Pirelli on podium in Spain's Rally First Leg

Salou (E), 28 October 2005 - The Peugeot-Pirelli of Marcus Gronholm is in third place after the opening day's six stages of the all-asphalt Catalunya Rally, round 15 of the World Rally Championship. The Mitsubishi-Pirelli of Gigi Galli ends leg one in fifth, after setting a string of impressive times. Unfortunately the Subaru-Pirellis of Stephane Sarrazin and Petter Solberg have retired as the result of separate accidents. Catalunya is the second of two asphalt rallies run back-to-back, but the roads are wider, faster and more open compared to the previous event in Corsica. The biggest factor throughout the opening leg was the uncertain weather, which occasionally saw damp stages with the threat of further rain. As a result it was difficult to decide which would be the most appropriate choice of tyres, and several drivers lost time through inaccurate weather predictions. The action was split into three loops of two stages, all of which were equally unpredictable. All the drivers used Pirelli P Zero's RX tyres for dry asphalt today, with the exception of Peugeot's Nicolas Bernardi, who used the RE intermediate tyre for the first loop of stages. Gronholm used soft RX7 tyres in the morning's first loop of stages which became less effective as the stages dried out. His tyre choices became progressively harder throughout the day in reaction to the drier conditions and he climbed to second place, but his choice was too hard for the final loop of stages which still had damp patches. Galli used a harder RX5 tyre for the first loop of stages in the morning but felt that a softer tyre would have been a better choice. He was happy with his choice for the middle loop, but also felt that he could have benefited from a softer tyre for the final loop. Paul Hembery, Pirelli's Motorsport director, commented: " The weather conditions today have been a decisive factor, as the amount of damp and therefore grip has been entirely unpredictable. Those who found themselves with the right choices have earned themselves an advantage, but it has been easy to lose time with the wrong choice, often as the result of wrong information. It's a pity that Petter and Stephane went off and are unable to challenge after posting some promising times. However, we have seen today that things can change in an instant, so there is still everything to play for." Catalunya Rally (15/16) - Classification after leg one 1 Loeb-Elena Citroen Xsara WRC 1h27m.24s.0 4 Duval-Smeets Citroen Xsara WRC +53s.3 3 Gronholm-Rautiainen Peugeot 307 WRC +1m.11s.8 4 Gardemeister-Honkanen Ford Focus WRC +1m.23s.7 5 Galli-d'Amore Mitsubishi Lancer WRC +1m.35s.4 More information and photographs on Pirelli's motor sport activities: www.pirellicompetizioni.com