Final day: Driver quotes/team news

Mitsubishi

Final day: Driver quotes/team news


Tommi Makinen began his final day quest for a second successive Monte Carlo win by shattering his own stage record over SS12, making up for a slower time on the day's opening test.

'The first stage was OK but we had a lot of notes about the ice,' he said.

'When we got there, however, a lot of it had melted. I'm driving at normal speed to keep my concentration because I dare not relax until the finish.'

He added that he'd be happier when Sisteron was safely behind him, and, although beaten by Juha Kankkunen for fastest time, second quickest was enough to keep him well ahead of a fading Carlos Sainz.

Only with two stages to go did he finally ease off.

Team-mate FreddyLoix [who lost fifth and sixth gears at the end of Friday's leg] has been improving with every stage, but chose a too heavily-studded tyre option for the opening pair of stages.

'We were perhaps a bit too cautious with the choice, and I think that half studs would have been better for the downhill section on the first stage,' he explained.

Proof of his renewed pace came on Sisteron when he was fourth quickest despite spinning and stalling on the first icy hairpin.

Ford


Colin McRae was a man on a mission on Sunday morning, clawing his way up the leaderboard and closing in on team-mate Carlos Sainz with every stage despite damaging a wheel rim on the day's first stage.

'The conditions were good on the opening stages so we attacked hard and it paid off,' said McRae, who had chosen minimally-studded tyres for the predominantly dry stages.

'We've had more gear selection problems though - we think it's a spring in the selector mechanism that's the cause.

'We took hard compound racing tyres for Sisteron, and although it wasn't a problem there were a few occasions where 10kph was the best we could manage.'

Sainz began dropping back during the day, but it emerged that he had chosen a much softer tyre compound than McRae for Sisteron.

He confessed that he had given up chasing Makinen.

'Tommi is too far away for us to do anything at this stage but I mustn't let Colin get too close!' he said.

At this stage of a rally, team orders are commonplace, but Ford team director Malcolm Wilson insisted: 'Both drivers have been told that there are no team orders as it would be unfair to favour one driver over another at this point in the season.

'But they've also been told to get their cars to the finish.'

For McRae, it wasn't to be and his engine went up in smoke with just 20km of the final stage left to run.

SEAT


Didier Auriol's 'extended test session' continued on Sunday and the Frenchman concentrated on learning more about his new car rather than attempting to set record times.

'We changed the settings for dry asphalt,' he explained, 'but I am still driving carefully.'

His event came to an end on the penultimate stage when the Cordoba WRC suffered engine failure when lying eighth.

Toni Gardemeister slipped back down the order, being passed first by McRae and then by Kankkunen after a poor time on Sisteron.

'I chose too hard a tyre for Sisteron,' he explained.

The young Finn lost most of his time when he crashed and then spun on the stage before and after the icy Col.

'The car simply hasn't felt right today compared to before,' he revealed.

The incident affected the suspension geometry of the Cordoba and produced excessive tyre wear, forcing him to run harder tyres than were ideal for the final two stages with inevitable further time loss.

Subaru


The Subaru team was naturally relieved when Juha Kankkunen's car started perfectly this morning from the same parc ferme in Gap that had claimed Richard Burns' car 24 hours earlier.

The Finn discovered that an incorrect spacer had been fitted to one of his front wheels for the opening pair of stages with the result that excess heat got into the brakes and a disc failed.

Kankkunen then took one of the softest compound options for the Sisteron stage, and the veteran Finn recorded his second fastest time of the event to move into fourth ahead of Gardemeister.

Skoda


Armin Schwarz was cursing his turbo pipe problems from earlier in the event [repeated on SS14] as his performance over the final day reached new heights.

Third fastest on the opening stage of the day saw him begin a climb into the top 10.

'The problems cost us around five minutes, and, if we'd had a trouble-free run then we'd be in the Championship points for the second event in succession,' he said.

New team-mate Luis Climent was also surprised at his speed on the final day, and this must promise greater things for the Spanish driver as the year unfolds.

Over the final stages, Climent sacrificed a possible tenth place to the Group N leader Manfred Stohl when two mounting studs for his turbo failed and left him with reduced boost pressure.

His problems were compounded on SS14 when his brake pedal went straight to the floor after 15km [of 29.17km] and stayed there.

'Only two stages have gone really well for me on this event,' he said. 'The first and the second.'

Other teams


Following the retirement of German driver Uwe Nittel from the lead of GroupN after SS9 yesterday, the Production Cup category passed into the hands of Manfred Stohl with Gianluigi Galli second and four-times World Champion Gustavo Trelles third.

Bruno Thiry battled a 'spongy' brake pedal on SS14 and completed the event's penultimate test with smoke pouring from the pads as a testimony to his efforts to stop the car.

Today's only leading retirement outside the World Championship crews was that of Henrik Lundgaard who crashed his 11th placed Toyota on the Sisteron stage.

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