Petter Solberg set a string of top five stage times today to end the Leg in fourth place overall. Refining his car's set-up and tyre choices throughout the day, his growing confidence was reflected in his increasingly competitive pace. He will...
Petter Solberg set a string of top five stage times today to end the Leg in fourth place overall. Refining his car's set-up and tyre choices throughout the day, his growing confidence was reflected in his increasingly competitive pace. He will start tomorrow's final Leg less than ten seconds outside the top three. Stephane Sarrazin's promising start with the team continued, with the Frenchman getting more familiar with his car and setting some competitive split times. Although his day came to a premature end when he broke a steering arm, he will re-start tomorrow under new FIA regulations intent on gaining more experience at the wheel of his Impreza WRC2004.
SS5: 0750 Col de Braus - Lantosque (32.62km)
Intermittent frost and damp patches characterised the opening stage of Leg two. A reverse run of SS4, the test included a series of tight hairpins, short straights and the ascent of three cols, the highest of which was 1,300 metres above sea level. Seeking to extend his overall lead, Sebastien Loeb was fastest, with team-mate Francois Duval second and Toni Gardemeister third. Petter Solberg, who said after the stage that his tyre choice had been too soft, was fifth in his Subaru Impreza WRC2004. Competing in the specialist event for the first time, Petter's team-mate Stephane Sarrazin suffered a spin at the first hairpin, and a half-spin further into the test. Nonetheless, Sarrazin showed encouraging pace on the split times, even though he felt his ice warning notes had been too cautious. A red-hot performance from Skoda's Armin Schwarz saw him cross the finish with glowing brakes and his Fabia's cockpit full of brake smoke. Once the stage was complete, crews drove a 41km road section back to Monaco for a 30-minute service.Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 24:08.1
SS6: 1143 Toudon - Saint Antonin 1 (19.52km)
Drama on the second test of the day, the twisty 19.52km mountain stage from Toudon to Saint Antonin, when two incidents shook the overall standings. The first involved Stephane Sarrazin, who braked late for a corner 1km from the finish line and slid into a roadside barrier. Although the speed of impact was slow, it was enough to break the left-hand steering-arm on his Impreza. Unable to complete the Leg, the Frenchman returned to the service area so that repairs could be made ahead of Leg three. In accordance with the FIA's new re-start regulations, Stephane was given the fastest time plus five-minutes of penalty time for each of the remaining stages in the Leg. There were more serious problems for Citroen's Francois Duval. Skidding off the road 16km from the start, the Belgian's car hit a telegraph pole side-on, injuring co-driver Stephane Prevot. He was taken to hospital for precautionary checks, but was later released. Meanwhile Sebastien Loeb, who had been held up by Duval's crash, was awarded a representative time for the test. After the stage was complete, crews moved to the start of SS7.Fastest Stage Time: Bengue (Skoda) and Loeb (Citroen) 13:38.8
SS7: 1216 Pont des Miolans - Les Sausses 1 (28.41km)
Monte Carlo's notoriously tricky conditions continued to catch out the unwary on the Pont des Miolans test, which featured narrow roads, damp asphalt and icy corners in its final 8km. Running second on the road, Skoda driver Armin Schwarz fell foul of the difficult section when he skidded off the road in his Fabia, hit a wall, rolled and went out of the event. The German driver was flown to hospital with an injured left shoulder and the stage was cancelled. The remaining drivers were awarded representative times and drove the 89km back to Monaco for a 30-minute service.Fastest Stage Time: Bengue (Skoda), Gardemeister (Ford), Solberg (Subaru), Gronholm (Peugeot), Loeb (Citroen) 20:01.6
SS8: 1619 Toudon - Saint Antonin 2 (19.52km)
The second pass through the tricky stage from Toudon featured close competition between the leading WRC drivers as less than eight seconds separated the top six. Gilles Panizzi was fastest for Mitsubishi to take the team's first WRC stage win since the New Zealand Rally in 2002. Subaru's Solberg was second fastest, ending the test just four seconds off third place overall, while French driver Alexandre Bengue was third quickest. Making his debut for the Peugeot team in Monte Carlo, Markko Martin was struggling with the set-up of his 307 and was ninth fastest, 18.9 seconds off the winning pace. His team-mate Marcus Gronholm was fourth. None of the leading crews were caught out by the damp section at the end of the test and, once the stage was complete, crews moved to the start of the final stage of the day. Fastest Stage Time: Panizzi (Mitsubishi) 13:44.9
SS9: 1652 Pont des Miolans - Les Sausses 2 (28.41km)
Panizzi remained on the pace for the final stage, but Loeb was quicker and, recording an average speed of 84.57kph, took his fifth stage win. As temperatures began to plummet and the light to fade, ice patches dominated the final section of the 28km mountain stage. There were nervous moments for Ford when Roman Kresta knocked a wheel off his Focus near to the finish. He completed the stage, but had to stop at the roadside to remove the drive shaft and re-fit the wheel before continuing. In a similar incident, Alexandre Bengue knocked a wheel off his Skoda. He too completed the test but, unable to return to service without assistance, collected a five-minute time penalty. Solberg was fifth fastest, to end the day in fourth place overall, despite sliding wide on a corner and hitting the rear of his car on a bridge, After the stage was complete, crews returned to Monte Carlo for a 45-minute service. However, Kresta suffered further misfortune when his car's gearbox broke on the 97km road section. Unable to complete the journey back to service, he too received a five-minute time penalty. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 20:09.4
Well, today has been much better and I'm quite pleased actually with the performance. The car has been very good to drive on the stages, and the harder compound tyres have suited my driving very well. Loeb is a long way away, but we're getting closer to the people in front, so we will have to see what we can do tomorrow. It's going to be a very interesting last day I think, a good battle with Gardemeister and Panizzi, I'm looking forward to it.
I'm disappointed because I had a good feeling with car, I was driving well and then a small mistake had such a big effect. I'm more sorry for the team than myself, because it's my first race and it could have been possible to get points. I'm lucky to have the re-start system, and tomorrow I will concentrate on learning more about my car and the set up to improve myself. Of course it's still very new, so I'm not pushing at 100 per cent just yet, but I want to be fast and the target is to push for improvement. We saw a good split after a few stages today, and I'm hoping to do the same tomorrow.
, Team Principal
It's been a good day for Petter. He's become increasingly confident in the car set up and the tyres and we seem to have put yesterday's technical problems behind us. Our target for the event was to achieve a podium finish and now that seems more than possible, but I expect tomorrow's fight for second and third place will be intense. Of course it's disappointing that Stephane's mistake cost him so heavily, but his objective was to gain experience and gradually increase speed and thanks to the re-starting system he can still do that. Overall we're very pleased with Stephane's performance and expect him to impress us again tomorrow.
News from Pirelli
, Pirelli Motorsport Director
Petter used our new hard compound tyres today, which helped his times, but it's also fair to say that he struggled a bit when it was wet. However, we're confident that tomorrow, he will be in a good position to fight for a podium and make it an exciting finish to the rally.
Sunday 23 January 2005
The third and final Leg starts tomorrow at 0652hrs when the first car will leave the Monte Carlo parc ferme. The final day of competition will include six stages and a further 116.06 competitive kilometres. Run in the mountains to the north of Monaco, the first stage starts at 0757hrs and the last at 1244hrs. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp back in the principality at 1430hrs.