WRC

Rally Catalunya: Final summary

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) scored his second win of the season to lead the drivers' championship by nine points. He cruised through the final day to beat Spain's Dani Sordo by 48.2sec. Second was a career-best result for Sordo (Citroen) on only...

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) scored his second win of the season to lead the drivers' championship by nine points. He cruised through the final day to beat Spain's Dani Sordo by 48.2sec. Second was a career-best result for Sordo (Citroen) on only his fourth event in a World Rally Car. Gronholm fought back from turbo problems to finish an excellent third. Fourth for Alex Bengue (Peugeot) and fifth for Jan Kopecky (Skoda) were, like Sordo's, also career-best performances. Francois Duval (Skoda) moved ahead of Petter Solberg (Subaru) on the opening stage to claim sixth while Gilles Panizzi (Skoda) dropped time on the final stage to slip from eighth to 10th. Thirteenth place for Andreas Aigner (Skoda) and 15th for Wilson (VK Ford) were sufficient to claim the final manufacturers' points.

Kronos Total Citroen

Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti have completed a faultless and trouble-free third day of the Catalunya Rally in order to give the Kronos team its first one-two, following on from the squad's debut victory in Mexico three weeks ago.

Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "It's been an excellent end to a what's not been an easy weekend, with a win for me, second for Dani and a one-two for Kronos. The fight with Marcus [Gronholm] at the start of the rally was a close one. After the team solved a few small brake problems and adjusted my set-up, I could see that the Citroen-BFGoodrich package is still at the top on asphalt. I'm very happy to win a rally which I enjoy so much for the second time.

Xavier Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: Retired (accident)

OMV-Peugeot Norway

The OMV Norway World Rally Team finished the "Movistar RallyRACC Catalunya - Costa Daurada" in 12th overall place. The premiere of the OMV duo Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor in a WorldRallyCar in Catalonia was dominated by set-up-work for tarmac surface from the second half of day one on. In this sense the result may not have sufficed to score points but the rally gave valuable insight into the relative strength as compared to the other teams.

Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "We know that the package is okay. There is not much to criticise about the performance of the Peugeot. Our feeling is good, as well. It just didn't show in the times yet. The result is comparatively negligible. When you're behind from day one on you just can't make it up on dry tarmac"

BP-Ford

BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen completed a remarkable recovery from an opening day time loss to finish third on the Rally de España today. The Finns were fastest on all four speed tests during the final leg in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car, taking their tally to 10 stage victories out of 16, as they powered up from 10th at the end of the opening day.

Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "I tried really hard this morning but Bengue was pushing us. It was hard to make an impact on those stages because they were so fast. After Friday's problems, everything has been perfect. When I was in 10th I didn't think a podium was possible. I thought I could achieve fourth but I went one better and in the circumstances that was a good result. I could have won without a small technical problem. I knew before the start I could be close to Loeb and the speed of the Focus RS was there for all to see. It didn't surprise me."

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "The Focus RS has the speed on asphalt and BFGoodrich's tyres work well so I hope I can fight for the podium in the future. Today I drove to avoid problems and I climbed two places which earned extra points. It was good for the BP-Ford team to close in on the championship lead. I would have been battling for a top three finish without Friday's trouble but since then the car has been fantastic."

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team driver Matthew Wilson ended his RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada early on the final day in Spain after a wheel parted company with his Ford Focus RS WRC05 with just two stages remaining in the FIA World Rally Championship round. Wilson was in sight of the stage finish on SS14, Pratdip 1, when the rear wheel came off, but a 40km road section before service meant that Wilson and co-driver Orr decided that it was better to have their car recovered to Parc Ferme under SupeRally regulations. A finishing position of eighth of the manufacturer entries gave a point in the championship.

Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "It's a bit of a shame but that's rallying and these things happen, there's nothing you can do about it. It looks like there was a problem with the wheel studs or the wheel hasn't been torqued tight enough. It's nobody's fault, these things happen. It was 40km to service, we managed to get a police escort and try to get the car back but it would have done too much damage to the car and with Corsica in a week's time it would not have made much sense. It's always a shame to finish without completing the rally but we have driven every stage. Next time here it will be so much easier as we've driven the stages and we've got the notes."

Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila: "I was very happy in the stages today, the car feels good. It's fast tarmac roads and I think my driving was better on these kind of roads than Saturday's. There were just two little moments we had, we would have had a better time had it not been for those. In the first stage this morning there was a flat left minus which I tried to take flat out. In a GpN car it is no problem going flat out, but this is faster and we started to slide and then hit the Armco. The second time I just braked too late and started to understeer, but I was able to come off the brakes and turn in, so no worries. Every day felt really good except for Friday afternoon when I hit the wall, but I have learnt things. It's better to learn without driving off the road, but sometimes it seems you need to do that also."

555 Subaru

The Subaru World Rally Team concentrated on optimising asphalt set-up and appraising different tyre options during the final Leg of Rally Catalunya. Petter Solberg was encouraged by improvements throughout the day and secured two top-five stage finishes to end the rally seventh and collect two drivers' points. Stephane Sarrazin continued to fine-tune the Impreza WRC2006 in preparation for the forthcoming asphalt Tour de Corse and picked up the final points-scoring position in eighth.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "Spain has been a very tough rally for us. We had hoped to get more points, but instead we have had to work hard to get those we did get. We have made some progress, particularly today, and have a new tyre that is more promising. We've used the event to learn from this experience as we want to prepare as best we can for Corsica, where the stages are more abrasive, and where I think we will have a better feeling with the car."

Stephane Sarrazin/Stephane Prevot: "Overall the rally has been a bit frustrating. After our testing, we were expecting a better result, however it has not worked out that way. We'll go away from here and look at the data and do a lot of talking with the engineers to see what more we can learn. Corsica I hope will be much better. We're expecting to be quick, as we were quick there last year, however I'll be pushing at 200%!"

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "We're fairly happy with how the rally's gone for us. Okay, we're back in eleventh but the speed is a lot faster, and if we hadn't made a couple of mistakes we'd be up in the points, but that's all part of the experience."

Red Bull-Skoda Team

After the successful start to the season in Monte Carlo, the third WRC event for Red Bull Skoda, and its supervising team of BRR from Upper Austria, in Spain can be summed up rather positively. Both drivers managed to bring home points for the manufacturers' championship, thereby validating the involvement in the top class of rallying.

Gilles Panizzi/Herve Panizzi: "In the beginning of the rally we struggled for the right suspension setup, but afterwards all went well. I had bad luck on the final day when the mousse in my left front tyre exploded on SS14, so I had strong vibrations to the end of the stage, which lost us a lot of time. On SS16 I was pretty quick in the beginning before I deliberately eased off a bit which apparently turned out to be a bit too much."

Andreas Aigner/Timo Gottschalk: "My first closed surface rally went rather positively from my point of view. In the beginning of the rally I wasn't driving very smoothly, which changed in the days that followed. Now I really enjoy driving on tarmac. The only thing that really annoyed me was that we once checked into a time control too early which brought us a penalty time of one minute. But we got lucky because Matthew Wilson, who had overtaken us, subsequently had to retire." _

Next Event:
In less than two weeks the WRC will make a short hop across the Mediterranean from Spain to Corsica for the famed Tour de Corse. Taking place from 7-9 April the event is well-known for its unpredictable weather, as the sea air rolls up into the mountains, and its very narrow mountain passes. Also featuring a number of surface changes, where the road goes from smooth polished asphalt to rough pot-holed tracks, it's an endurance test for both car and crew.

-www.rallye-newsletter.com/

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About this article
Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport