13 March 2005 LEG 3 RELEASE

Double points hat-trick for Mitsubishi Motors
Two second fastest times for Rovanperä
Rovanperä 5th and Panizzi 8th on tough Rally México

Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05
Harri Rovanperä / Risto Pietiläinen

The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team scored points with both its nominated Lancer WRC05s in the Corona Rally México, the third round of the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship. Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen fought hard to finish fifth and team-mates Gilles and Hervé Panizzi took two points for eighth place. This result marks the fourth consecutive rally that Mitsubishi has brought all its cars to the finish.

Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05
Harri Rovanperä / Risto Pietiläinen
Mitsubishi’s third successive double points haul from Monte-Carlo, Sweden and now México means it matches Ford on points in the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers, although Mitsubishi take third place in the standings, based on finishing positions this year.

"What a weekend for Mitsubishi Motorsport", said the President of Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Isao Torii. "Yesterday we finished second and fourth at the 3,840 kilometer Cross Country Rally from Argentina to Chile, and today we finished with both WRC cars in the manufacturer points at an exciting Rally México. I am very happy with the overall spirit of both teams because the reliability of our cars is good, we have fulfilled our target and to be equal with Ford in the WRC manufacturers’ points table is a great result for Mitsubishi Motors. Thanks to all those who worked so hard in the last month to bring us back into a top position in the Manufacturers’ Championship.

The final leg of the Corona Rally México saw the crews leave León for the final two stages of the Latin American event. Only 62.65 competitive kilometers lay in wait but the final stage loomed as at 44.39 kilometers, was the longest of the rally where a strong car and correct tire choice would really pay off.

Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05
Gilles Panizzi / Hervé Panizzi
Harri Rovanperä made a steady start to the event but made good progress, despite brake problems on the high altitude stage on leg one. He was unlucky on the start of the second day as electrical problems meant the team had to change the ECU, fuel line and ignition system before he could set off but he collected a 1min 20sec penalty after leaving service late. He picked up the pace, setting a fourth fastest time to end the day in fifth, only 1.4 seconds behind Ford’s Gardemeister and 36 seconds ahead of reigning World Champion Loeb, who was on a mission after dropping right down the order on leg one. Confident he could overhaul Gardemeister but aware of the pressure from Loeb, Rovanperä powered his way through leg three, setting two fastest stage times. Unfortunately the stage wins went to Loeb and the Frenchman eventually beat him to fourth place by seven seconds.

"I’m happy with fifth place but it was a very tough rally", commented Harri. "We drove as hard as we could today; it was hard enough to get past Gardemeister but not fast enough to stay ahead of Loeb. The only thing that happened in the last stage was spectators throwing stones at us and while we didn’t lose much time it put a big dent in the windscreen and I lost concentration each time it happened. Whether it would have made up the seven seconds we lost to Loeb, who knows, but our performance was still quite good".

Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05
Gilles Panizzi / Hervé Panizzi
Gilles Panizzi set off confidently, setting competitive stage times on the opening day, reaching sixth overall, but he had a more difficult rally in general. He had three punctures to contend with on the leg one, culminating in a spin during the final stage and during leg two, he was finding it difficult keeping the car on the line, complaining of it being too soft and struggling to steer when braking. But the often hot-headed Frenchman kept his cool and drove to the finish to take two extra manufacturer points for Mitsubishi.

"It is good that we have two cars at the finish and that we both scored points". said Gilles. "Now we have to push and work very hard for the next rally; in my opinion we should be competing for podium positions. Now we have to work on our performance. We know we have a strong car, we just need to make it handle a bit more confidently on gravel".

Adding to the drivers’ comments, Technical Director Mario Fornaris said: "This was a very good result for us because for the third time in a row we have reached our sporting target to get a car in the top five positions and two cars in the points. The results of the last few rallies show that our technical development is improving rally by rally and we haven’t had many difficulties since Catalunya last year, despite introducing new components like the automatic gearshift and now the active differential system. We are closer to the top of the leaderboard and the drivers did a great job this weekend, keeping a good spirit, despite the few issues we had to deal with. Mitsubishi Motors is in a very strong position on the points’ leaderboard and we hope to continue improving over the long string of upcoming gravel events".

