WRC

Rally Catalunya: Subaru leg two summary

The Subaru Impreza WRC2006s of Petter Solberg and Stephane Sarrazin continued to run faultlessly throughout the second day of Rally Catalunya. The form was not however reflected in the final Leg positions as the duo struggled to find grip on the...

The Subaru Impreza WRC2006s of Petter Solberg and Stephane Sarrazin continued to run faultlessly throughout the second day of Rally Catalunya. The form was not however reflected in the final Leg positions as the duo struggled to find grip on the slippery Spanish asphalt and dropped to seventh and eighth respectively. Chris Atkinson maintained his impressive performance as he matched the pace of more experienced drivers to end the Leg twelfth overall despite losing time stuck off the road after a spin on the penultimate stage.

STAGE REPORTS

SS7: 0750 Duesaigues 1 (11.50km)

Leg two of Rally Catalunya began under hazy skies in the Serra de Pradel hills west of host town Salou. Cutting corners was essential for good times on the short, twisty Duesaigues stage and the road became covered with large stones and gravel as more cars passed through and pulled debris onto the racing line. Peugeot privateer Alex Bengue hit a large rock, puncturing the front-left tyre and damaging the wheel rim. Despite this, the Frenchman set the fifth fastest time to move ahead of Petter Solberg into fourth overall. Both Solberg and team-mate Sarrazin reported their cars running well, however complained of a continuing lack of grip. After their technical problems on Leg one, Ford's Marcus Gronholm and Mikko Hirvonen set identical times through the 11.5km pass to take the stage win, also shared by Skoda driver Francois Duval.
Fastest Time: Hirvonen (Ford) / Gronholm (Ford) / Duval (Skoda) 7:47.8

SS8: 0836 Vilaplana 1 (28.33km)

The second stage of Leg two was Vilaplana, a classic Catalan pass with a wide, fast climb up a hillside for 17km with panoramic views out to sea. Gronholm and Hirvonen continued to claw back time lost on Leg one and set the top two times through the 28km speed test. Gronholm's time moved him into seventh, ahead of Sarrazin and Duval, while Hirvonen entered the top 13. The Subaru trio of Solberg, Sarrazin and Atkinson again lost time as they struggled to find satisfactory grip. Skoda driver Jan Kopecky benefited from Solberg's problem to secure fifth position.
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 16:36.4

SS9: 0959 Margalef-La Palma d Ebre 1 (15.85km)

The final test before the mid-day service halt was the new-for-2006 stage between the picturesque towns of Margalef and La Palma d'Ebre. The narrow road was lined with large boulders to prevent cars cutting the corners too deeply and pulling gravel and sand onto the racing line, however many crews reported a slippery, dirty surface. Petter Solberg fell foul of this and reported a spin near the start of the stage, before losing 40secs to eventual stage winner Loeb. Matthew Wilson picked up two front punctures on the stone-covered road while Marcus Gronholm, with an early starting position and driving a cleaner road, took advantage and moved ahead of Solberg into sixth overall. Chris Atkinson had a smooth drive through the pass and was the fastest of the three Pirelli-shod Subaru drivers in eleventh position on the stage.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 9:35.2

SS10: 1309 Duesaigues 2 (11.50km)

Crews negotiating the second pass through the Duesaigues stage found many corners dirty and slippery, with numerous drivers spinning or picking up punctures. Subaru driver Petter Solberg encountered two punctures, however the Pirelli mousse allowed him to continue without significant time loss. Young Spaniard Xavier Pons left the road at a slow, dirty corner approximately five kilometres from the start and retired from the Leg. Matthew Wilson then lost time with a spin midway through the stage, however fastest was Pons' team-mate Dani Sordo, securing his maiden stage win to consolidate his overall second place.
Fastest Time: Sordo (Citroen) 8:04.7

SS11: 1355 Vilaplana 2 (28.33km)

The re-run of the scenic Vilaplana stage was characterised by gravel on the tarmac surface, leaving crews struggling to find the necessary grip. Marcus Gronholm was fastest and, while almost 10secs slower than the morning's best time, was enough to move him into fourth overall ahead of Jan Kopecky. Chris Atkinson spun then went off on a long fourth gear right-hand corner approximately 20km from the start. He was helped back onto the road by spectators, however lost more than one and a half minutes, dropping to eleventh overall behind Stohl. Despite losing six seconds in this section, because of damaged steering incurred after an impact with a rock in the previous stage, Loeb retained the lead of the rally by 30secs from team-mate Sordo.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 16:44.7

SS12: 1518 Margalef-La Palma d Ebre 2 (15.85km)

Loeb scored his second stage win of the day through the new Margalef speed test and extended his lead over Sordo to 34secs. Gronholm was second quickest to move within five seconds of third-placed Bengue. Solberg continued to drop down the order as he struggled for grip on the slippery surface finishing the stage more than 26secs behind Loeb and dropping to seventh behind Duval. Solberg's team-mate Sarrazin was just two seconds behind the Norwegian to finish the Leg in eighth position overall. Subaru's Chris Atkinson was pleased with his performance setting a time just 13secs slower than Loeb.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 9:33.2

TEAM QUOTES

SWRT SPORTING DIRECTOR, LUIS MOYA: Clearly we are not happy with our performance today. Yesterday we seemed to be able to be more competitive, however today both Petter and Stephane are suffering from a continuous lack of grip. We need to work very hard as a team together with Pirelli to improve our performance in these asphalt conditions. On a more positive note all the cars have run trouble free and again, at times, we have seen some good pace from Chris as he builds on his limited tarmac experience. For tomorrow we will focus on finding a solution and improving on today's position and work towards a strong result in Corsica.

PETTER SOLBERG: It's been a difficult day. Yesterday was quite good however now today we are not at all close. There was so much loose gravel on the surface, more than we have seen before, and maybe that was a factor. It's encouraging that the car is working well, but still we need to look at every detail to see what we can do tomorrow.

STEPHANE SARRAZIN: It's been hard today as we still haven't found a set-up and balance that give me the feel and confidence that I want to push harder. For tomorrow the stages are better for us and we hope to be able to try and improve the car again for next week, when we are back again on asphalt in Corsica.

CHRIS ATKINSON: We've had another encouraging day and learnt a lot. We made one mistake which cost us a bit of time, but the rest of the stages have been nice and clean and tidy and we've been fast, even beating our team-mates at times. Hopefully we can move up the places that we lost with the mistake, however apart from that there's not a lot more that we can do.

NEWS FROM PIRELLI

MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER
Today we have been disappointed as we have been less competitive than yesterday and are not close enough to the opposition. We tested for this event and initial indications were positive, however we have not been able to replicate the results under competition conditions. We need to work very hard together as a team and must analyse the data from this weekend in order to improve.

TOMORROW'S LEG
The final Leg of Rally Catalunya comprises 97.82 competitive kilometres over four stages split into two identical loops which include a lengthened stage from the 2005 route and Leg one's SS5 run in reverse.

-swrt-

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About this article
Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team