In light of the eight cancelled tests on Friday, the final leg of the rally was revamped to include an extra stage. The crews tackled the 23.18km Mina Clavero -- Giulio Cesare stage twice instead of once. It meant the number of stages was now five...
In light of the eight cancelled tests on Friday, the final leg of the rally was revamped to include an extra stage. The crews tackled the 23.18km Mina Clavero -- Giulio Cesare stage twice instead of once. It meant the number of stages was now five and the total competitive distance of the leg increased to 82.40km. The decision was made to bring the competitive distance of the rally up to the minimum required by the rules.
Chris Atkinson finished an eventful Rally Argentina in the points for the Subaru World Rally Team. The Australian, who had Stephane Prevot as his co-driver for the first time, guided his Impreza WRC2007 to seventh position overall. In their 100th rally with the team, Petter Solberg and Phil Mills had been on course for a podium until they were forced to retire on leg two. They were halted by an engine problem caused when the radiator was damaged in an impact.
SS19: 0800HRS MINA CLAVERO -- GIULIO CESARE 1 (23.18KM)
Leg three began from Carlo Paz at 0651hrs as planned but, after the
cancellation of 122km of stages on Friday, the itinerary had changed.
Organisers added another stage to Sunday's leg to bring the total
competitive distance up to the WRC requirement. It was decided to run the
33km stage from Mina Clavero twice, and this is where crews headed after
the early morning service. Heavy storms had battered the region overnight
and conditions were blustery, wet and overcast as crews began the muddy
stage. Following Petter Solberg's earlier retirement, Chris Atkinson
rose the challenge of being lead Subaru driver and set the third fastest
time. As a result the Australian moved ahead of Henning Solberg into
fifth position overall.
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 18m 48.8s
SS20: 0843HRS EL CONDOR -- COPINA 1 (16.82KM
The second test of the day was El Condor, perhaps the most famous of all
the Rally Argentina stages. Run in the barren, moonlike landscape of the
Traslasierra mountains, El Condor is a boulder strewn road that starts at
an altitude of 2100 metres and drops to 1400 metres at the finish. Cars
began the section in tricky weather conditions - light rain was falling
and thick fog restricted visibility to 120metres. The temperature was a
cool six degrees Celsius. Atkinson's improved form continued, and
despite the treacherous conditions he set the fourth-fastest time,
finishing ahead of a hard-chasing Henning Solberg, to maintain fifth
Fastest time: Sordo (Citroen) 13m 39.9s
SS21: 1006HRS MINA CLAVERO -- GIULIO CESARE (23.18KM)
Stage three of Sunday's revised schedule was a repeat pass through the
Mina Clavero section - similar in character to El Condor but a 1100m
climb rather than a descent. After the earlier running the already soft
gravel road surface had become badly rutted, especially on the tighter
corners. Sebastien Loeb set the fastest time, to hold on to the lead of
the rally, while his team-mate Dani Sordo was second-quickest and making
up time lost with a hydraulic problem on leg two. Chris Atkinson
experienced problems on the stage dropped to sixth overall after posting
the ninth-fastest time.
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 18m 51.2s
SS22: 1049HRS EL CONDOR -- COPINA 2 (16.82KM)
The second passage through El Condor was the final proper stage of the
rally and the last real opportunity for drivers to make up time on the
competition. With a comfortable margin of 43sec going into the stage,
Loeb was taking no risks and set the fifth-fastest time, although for his
team-mate Dani Sordo it was still game-on. With fifth place in his
sights, the Spaniard completed the rally's penultimate test with the
best time and moved ahead of Atkinson into sixth place. In setting the
third fastest time Henning Solberg did enough to keep Sordo at bay, but
with the Superspecial remaining just five seconds separated the pair.
Fastest time: Sordo (Citroen) 13m 46.8s
SSS23: 1305HRS ESTADIO CORDOBA 2 (2.40KM)
After a 30-minute service in Carlos Paz, cars headed to the Cordoba
football stadium for the rally's Superspecial finale. There were no last
stage upsets for any of the leading competitors and in front of thousands
of spectators Sebastien Loeb won the stage and the rally, his fourth of
the year. Second on the stage was Marcus Gronholm, who finished second
overall, while Mikko Hirvonen was third to secure the final podium place.
Subaru's Chris Atkinson finished seventh overall to collect two
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 2m 25.4s
Subaru World Rally Team Managing Director, Richard Taylor: "We were encouraged by the speed that Petter showed on Saturday and his performance confirmed what we saw in Mexico -- that when the car is going well it is fast enough to challenge the pace of the leaders. The challenge now is to make sure we can run at that sort of pace in all conditions. Today has been a frustrating one for Chris. He had a couple of good times early on, but the car didn't feel right under him and he dropped a couple of places later on. We have learned some lessons here, and we'll use that information to help us improve the car before the next event in Sardinia."
CAR NUMBER 8
Chris Atkinson: "It's good to have completed the event in the points, and I'm pleased about how things have worked out with my new co-driver, but it's hard not to get frustrated with the speed when I know I can go quicker. Even though we managed to set some reasonable times on the first couple of stages today I know I could have been faster if I had more confidence in the handling of the car. We made some positive steps at the recent test but there's still work to do before we unlock the potential of this car. We'll keep on working and hope for a better story in Sardinia."
Matthieu Bonardel, BFGoodrich rally manager: "This has been an interesting and unpredictable rally, not just because of the weather but also as result of the changes on the first day. Overall though we are quite happy with the way our tyres have worked. Both Chris and Petter were able to take advantage of our soft compound tyre in the damp and muddy conditions, and both appreciated the amount of grip these, and our other gravel tyres produced. Petter showed an especially good pace on leg two and was the only driver to be able to challenge the leaders."
The next event
It's back to Europe for round seven, Rally d'Italia-Sardinia. The soft gravel roads of Sardinia are a recent addition to the championship and the inaugural 2004 event was dominated by Petter Solberg and Subaru.