WRC

Rally Argentina: Subaru leg 1 notes

Following Thursday's visit to the Carlos Paz Super Special Stage, all of the original 69 starters left parc ferme at 0720hrs today to start the second section of Leg one. Route: Leg 1 comprised 168.28 competitive kilometres and twelve stages...

Following Thursday's visit to the Carlos Paz Super Special Stage, all of the original 69 starters left parc ferme at 0720hrs today to start the second section of Leg one.

Route: Leg 1 comprised 168.28 competitive kilometres and twelve stages (six of which were repeated). With the exception of the Super Special, stages were based in the mountains to the north of the Carlos Paz service park.

Weather: Weather conditions remained dry and bright all day. The temperature in the service area started at 4º Celsius and peaked at 16º Celsius. The variable road surfaces of Leg 1 were a combination of hard packed earth, smooth gravel with some deep, sandy sections.

Leaderboard: Gronholm, Sainz, Loeb, Duval, Sohlberg, Hirvonen, Perez Companc, Rovanpera, Pozzo, Warmbold

Retirements: Martin, Solberg

Subaru World Rally Team Summary

After an incident filled day in the Sierras of Cordoba, 23-year-old Mikko Hirvonen holds overnight sixth place on Rally Argentina tonight after a determined performance at the wheel of his Impreza WRC2004. The young Finn heads the Subaru challenge after the retirement earlier in the day of his team mate, and current World Champion, Petter Solberg. Bringing to an end his impressive record of 11 consecutive WRC finishes, Solberg recorded three fastest stage times before retiring from fourth place overall with mechanical problems.

SS1: 1910 Super Especial Complejo Pro-Racing (3.02km)
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 2:09.1

SS2: 1910 Super Especial Complejo Pro-Racing (3.02km)
The 2004 Rally Argentina got underway on Thursday night with two trips to the spectator Super Special stage at the Pro-Racing motorsport complex in Carlos Paz. With headlights blazing, the WRC crews raced two at a time around the twisty figure-of-eight gravel circuit and thrilled a capacity crowd of 60,000 fans. The action over the jumps and around the highly cambered corners was tight and exciting and, although winning margins were slim, every driver fought to win the psychological advantage of an overnight lead. Responding to the enthusiastic support of the crowds, Subaru driver Petter Solberg set the fastest time on the first loop (SS1), to beat second placed Marcus Gronholm by 0.3 seconds and third placed Markko Martin by 1.4 seconds. The win was Petter's first ever rally Argentina stage victory. On the repeat run (SS2), Markko Martin was quickest, closely followed by Carlos Sainz in second, while Sebastien Loeb and Petter who stopped the clock at the same time tied third. As crews headed back to the overnight parc ferme the overall times saw Solberg at the top of the leaderboard, with Martin second (+0.2 seconds) and Gronholm third (+0.4 seconds). Mikko Hirvonen held overnight eighth place, just 4.7 seconds behind Petter and well placed ahead of Friday's second section. Fastest Stage Time: Martin (Ford) 2:10.2

SS3: 0843 La Cumbre - Agua de Oro 1 (21.35km)
The first 'proper' stage of the rally was a classic Argentine gravel test that featured numerous fast and flowing corners as well as more technical twisty sections and a 100 metre long river crossing five kilometres from the finish. Continuing the winning form he had shown on the Super Special stage the previous evening, Subaru's Petter Solberg set the early pace to take the stage win and extend his winning margin by nine seconds. Nine seconds slower through the sandy stage, Markko Martin was Petter's closest challenger in second place, while Marcus Gronholm was third. Adapting quickly to the specialist conditions, Subaru's Mikko Hirvonen was seventh fastest to finish ahead of Francois Duval and both factory Mitsubishis. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 18:16.6

