After the first full day of competition, the Subaru World Rally Team is still on track to achieve its aim of two points finishes on Rallye Monte Carlo. Chris Atkinson and Glenn Macneall made a storming start to the day and vaulted from an...
After the first full day of competition, the Subaru World Rally Team is still on track to achieve its aim of two points finishes on Rallye Monte Carlo. Chris Atkinson and Glenn Macneall made a storming start to the day and vaulted from an overnight sixth place to fourth. The duo maintained that position throughout the rest of the day. Despite losing some time on the opening stage of the leg, Petter Solberg and Phil Mills had a positive run and were back up to seventh by the time the cars returned to Valence at the end of the day.
SS3: 0819HRS ST PIERREVILLE - ANTRAIGUES (46.02KM)
The crews faced a major challenge as they started leg two of the rally,
because the opening stage of the day was the longest of the event at
46km. It was a wildly varying route, including flat-out straights, some
twisting climbs up to the Ardeche plateau and also a handful of slippery
sections, particularly near the start. Chris and Glenn revelled in the
demanding conditions and sped through the test in 30m 03.5s. It was the
fourth-fastest time and in the process the pair moved up two places to
fourth overall. Chris said: "That was a tricky stage. We chose a fairly
soft tyre which worked particularly well in the early kilometres, which
were damp. We took some time out of the guys in front of us and our
plan is to do that again on the next one." Petter and Phil set a time
of 30m 50.0s. "I'm disappointed with that stage. It was very slippery
in there and our tyre choice was too hard for the conditions," said the
Norwegian, who was now ninth overall.
Fastest time: Dani Sordo (Citroen) 29m 43.4s
SS4: 1013HRS BURZET - LACHAMP RAPHAEL 1 (16.48KM)
After the first Remote Service Zone (RSZ), the crews moved on to the
second stage of the day, which used part of a classic Monte Carlo test.
It featured a long climb up a mountain called Ray-Pic to a height of
1440m. The road went through a forest and was uneven for most of the
stage, apart from a short stretch of smoother asphalt in the middle.
This stage was much drier than SS3, although dark rainclouds were
gathering above the mountains. Petter had switched to a medium tyre
compound (the same compound that Chris used successfully on SS3) at
the RSZ and cleared the stage in 9m 50.4s. He said: "The tyre and car
worked quite well on that stage. The feeling was much better." Chris was
tenth fastest with a time of 9m 55.6s, but the Australian maintained
his fourth place overall. "We dropped a little bit in that stage, but
it was still quite a good time. There's a good chance it could be wet
in the next stage and that will suit our tyres," he said.
Fastest time: Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) 9m 39.3s
SS5: 1059HRS ST MARTIAL - LE CHAMBON - BELEAC 1 (12.81KM)
Like stage four, this test used part of the famous Burzet route and
climbed up the Col de Joux before a steady descent to the finish. The
shortest stage of the rally was dry, and the rain Chris was hoping for
didn't materialise. He completed the stage in 8m 15.7s and said: "The
car was moving around a little bit too much and we lost some time, which
was disappointing. We're still fourth overall, but it's getting very
close behind us." Petter set a time of 8m 05.9s and moved up to eighth
position, ahead of Jan Kopecky. Petter remarked: "Things are going
better now. We were on the right rubber for stages four and five and,
as we learn more about the BFGoodrich tyres, I can feel more confident
about this car."
Fastest time: Sordo (Citroen) 8m 00.7s
SS6: 1517HRS ST PIERREVILLE - ANTRAIGUES 2 (46.02KM)
After a service halt back at the rally's host town, Valence, the crews
embarked on the second loop of three stages in front of thousands of
rally fans. The weather had improved considerably for the second run
through this long stage and the roads were completely dry. Chris set a
time of 29m 00.8s, which put him fifth quickest and consolidated his
fourth place. "This long one seems to work for us," explained Chris.
"Now I need to work out the next pair of tests and set some good times
on those. It was a tricky second pass: we were on a harder tyre compound
compared to this morning, but managed to keep the temperatures up
through the stage." Petter found he couldn't push as hard as his young
team-mate, particularly near the end of the stage when he began to
experience some understeer. He set a time of 29m 10.3s and moved up to
seventh position overall.
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 28m 29.7s
SS7: 1711HRS BURZET - LACHAMP RAPHAEL 2 (16.48KM)
The sun was beginning to set as the leading crews tackled the Burzet
stage for the second time. Chris completed the 16.48kms in 9m 50.3s,
which once again put him fourth fastest through the stage. He also
tightened his grip on fourth position in the overall classification,
because he outpaced his closest rival Mikko Hirvonen by 5.2s. Petter
set a time just 1.8s slower than his Australian team-mate, which
put him fifth fastest through the test. He remained seventh in the
classification, but was starting to close in on sixth-placed Toni
Gardemeister with just one stage of leg two left to run.
Fastest time: Sordo (Citroen) 9m 43.2s
SS8: 1757HRS ST MARTIAL - LE CHAMBON - BELEAC 2 (12.81KM)
The final action on Friday took place in complete darkness, necessitating the use of lamp pods on the two Imprezas WRCs. Chris came through in 8m 35.5s, which meant he ended the day in a solid fourth place. He said he was very cautious in the darkness because he wanted to ensure he got to the end of the leg without any unnecessary scares. He also made sure he stayed well clear of rivals Hirvonen and Gardemeister in the overall positions. Petter eclipsed Chris by 4.7s on the stage, but lost three seconds to Gardemeister. But he remained satisfied with his day's work apart from the time lost on the opening stage of the leg. Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 8m 16.4s
Subaru World Rally Team Managing Director, Richard Taylor: "It has been an excellent day for Chris. He's put in some very good drives, particularly on the two runs through the 46-kilometre St Pierreville to Antraigues stage. With less suitable tyres on the first stage of the day, Petter has had a slightly tougher time, but both cars are still going reliably and strongly. We're close to where we expected to be here with the 2006 car. If we could get each car a little further up the order it would be even better, but we'll have to wait and see what tomorrow brings."
Petter Solberg: "Actually it has been a very good day. I'm quite pleased with many of the stage times I've been able to do. I think we are closer to the pace of the Fords than I'd expected we would be, although clearly we have a lot of work to do to catch the Citroens. I didn't get everything right on the first stage, I still have a little to learn about the way the tyres work, but I'm feeling very positive about our potential, especially when we get these tyres on the new car. For tomorrow and Sunday I will do everything I can to get a good result and I still think it is possible for me to get fifth place on this rally."
Chris Atkinson: "I'm very happy to be fourth tonight. It's a nice place to be. On the last two stages of the leg it was dark, we had difficulties defining the levels of grip and decided to be more cautious. Our target for this event was sixth position and we didn't really expect to be this high after the second leg. Certainly tomorrow is going to be tough, because there's a lot of good guys behind us and they will be pushing hard, but we will try to hold the position."
Most of leg three's stages take place to the north-west of the main service area at Valence, although the Superspecial in Monte Carlo on Sunday morning is also included as part of this leg of the rally. There are six stages in the mountains (two loops of three tests). The total competitive mileage is 131.52km and the action begins at 0731hrs with the Labatie D'Andaure to Lalouvesc stage.