WRC

Rally Deutschland: Subaru leg two summary

After an eventful day in Germany, Mikko Hirvonen holds overnight ninth position after an encouraging effort at the wheel of his Impreza WRC2004. Moving up two places on the overall leaderboard, the young Finn now leads the Subaru challenge...

After an eventful day in Germany, Mikko Hirvonen holds overnight ninth position after an encouraging effort at the wheel of his Impreza WRC2004. Moving up two places on the overall leaderboard, the young Finn now leads the Subaru challenge following the retirement of team-mate Petter Solberg. After a promising start to Rallye Deutschland, the reigning World Champion was the latest casualty of the unpredictable weather conditions when his car left the road and collided with one of the unforgiving concrete kerbstones. He had been in fourth place overall.

Stage Reports

SS9: 0933 Bosenberg 1 (17.11km)

The changeable weather of the region certainly made its mark on the first run through the stage from Bosenberg. First be affected was Skoda driver Roman Kresta. The Czech driver crashed off the rain-soaked road 7.5km in, and was unable to continue. He had been seventh overall. Similar misfortune then struck remaining Mitsubishi works driver Gilles Panizzi. Contesting for the team ahead of their self-imposed withdrawal before Rally Japan, the Frenchman left the slippery, wet road in his Lancer mid-test, hit the left hand side of his car on a post and was forced to retire. He was driven to hospital with a bruised arm, but was later given the all clear. Running behind Panizzi on the stage, Markko Martin stopped to report the incident which added more than two minutes to his overall time, while the following crews of Petter Solberg, Francois Duval, Carlos Sainz and Sebastien Loeb were also hampered by a torrential rain shower. The five drivers were later given the same notional time as the fastest car. After Loeb had completed the test, the stage was cancelled and remaining crews were awarded a representative time and re-directed to the start of SS10
Fastest Stage Time: Loix (Peugeot) 9:39.4

SS10: 1033 Erzweiler 1 (20.00km)

Including twelve surface changes and numerous junctions in its 20km, the stage from Erzweiler was the first of those run in the Baumholder military region. Unlike any other stages in the Championship, they feature abrasive, dirty asphalt and a fine dusting of sand that becomes exceptionally slippery in the wet. Relishing the conditions which were similar to those in his home country of Belgium, Francois Duval was fastest through the tricky, rough stage to take his third win of the event. His team-mate Martin was second fastest and Marcus Gronholm, who had resumed driving in the event under the WRC re-start system, third. Solberg was seventh fastest and Mikko Hirvonen eleventh. Cedric Robert suffered two spins in his Peugeot 307 after aquaplaning on straight sections, but there were no leading retirements. After the finish, crews moved to the start of SS11.
Fastest Stage Time: Duval (Ford) 12:13.4

SS11: 1108 Panzerplatte - Sprint 1 (8.30km)

Less than ten seconds separated the top ten times through the short, rough military stage from Panzerplatte. Markko Martin was fastest to take his first exclusive stage win of the event, while Peugeot's Freddy Loix was second fastest as he finished 7.3 seconds ahead of nominated Peugeot driver Robert. Petter Solberg was third. Mikko Hirvonen continued to familiarise himself with his Subaru WRC on wet tarmac and was eleventh fastest. Starting with a large jump near to a spectator area, the short, tricky stage presented drivers with a series of junctions and numerous surface changes. Rain had ceased to fall over northern Germany, but conditions remained damp and slippery. After the finish, crews drove to Dreiherrenstein for a 10-minute remote tyre and fuel service. Primarily included to allow fresh tyres to be fitted before the mammoth 40km Panzerplatte-Lang test, crews were also permitted the assistance of two team members as they worked on their cars.
Fastest Stage Time: Martin (Ford) 4:46.6

@!SS12: 1146 Panzerplatte - Lang 1 (40.30km)