SS4: 0933 Ascochinga - La Cumbre 1 (28.83km)
The long climb from Ascochinga to La Cumbre started at 700 metres above sea level and took crews on a high-speed smooth and flowing ascent up into the mountains and a height of 1650 metres. Once more Solberg was the pace-setter and he shot through the stage to set another fastest time - his third from four stages. This time Carlos Sainz was second for Citroen with Marcus Gronholm in a Peugeot third. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 18:41.7

SS5: 1036 Villa Giardino - La Falda 1 (16.76km)
All change at the top after troubles hit Solberg and Martin. Rally leader Solberg misjudged his speed on the approach to a water splash and powered through too fast. The impact as the car hit the water caused significant front bodywork damage and partially blocked the engine air-intake system, significantly reducing its power. Solberg was able to complete the test but the incident cost him 27 seconds and dropped him from first to fourth overall. For second placed driver Markko Martin, things were more serious when his car flipped upside down after a high-speed jump and landed on its roof. Markko and co-driver Michael Park were badly shaken in the accident but climbed from the car without serious injury. Complaining of blurred vision, Markko was later taken to hospital in Cordoba for a thorough examination. The number two Subaru of Hirvonen and Lehtinen was another to experience problems at the water splash when the pair didn't deploy the car's water deflector shield in time. As a result the engine took on water and lost power for the rest of the stage, costing the pair 50 seconds. Sebastien Loeb was fastest through the stage with Carlos Sainz second and Marcus Gronholm third. The results moved Gronholm into the overall lead with Sainz second and Loeb third. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 11:41.6

SS6: 1108 Valle Hermoso - Casa Grand 1 (11.16km)
The incidents on the previous stage had tightened things up at the top of the overall leaderboard and the results of SS6 made them closer still. Sebastien Loeb was quickest in his Citroen Xsara WRC, hotly pursued by team mate Carlos Sainz who was second, Marcus Gronholm third and then Petter Solberg, who had cleared the air intake on the road section before the start. As cars made their way back to Carlos Paz for a 20-minute service, Gronholm held the rally lead with Sainz 1.6 seconds behind followed by Loeb and Solberg. In an extremely close contest just 11 seconds separated the top four drivers. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 7:10.6

SS7: 1417 La Cumbre - Agua de Oro 2 (21.35km)
Fresh from service and having switched to a softer compound tyre for the repeat of the morning's loop of stages, Marcus Gronholm took his first stage win of the rally. The Finn was hotly pursued by Carlos Sainz, who was 1.4 seconds slower, and Petter Solberg who was 13.7 seconds back. Mikko Hirvonen reported problems with the centre differential of his car and lost a little time with a spin on the sandy surface, but still managed to post the fifth-fastest time, some 12 seconds quicker than Gilles Panizzi. Harri Rovanpera's Peugeot collected a steering problem mid-way through the stage, which cost him 1 minute 30 seconds and dropped him from fifth to sixth overall. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 18:06.2

SS8: 1507 Ascochinga - La Cumbre 2 (28.83km)
Double world champion Carlos Sainz took the challenge to Gronholm on the repeated Ascochinga stage to set the fastest time and snatch the overall lead of the rally. Marcus was 6.8 seconds behind 'El Matador', with Sebastien Loeb third, Petter Solberg fourth and Mikko Hirvonen rounding off the top five. Looking to the overall table, the lead pack of Sainz, Gronholm, Loeb and Solberg seemed in a class of their own as they pulled further ahead of the rest of the field. While the gap between Sainz's lead and Solberg's fourth place was 37 seconds, fifth placed Francois Duval and the chasing pack were more than two minutes adrift. Harri Rovanpera's hopes of a good finish in Argentina were disappearing fast as his steering problems continued. Dropping almost four minutes to the leaders, the Finn slipped down to ninth overall. Panizzi too was having difficulties with his car, and the Frenchman lost around 1 minute 30 seconds with a gearbox problem. Fastest Stage Time: Sainz (Citroen) 18:41.2

