Thousands of fans braved the chilly evening weather to witness this evening’s thrilling start to the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship in the heart of Perth. The Langley Park super special stage is one of the highlights of the season and this year was no exception as more than 10,000 fans flocked into the purpose-built speed test overlooking the city’s Swan River for the opening speed test.
Two cars at a time raced around the spectacular floodlit track, the world’s top drivers kicking up the dust on the sweeping hairpin bends and flying high over the humpback jump to the delight of the passionate Western Australian fans.
Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya led the Ford Rallye Sport challenge over the short 2.20km test. The Spanish duo posted equal third fastest time in their Focus RS World Rally Car after a tremendous head-to-head duel with new world champion Marcus Grönholm in the final pairing of the evening.
Team-mates Colin McRae and Derek Ringer were ninth, the Scot driving his Focus RS in considerable discomfort after a mountain bike crash earlier this week. Francois Duval and Jean-Marc Fortin were 11th in their Focus RS while the fourth Ford Rallye Sport car of Markko Märtin and Michael Park was 23rd after stalling at the start.
Such was the pace of the leading contenders that only 1.8sec covered the top 10 cars.
“I hope that was as much fun for the spectators as it was for us in the car,” said Sainz. “It’s always a great atmosphere here and tonight was no different. The fun’s over now because the competition gets tough tomorrow when we go into the proper stages.”
The rally begins in earnest tomorrow morning when the 69 competitors head south for seven gravel special stages before a repeat of the Langley Park test. They cover 133.49km in a total distance of 674.64km.
Leaderboard After Stage 1
|1. P Solberg/P Mills||N||Subaru Impreza||1min 28.7sec|
|2. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen||FIN||Peugeot 206||1min 29.0sec|
|3= C Sainz/L Moya||E||Ford Focus RS||1min 29.6sec|
|3= R Burns/R Reid||GB||Peugeot 206||1min 29.6sec|
|5. H Rovanperä/R Pietilainen||FIN||Peugeot 206||1min 29.8sec|
|6. T Mäkinen/K Lindström||FIN||Subaru Impreza||1min 30.0sec|
|7= K Eriksson/T Thörner||S||Skoda Octavia||1min 30.3sec|
|7= F Loix/S Smeets||B||Hyundai Accent||1min 30.3sec|
|9. C McRae/D Ringer||GB||Ford Focus RS||1min 30.4sec|
|10 S Loeb/D Elena||F||Citroen Xsara||1min 30.5sec|
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