WRC

Rally Catalunya: Leg two summary

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) extended his advantage after winning three of the six stages and leads team-mate François Duval by 57.8sec. Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) was untroubled until the final stage as he maintained third. However, a rising...

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) extended his advantage after winning three of the six stages and leads team-mate François Duval by 57.8sec. Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) was untroubled until the final stage as he maintained third. However, a rising water temperature and water leak signified engine problems and his car stopped on the liaison section to service with a broken radiator. Private entrant Xavi Pons climbed from ninth to third but the Spaniard is just 7.7sec ahead of Hirvonen. Alex Bengue (Skoda) was the day's first retirement, the Frenchman stopping with a broken gearbox on the second stage. Also out is Gigi Galli (Mitsubishi). The Italian posted fastest time on the same stage but crashed into a wall and rolled just after the flying finish.

Overnight rain continued into isolated showers throughout the day. Humidity was high and temperatures ranged from 14 C to 22 C

The final Leg of Rally Catalunya features just three tests and 68 competitive kilometres. Crews leave parc ferme from 0730hrs for a 10 minute service before a loop of two stages, both of which were run during Leg two. After a 30 minute service crews will then negotiate the final test of the event, the classic Vilaplana, before returning to Salou for the podium finish at 1329hrs.

Citroen

Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and François Duval/Sven Smeets have come through Leg 2 of the Rally Catalunya unscathed and their Xsara WRCs continue to monopolise the top two places this evening. They are joined on the provisional podium by the privately-entered Xsara of Xevi Pons who moved up a notch when Mikko Hirvonen took a 20-second penalty for lateness out of service tonight. It is a fitting reward for the young Spaniard who has put in a superb run and posted some first class times with his Team Kronos Racing-run car.

Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: The day began in earnest therefore at 10:18 a.m. when SS8 (Capafonts) kicked off 12 minutes late. "It's not really a stage I like," explained Sebastien. "There a are a lot of big steps on the insides of corners, so I took it carefully." "There are still 68 km of stages to go, and we've already done them once," commented Seb. "But before being certain of scoring a possible tenth win, there are still some potentially difficult tyre choices to make and hazards to avoid… Yesterday, we had our biggest scare of the year. Remembering that will force us to stay on our guard…"

Francois Duval/Sven Smeets: First Stages: "The conditions were damp but the fog reported earlier by the safety crews had disappeared by the time we started. Our choice of soft compound tyres was the right option." "The conditions weren't easy. Tomorrow I will no doubt lift a little to make sure we score this fantastic result for Citroen."

Subaru

The Subaru World Rally Team focussed on development during Leg two of Rally Catalunya. Chris Atkinson continued to move up the overall classification as his experience on asphalt increased and achieved his best stage finish on a sealed-surface event with seventh in the third stage of the day. The Australian finished the Leg in 9th position. Petter Solberg rejoined under Superally regulations following his accident in Leg one and concentrated on accumulating valuable asphalt data by testing new settings on his Impreza WRC2005. The Norwegian nevertheless set competitive times, including fourth quickest in SS10. Team-mate Stephane Sarrazin did not restart the rally after his car was badly damaged in the final stage of Leg one.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: Today has been a good day with the end much better than the start! We've been trying lots of different things to try to improve the car and I think that we've found a few small areas that we can work on. I'm very happy with the way that the car drives now, although there's more to try tomorrow in the suspension and diffs, so we'll keep pressing on.

Stephan Sarrazin/Denis Giraudet: Retired

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: Today was probably our best day on tarmac. Sometimes it can be frustrating that we are not challenging the top of the leaderboard, however we have to be realistic given our limited tarmac experience. Tomorrow's a short day, so we'll probably only make some minor setup changes and try not to make any mistakes. The car is working well and I'm getting into a good rhythm and feeling comfortable with the car on tarmac. We've improved a lot today from yesterday and we're going to try and carry that forward again tomorrow.

Ford

Two Ford Focus RS World Rally Cars held top five positions after today's drama-filled second leg of Spain's Rally Catalunya - Costa Daurada. BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Roman Kresta and Jan Tománek are fifth after an incident-packed leg. But pride of place among the Ford drivers goes to privately-entered Finns Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen who are third in a 2003-specification car on their first asphalt rally for a year. BP-Ford's Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen held a comfortable fourth until going off the road following a freak brake problem. They eventually regained the asphalt but the time loss plunged them to 14th. A second privately-entered Focus RS, driven by Antony Warmbold and Michael Orr, lies seventh.

Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: Gardemeister, like Kresta, lost time this morning after also opting for harder tyres. "I had little grip because the stage that ran was mostly wet and it was hard to drive on asphalt with so much mud on the road. It's a shame I didn't have the opportunity to drive the first stage, our tyres would have worked well. It was an unlucky choice but we thought the roads would dry more quickly." Two stages later and his podium challenge was over when he slid off the road and more than 12 minutes passed before the 30-year-old Finn could restart. "The brake pedal went to the floor before a fourth gear corner and the car went straight on and became stuck on top of a bank, with all four wheels off the ground. Beyond the bank was a 20 metre vertical drop and I was sitting pressing the brake pedal and waiting to go straight over the top. We were lucky. The spectators did a great job to lift us back onto the road again. It's disappointing because with Grönholm's retirement, I could have been on the podium," he said.