SS9: 1610 Villa Giardino - La Falda 2 (16.76km)
Gronholm wasted no time in responding to Sainz's attack and the Finn powered through the 16-kilometre stage from Villa Giardino to set the fastest time and steal back the overall lead, albeit by a slender margin of 1.4 seconds. Sainz was second quickest to keep the pressure on, while Loeb was third, Francois Duval fourth and Kristian Sohlberg fifth. SS9 was not a happy one for the Subaru duo of Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen, who had both experienced problems when the same stage was run earlier as SS5. Once again the treacherous water splash brought both cars to a standstill and Petter and Mikko lost seven minutes and three minutes respectively before they were able to re-start. Although both crews were able to recover their speed before the finish, Mikko was delayed further when he caught Harri Rovanpera's stricken Peugeot and was unable to see through the dust cloud ahead. Worse was to come for Petter, when a small fire on board his Impreza stopped the engine on the road section to SS10. Despite the best efforts of Petter and his co-driver Phil Mills, the car would not re-start and the pair was forced to retire from the rally. Back on the stage Gilles Panizzi's mechanical problems now included a broken turbo. Fastest Stage Time: Gromholm (Peugeot) 11:40.4

SS10: 1642 Villa Hermoso - Casag Grand 1 (11.16km) Gronholm was quickest again, to take his second consecutive stage win, with Loeb second and Sainz third. Keeping the Subaru flag flying, Mikko Hirvonen put the disappointment of the previous stage behind him and set the fourth fastest time. Panizzi and Rovanpera continued to slip further down the leaderboard with their mechanical problems, but both made it back to Carlos Paz with the rest of the crews for a 20-minute service before a return to the Super Special stage. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 7:19.2

SS11: 1910 Super Especial Complejo Pro-Racing (3.02km)
Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 2:14.4

SS12: 1910 Super Especial Complejo Pro-Racing (3.02km)
Leg 1 finished as it had begun, with two circuits around the head to head spectator stage at the Pro-Racing motorsport complex. Marcus Gronholm was fastest on both passes, starting in different lanes for SS11 and SS12, while Loeb was second quickest on both occasions. Mikko Hirvonen kept the Subaru fans happy with a fantastic third fastest time on SS11, while Duval was third on SS12. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 2:13.1

Team Quotes

Petter Solberg
I don't yet know what happened, I'm obviously disappointed, but we're just going to have to work even harder from now on. I've done many rallies in my life and tackled many different water splashes, however this has happened three times now and together we're going to have to find the best way of tacking them. Looking at the bigger picture it's important to remember that there are still eight rallies and 80 points to go and up to this point we had finished 11 rallies in a row with seven podiums and five wins. It's tough, but you have to accept that these things happen to everyone some time. I'd like to start again tomorrow if we can get the car returned and fixed in time, as I want to get back out there and tackle the rest of the stages. I want to win here next time.

Mikko Hirvonen
It's been a tough day and I'm quite glad to be back in service! We completely stopped for three minutes at the water splash (on SS9) and after that I'm not sure if we had some engine problems. There have been some positive moments though; we set a good time on the long stage (SS8) and again on the last one (SS10). For tomorrow we'll be going flat out and trying to do some good times, hoping to catch those in front.

Team Principal, David Lapworth David Lapworth, Team Principal
We don't yet know exactly what happened to Petter's car. All we do know is that it stopped at the water splash for about seven minutes and sustained some damage. Petter then seemed to be back on the pace until the end of the stage, however after that there was a fire in the car. We'll have to get the car back and look at the data and the damage before we find out all the answers. It's certainly a setback, but all WRC drivers will go through these sorts of things in a 16 round championship. The secret is to pick yourself up and go out and win the next one. Despite his own problems Mikko has put in some excellent times today and we're going to be trying to help him maintain this momentum tomorrow.

Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Spokesperson When Petter was running without problems we clearly demonstrated our ability to fight for victory - as his three fastest stage times show. Unluckily, a recurring problem halted his excellent chances of success. Now we are all aiming to concentrate on making Mikko's car as fast as possible over the remaining two days.

-subaru-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team