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Michael Kahlfuss / Ronald Bauer
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver Michael Kahlfuss won the Group N category of Corona Rally México. Another Mitsubishi Lancer driver and local hero Erwin Richter retired on leg one but was able to start the second day under the revised restart rules and held position to finish almost eight minutes ahead of fellow México Carlos Tejada in third, also in a Lancer.

The FIA World Rally Championship now heads to Australasia for the second long-haul event of the season. Propecia Rally New Zealand (April 7-10) is the second of a string of eight loose-surfaced events and takes place on the flowing gravel tracks around New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland.

News from our rivals...

Petter Solberg confidently drove to his second consecutive victory and his nearest rivals Marcus Grönholm and Markko Märtin simply drove to keep position for second and third. With the top three positions as good as decided, the race was hot for the three places following, with Toni Gardemeister, Harri Rovanperä and Sébastien Loeb all in contention. Gardemeister had trouble defending his fourth place and was overtaken by Rovanperä on the first stage of the day. But Loeb, who powered his way up from 16th after a problem on the opening day, continued to fight back up the leaderboard, setting two fastest stage times, to eventually take fourth. After a day of attrition on leg two, the final day saw only two lead retirements; Christopher Atkinson, driving the second points-nominated Subaru, retired on the final stage with low oil pressure, to prevent further damage to the engine and François Duval also retired with engine issues on the road section before the finish.

: François Duval (Citroën) retired after the last stage.

  Driver / Co-driver Nat. Car Gr/Cl Total Time Difference
 Petter SOLBERG / Phil Mills N/GB  SUBARU Impreza WRC 05 A8 M   
 Marcus GRONHOLM / Timo Rautiainen FIN  PEUGEOT 307 WRC A8 M  34.5 
 Markko MARTIN / Michael Park EE/GB  PEUGEOT 307 WRC A8 M  1.38.3 
 Sébastien LOEB / Daniel Elena F/MC  CITROEN Xsara WRC A8 M  3.51.1 
 Harri ROVANPERA / Risto Pietiläinen FIN  MITSUBISHI Lancer WRC05 A8 M  3.58.1 
 Toni GARDEMEISTER / Jakke Honkanen FIN  FORD Focus RS WRC 04 A8 M  4.05.6 
 Antony WARMBOLD / Michael Orr D/GB  FORD Focus RS WRC 04 A8  6.01.0 
 Gilles PANIZZI / Hervé Panizzi F  MITSUBISHI Lancer WRC05 A8 M  6.01.7 
 Armin SCHWARZ / Klaus Wicha D  SKODA Fabia WRC A8 M  8.05.3 
10   Xavier PONS / Lucas Cruz E  PEUGEOT 206 WRC A8  18.49.0 
11   Guy WILKS / Phil Pugh GB  SUZUKI Ignis A6 J  21.53.9 
12   Ricardo TRIVINO / Carlos del Barrio MEX/E  PEUGEOT 206 WRC A8  22.59.5 
13   Jani PAASONEN / Jani Vainikka FIN  SKODA Fabia WRC A8 M  29.04.8 
14   Per-Gunnar ANDERSSON / J. Andersson S  SUZUKI Ignis A6 J  30.57.2 
15   Michael KAHLFUSS / Ronald Bauer D  MITSUBISHI Lancer Evolution N4  45.20.7 
16   Erwin RICHTER / Rafael Tellaeche MEX  MITSUBISHI Lancer Evolution N4  47.54.7 
17   Luca CECCHETTINI / Massimo Daddoveri I  FIAT Punto A6 J  49.05.9 
18   Carlos TEJADA / Hugo Ruiz MEX  MITSUBISHI Lancer Evolution N4  58.13.6 
Nationalities: D=Germany/ E=Spain/ EE=Estonia/ F=France/ FIN=Finland/ GB=Great Britain/ I=Italy/ MC=Monte Carlo/ MEX=Mexico/ N=Norway/ S=Sweden/
M: drivers nominated in the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers
J: drivers eligible for FIA Junior World Rally Championship points