The OMV Kronos Citroen World Rally Team was already able to turn the regained motivation into a good result at the shakedown to the “Neste Oil Rally Finland”. On their fastest turn on the 3,76 kilometres long course the OMV duo marked eighth-best time by 2:07,0 minutes. Only 2,4 seconds were missing on six-times Finland winner and shakedown dominator Marcus Grönholm. Now the joy of driving shall be turned into a good result at the rally.
After the testing on Monday Manfred Stohl had already realised that the speed of the Citroen Xsara WRC had increased over the summer. A fact that was confirmed on Thursday at the shakedown. A time of 2:07,0 minutes meant that the OMV driver was only 2,4 seconds slower than Marcus Grönholm who reached best time in the new works car by Ford . Converted to the kilometre this means a loss of just about 0,6 seconds. Stohl: “I can live with that even though one can’t really compare this shakedown to the rally. But we definitely took a further step ahead. Still, one mustn’t be deceived in Finland. Due to the many jumps one always has the feeling of being extremely fast.” Nevertheless: the gap to the Citroen C4 works cars also gives confidence. For Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo were only slightly faster by 2:06,3 respectively 2:06,7.
Prior to the real rally start with the super stage in on Thursday evening in Jyväskylä Manfred Stohl had time to honour his “purchase by auction”. Last year in December OMV had auctioned off a co-driver seat at the shakedown of a WRC-rally for the “Licht ins Dunkel” charity. 10.000 Euro meant that this experience took in more than any other “special event” provided by athletes. Hans Buchner, gastronome from Bad Gastein, who purchased the co-driver seat at the auction, ceded this place to his daughter Verena. And on Thursday the pretty 22-year-old was able to enjoy the singular experience of taking over, for a time, from Ilka Minor, current world-best female co-driver.
There is basically only one recipe for the Rally Finland: attack is the key to success. An average speed of 123 km/h makes this rally the fastest in the whole FIA World Rally Championship. No big problem for OMV driver Manfred Stohl. Stohl: “I like it when it’s fast. Even though one is obviously at a disadvantage here as non-Scandinavian. But this mustn’t be an excuse. Those guys also can’t do differently than drive fast. And that is what I will do as well, right from kilometre one on.”
01. Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen (Fin) Ford Focus WRC 2:04,6 min. 02. Petter Solberg/Phil Mills (Nor) Subaru Impreza WRC 2:05,6 min. 03. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Antilla (Fin) Ford Focus WRC 2:05,9 min. 04. Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (F) Citroen C4 WRC 2:06,3 min. 05. Chris Atkinson/Stephane Prevot (Aus) Subaru Impreza WRC 2:06,7 min. 05. Dani Sord/Marc Marti (Spa) Citroen C4 WRC 2:06,7 min. 07. Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud (Nor) Ford Focus WRC 2:06,8 min. 08. Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor (A) Citroen Xsara WRC 2:07,0 min. 09. Urmo Aava/Kuldar Sikk (EE) Mitsubishi Lancer WRC 2:08,7 min. 10. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (Fin) Ford Focus WRC 2:09,0 min.