ  Peugeot 206 WRC +7.50.1
15  Kristian Kolberg / Kjell Pettersen N  Hyundai Accent WRC +8.20.2
16  Tomasz Kuchar / Maciek Szczepaniak PL  Toyota Corolla WRC +10.34.2
17  Janne Tuohino / Jukka Aho FIN  Ford Focus WRC +11.26.5
18  Didier Auriol / Denis Giraudet F  Skoda Octavia WRC +12.46.8
B=Belgium/ CZ=Czech Republic/ D=Germany/ E=Spain/ EE=Estonia/ F=France/ FIN=Finland/ GB=Great Britain/ MC=Monte Carlo/ N=Norway/ PL=Poland/