WRC

Rally Catalunya: Subaru final summary

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 ...

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. Chris Atkinson demonstrated his increasing asphalt pace as he set top 12 times throughout the day to finish eleventh overall.

STAGE REPORTS

SS13: 0753 el Lloar - La Figuera 1 (22.43km)

Leg three started with the 22km pass between the towns of El Lloar and La Figuera, a stage last used in 2005, however lengthened by 2.4km for 2006. Despite picking up a puncture Marcus Gronholm took the first win of the day, two seconds faster than Skoda privateer Gilles Panizzi. The Frenchman's time moved him ahead of Subaru's Stephane Sarrazin into eighth overall. Several drivers reported brake problems through the latter downhill run to the stage finish, including Mikko Hirvonen and Francois Duval. Petter Solberg set the eighth fastest time, with team-mates Atkinson and Sarrazin in 11th and 12th places respectively. Rally leader Loeb admitted he was not taking any risks and finished the stage with the fifth quickest time, four seconds slower than Gronholm.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 12:41.5

SS14: 0905 Pratdip 1 (26.48km)

Crews completed a short liaison section to the Pratdip stage, Leg one's Colldejou pass run in the opposite direction. The 26km speed test was highly technical and featured a particularly challenging bumpy 6km section in the middle of the stage. A determined Gronholm took his second win of the day and eased ahead of Alex Bengue into third. Peugeot privateer Bengue was second fastest, his best result of the rally. Loeb and Hirvonen completed the top four, with the young Finn leapfrogging Stohl into the overall top ten. Petter Solberg was fifth quickest in his Subaru Impreza WRC2006 with Atkinson and Sarrazin rounding off the top ten in ninth and tenth positions. British driver Matthew Wilson ran into trouble when he lost a rear wheel, later retiring on the road section back to the first service of the day.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 15:36.5

SS15: 1159 el Lloar - La Figuera 2 (22.43km)

Encouraged with the balance of his Impreza WRC2006 after the midday service halt, Subaru's Petter Solberg secured the fourth quickest time through the repeat of the 22km el Lloar speed test. The Norwegian's team-mate Chris Atkinson also had a strong stage as he recorded the tenth fastest time to move ahead of Stohl into eleventh overall. The test was won by Marcus Gronholm, who set the same time through the repeat as he had in his earlier run. Gronholm's Ford team-mate Hirvonen was second fastest, while Spaniard Dani Sordo thrilled the large crowds of local fans that lined the route with the third quickest time.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 12:41.5

SS16: 1311 Pratdip 2 (26.48km)

Marcus Gronholm won SS16 to complete a clean sweep of stage wins in the final Leg to claim third place overall. Loeb was just two seconds slower through the pass to secure Rally Catalunya victory, his second win of the year. Loeb's team-mate Sordo was delighted to achieve his first-ever podium as he came in second on his home event. Subaru's Petter Solberg secured the fifth fastest stage time and seventh overall to score two valuable drivers' points, while team-mate Stephane Sarrazin grabbed the final points scoring position in eighth. The Frenchman inherited the point after overtaking Gilles Panizzi, who lost over 50secs on the stage. As Chris Atkinson's asphalt experience increased, he achieved his highest stage finish of the day in eighth and finished eleventh overall.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 15:40.6

TEAM QUOTES

SWRT SPORTING DIRECTOR, LUIS MOYA: We can take some consolation that today we saw some improvement over yesterday, and that Chris continues to learn and quicken on tarmac. We still have a lot of hard work to do with Pirelli in order to improve our asphalt performance.

PETTER SOLBERG: 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: 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: 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.

NEWS FROM PIRELLI

Mario Isola, Pirelli Competizioni Rally Manager: We are quite satisfied with the progress we have made today. It was however too hard to make up the time lost in the earlier Legs. We are nevertheless confident that what we learnt here in Spain will help us prepare correctly for Corsica. We have some valuable feedback from Petter on the P Zero tyre.

THE 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.

-swrt-

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