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17 June 2003 - 14:12
Thiry Opens Up A Useful Lead
Rally Bulgaria - round of ERC coefficient 20 - leg 1
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The sports commissioners of Rally “Bulgaria” allowed everybody, present at the technical inspection to participate in the 34-th Rally “Bulgaria”. Earlier today at the press conference was announced that 47 teams from 52 present would start in the competition. After the meeting of the commissioners was decided that 53 have passed the scrutineering and all of them will start.

After a later research on the technical disparities, the announced to drop out of the competition Ilia Valchev (Bul) with VAZ-21083, Ivan Matosevic (SCG) with “Peugeot 405 MI 16”, Veselin Lazarov (Bul) with VAZ-21074, Riza Rizov (Bul) with VAZ-2105 and Krasimir Bachiyski (Bul) with VAZ-2105 can participate. First on the start will be Bruno Thiry with start number 2 because Miguel Campos, announced with number 1 did not present himself.

The patron of rally “Bulgaria” the Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saks Coburg Gotha inaugurated the competition. At 18:30 exactly he made a short appeal to the participants and the audience. 30 minutes later the Prime Minister gave the start of the real contest. Simeon Saks Coburg Gotha waved the Bulgarian flag in front of the eyes of Bruno Thiry, who started from first position.

The favorite of rally “Bulgaria” Bruno Thiry with “Peugeot 206 WRC” won the first special stage “Borovetz”, 3.04 km long. The Belgian covered the distance in 1:51.1, leaving behind with 2.8 s. the Russian Evgeny Vasin, driving “Peugeot 206 WRC” too. The Bulgarian Jassen Popov with “Skoda Octavia WRC finished third, 4.0 s behind Thiry. Krum Donchev, who started third with “Peugeot 306 16S” left 10.9 seconds behind and ranked eighth. Riza Rizov with “VAZ 2105” didnt start and the Serbian Ivan Matosevic with “Peugeot 205” did not finish the stage after his car stalled meters after the single u-turn. At the same turn Iulian Nikov with “WV Polo” had problems too, probably with the gear box, but he managed to finish 50-th.

The team Nikolay Zlatkov Violeta Nikoltcheva with “Opel Astra” dropped out of rally “Bulgaria”. Zlatkov finished 10-th at the first special stage, 14.4 sec after the leader Bruno Thiry. Just before the service area his clutch broke down. Zlatkov not started next day.

There was a clear blue sky and temperatures in the high twenties when Bruno Thiry and the 51 remaining teams left Borovetz at the start of day two of the 34th Rally Bulgaria.

Thiry showed his class by again setting fastest time and opening up a lead of 51.8 sec. Jasen Popov moved into second place, just edging out Evgeny Vasin by 0.2 sec, and Krum Donchev taking over 4th place, nearly 1 1/2 minutes behind Thiry.

The top three positions changed once more, when Vasin punctured on Stage 3, lost 3 1/2 minutes and slipped down to 11th place. Again it was Thiry who set the pace and his combined time after 3 stages was 28 min. 18.6 sec. Jasen Popov settled into second place in a time of 29 min.33.0 sec with Donchev third in 30 min.21.8 sec.

Bruno Thiry, Bastos Peugeot 206 WRC: "It is very, very warm and slippery like hell! It is very easy to make a big mistake, but overall I can't complain"

Jasen Popov, Skoda Octavia WRC: "It is my first rally of the season and my first outing in the new car, so I am driving carefully. We were unable to find sponsors last season and we didn't drive, so we are not exactly in top condition, but second place is good. I sympathise with Vasin.it is normally me who picks up the punctures. Here in Bulgaria we are famous for our tyre changes," he said with a smile.

Evgeny Vasin, Itera Peugeot 206 WRC: "The puncture happened about 6 km. from the start of Stage 3. It was from a large stone which I saw at the last moment and couldn't avoid. It was only 1/3 of the way into the stage so we had to stop and change."

Krum Donchev, Peugeot 306 16s: "Yesterdays spectator stage was very slippery so I didn't want to take any chances. Today has gone well, but on the last stage there seemed to be some vibration coming from the fuel tank which I'm sure we can sort out at service.

The second section of the day saw Thiry increase his lead from 1 min 14.4 sec. to 2 min.24.7 sec. without any apparent difficulty. Jasen Popov in his Skoda Octavia was driving well in his first outing in his new car and getting more confident with every kilometer he drove. Krum Donchev retained 3rd place overall but lost a few seconds to Popov.

Evgeny Vasin who had slipped to 11th after his puncture, began to make up ground. On Stage 4 he had moved up to 8th place overall and then on Stage 5 he advanced a further 4 places and now looks likely to advance to a top three place sometime tomorrow.

Bruno Thiry, Bastos Peugeot 206 WRC: "I am not pushing at all, it is not necessary, that would be foolish. I will try and add to my advantage by the end of the day. Now I think we will alter the car a little and try and do a test that is because the next two stages are very different, one is quite fast whilst the other is a little more tricky. We will try and find a compromise."

Evgeny Vasin, Itera Peugeot 206 WRC: "I have had some good times but I am not really pushing. I seem to be about 1 second per kilometer faster than Popov and with about 200 k's left, I can take my time. But it is very slippery almost like ice."

Jasen Popov, Skoda Octavia WRC: "I am beginning to get the feel of the car now and will try and push a little harder, but Vasin has a faster car, so we'll see."

At the end of the first leg of the 34th Rally Bulgaria, Bruno Thiry had opened up a lead of 3min 55.7 sec. and at no stage had he been pressed. Jasen Popov, in his first rally for nearly two years in a Skoda Octavia WRC, also a new car for him, was pleased to find himself in second place, albeit nearly four minutes behind the leader.

Evgeny Vasin in his Itera Peugeot, recovered from a terrible start to the day when he went off road on stage 2 and lost 30 seconds and then punctured and had to change a wheel which lost a further 3 minutes on Stage 3. On the last four stages he moved up from 11th to 3rd and is now just 1min 09.5sec behind Popov.

"We have made some changes to the suspension as we have had the opportunity to test a little and the car is more precise it is more like a racing car now. We have not had any problems... I can't think of one, not even a little one, so I guess we will continue the same way tomorrow," said a satisfied Thiry.

"I am also happy with the car," said Vasin. "I am now driving carefully and we should be able to take second place tomorrow, but you never can tell... I was also driving carefully today on Stage 2 when I went off and Stage 3 when I got a puncture. But I will definitely try tomorrow."

Jasen Popov and his co-driver brother Dilian were delighted to be in second place. "As this is our first rally for so long and in a new car, then second place for us is ideal. We are aware that Vasin is getting closer and we will try and go a little faster tomorrow because we have no intention of giving up second place without a fight."

Krum Donchev was also satisfied with 4th place. " Who wouldn't be... they are all WRC's in front of me," he smiled. "I had a problem with, I think it was my fuel pump on stage 6, he said, "And I guess we can fix it now."


 

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Next:
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The Battle of the Balkans About to Begin – 17 June 2003 - 14:11

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