Roman Kresta/Jan Mozny: Kresta, climbed to fifth but spins on each of the next two stages cost a place, a position he regained before the cars returned to Salou for the final overnight halt. Rain affected the final few kilometres of the Colldejou stage and he spun his Focus RS on a muddy section, narrowly avoiding a tree. He was luckier in the next stage when he spun across a ditch. "The second incident was almost a big accident," he said. "I made a mistake in a right-left curve and the car bounced across a ditch. It took 20 seconds to regain the road. "They were similar stages to yesterday's but I couldn't make the same pace and the feeling wasn't as good. Twice we were lucky this afternoon and I was thinking about that on the final two stages. I drove to the maximum that I thought was safe because I need to finish and score points," he said.

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: Hirvonen started the day in seventh and, in contrast to Kresta, benefited from the stage cancellation. "I was lucky because I chose softer tyres which worked well on the second stage," he said. "They would not have been so good on the first test. After service, there was light rain on the next stage as well and I find it difficult in damp conditions. It's just a lack of confidence because I lack experience in that type of weather." However, the Finn recovered and powered to fastest time on the final stage. He climbed to third, but incurred a 20sec penalty when an oil pump drive belt was changed in service and exceeded the time allowed. He is just 7.7sec behind Xavi Pons. "That was my second fastest time in the WRC," he said. "When it's dry I can drive fast on the asphalt but if it's wet and damp tomorrow it will be hard to maintain my dry weather pace. I enjoy driving on asphalt because I'm confident with this car and the tyres and to be a WRC driver, you must be fast on both gravel and asphalt."

Peugeot

The second leg of the Catalunya Rally was one of mixed fortunes for Peugeot. On the positive side, Nicolas Bernardi really got to grips with his 307 WRC to move from tenth to sixth place after an excellent drive. But Marcus Gronholm, who had held a strong third place, was forced to retire on the road section after the final stage as the result of a broken radiator. Nicolas Bernardi, fresh from his faultless performance on leg one, once again did not put a single foot wrong and was able to drive to the best of his abilities over the 135 competitive kilometres of stages. Despite some minor brake problems, he set some excellent stage times -- including two times that were faster than those of his illustrious team mate Marcus Gronholm.

Marcus Gronhölm/Timo Rautiainen: Retired

Nicolas Bernardi/Jean Marc Fortin: Things are going very well now, and we did not have any of the wrong tyre choices that handicapped our progress yesterday. I felt fully confident with the tyres and the car, and the stage times show the result. Tomorrow there is everything to play for: I am currently ten seconds behind Roman Kresta in the Ford. I know that I have already been able to take time out of him so I am going to go for it and make the most of this opportunity…"

Skoda

Jan Kopecky heads the Å koda Motorsport World Rally Team drivers in a points-scoring eighth place after day two of the Catalunya-Costa Daurada Rally. Despite a failing gearbox on the day's final stage Armin Schwarz finished the leg 11th and remains poised to score manufacturers' championship points. Jan set 10th fastest time with the Fabia WRC 05 on today's second stage to move into 12th place before moving up to 10th place on the next stage. Seventh fastest on SS10 took him into ninth overall and he consolidated that position with sixth fastest time on SS11. Finally he set another seventh fastest time on the day's last stage to go eighth and will start tomorrow just seven seconds behind Antony Warmbold. Alex Bengue was forced to retire from a points position with gearbox failure on the second of today's six stages. He had set a good time on the day's opening stage before spectator problems caused it to be cancelled but stopped 10kms into the next, unable to select gears. He will not restart tomorrow.

Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: I think we've tried everything to find the cause of the handling problems we've been having on these two events. The gearbox lost a couple of gears and that made both the final stage and the uphill drive into the service area very difficult.

Alex Bengue/Caroline Escudero: Everything seemed OK for the first 10kms but then I tried to change from fourth to fifth and nothing happened. The engine revs went high but there was no chance to find a gear, either with the automatic system or the manual one. It's very disappointing.

Jan Kopecký/Filip Schovánek: It was a better day today and we set some good times but it was really tough this morning. Some stages were dry at the start and the finish but wet in the middle. When we got the tyre choice right everything felt fine and I could push hard with confidence. Tomorrow will be interesting!

Mitsubishi:

The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of "Gigi" Galli/Guido d'Amore hold ninth position at the end of the second leg of the Rallye de France - Tour de Course. Lancer WRC05 team-mates Harri Rovanperä/Risto Pietiläinen have moved into 11th, while Gilles and Herve Panizzi have been forced to retire the car from the leg due to engine-related problems.

Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: "We had to switch to the manual gearshift again in the first stage this morning and it's not so easy", said Harri. "This afternoon we had the same problems, but also tried harder springs at the front which made the car a little more precise on the smooth surfaces, but when it was rough the car was bumping more. Positively, for sure we can see that Pirelli's evolution tire is much better".

Gigi Galli/Guido d'Amore: "Yesterday morning I drove like my mother; this morning I was driving like my aunt!" said Gigi. "This afternoon I had a little more confidence, but my feeling is still not where I want it to be. We have been trying different settings for the height, suspension and roll bar during the day and we are understanding more all the time, but I am not taking risks; it is important to finish and gain information for the team".

-rallyenewsletter-

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About this article
Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team