The stage from Panzerplatte, the longest and most difficult of the event, brought Petter Solberg's promising rally to a dramatic end. Having been in fourth place overall, the reigning World Champion was on the attack from the outset. But, pushing hard in his Impreza WRC, disaster struck 400 metres in. Skidding off the road after a crest, the Norwegian's Subaru hit a concrete kerbstone, which launched it into a series of rolls before it hit another kerbstone. Both Solberg and co-driver Phil Mills were taken to hospital for precautionary checks but, despite some bruising, they had no serious injuries demonstrating the strength of the Subaru Impreza WRC's bodyshell. The stage was cancelled and Sainz and Loeb were awarded the same time as Markko Martin, who was fastest before the incident occurred. As Ford driver Duval had already completed the stage, he was unable to make up time on the Citroens and remained in third place overall. Armin Schwarz struggled with a turbo problem in his Skoda and dropped more than seven minutes to the leaders. He completed the stage, albeit in fifteenth position overall. After the finish, crews returned to Bostalsee for a scheduled service.
Fastest Stage Time: Martin (Ford) 23:59.6

SS13: 1432 Bosenberg 2 (17.11km)

While the second pass through the repeated Saarland test saw no repeats of the dramas of SS9, intermittent showers continued to dominate the action. Running first on the road, Skoda driver Armin Schwarz benefited from the fluctuating conditions and was able to complete the stage before heavy rain began to fall. Setting the fastest time, he not only shaved 2.8 seconds off Loix's previous Bosenberg winning time, but also scored Skoda's first stage win of 2004. Francois Duval was second fastest, to move closer to Sainz's second position overall, while Freddy Loix was third. Mikko Hirvonen continued to increase in confidence and, happy with handling of his Subaru on Pirelli medium-compound tyres, he finished fourth fastest, ahead of drivers with far more experience than himself. Running on lightly cut soft slicks, Loeb was seventh fastest, however still maintained the lead overall. After the finish, crews moved to the start of SS14.
Fastest Stage Time: Schwarz (Skoda) 9:36.6

SS14: 1532 Erzweiler 2 (20.00km)

Loeb was fastest on the repeated Erzweiler military test, which was drier than SS13, to take his first individual win of the day. Nominated Peugeot driver Cedric Robert picked up his pace to finish second fastest, while Francois Duval was third. On a charge to snatch overall second from Carlos Sainz, Duval used the 20km stage to claw another 7.6 seconds from the Spaniard and at the finish 12.6 seconds separated the pair. Skoda drivers Schwarz and Gardemeister were fourth and fifth fastest, while Sainz and Martin managed only ninth and tenth fastest respectively. After the finish, crews moved to the start of SS15.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 12:15.3

SS15: 1607 Panzerplatte - Sprint 2 (8.30km)

Relishing the damp conditions that suited his Pirelli-shod Subaru, Mikko Hirvonen expertly negotiated the rough roads and numerous junctions of the repeated Panzerplatte military stage to finish second fastest. Setting a blistering pace through the 8.30km test, the young Finn's efforts moved him up to ninth position overall and well within striking distance of a potential Drivers' Championship points-scoring position. Freddy Loix was fastest to take his first outright stage win of the event, while Schwarz was third and Gardemeister fourth. Duval was ninth fastest taking another 5.1 seconds from Carlos Sainz who struggled to find sufficient grip through the damp stage and managed only thirteenth fastest. After the stage, crews drove to Dreiherrenstein for a 10-minute remote tyre and fuel service.
Fastest Stage Time: Loix (Peugeot) 4:45.6

SS16: 1645 Panzerplatte - Lang 2 (40.30km)

Including 45 surface changes, 95 junctions and numerous unforgiving concrete blocks, known as Hinkelsteines, that line the roadside for 90 per cent of the stage, the 40km test from Panzerplatte is a formidable challenge. Contesting the test for the first time following its earlier cancellation, Loeb was fastest to extend his overall lead to 50.5 seconds. 307 driver Cedric Robert was second fastest, while team-mate Freddy Loix was third. The Peugeot pair ended the stage in fifth and sixth position overall, with just 8.7 seconds between them. Ford's Duval remained in touch with Sainz's overall second position and used the stage to snatch another 1.4 seconds from the Spaniard's lead. After the finish, crews returned to Bostalsee for a scheduled service.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 24:22.8

SS17: 1936 SSS St Wendel 1 (6.24km)

Leg two concluded with a blast around the spectator-pleasing Super Special stage on the streets of St. Wendel. As darkness fell, Sebastien Loeb held his nerve and was seventh fastest to maintain the overnight lead by 54.7 seconds. Francois Duval was fifth fastest, which was enough to snatch overall seconds from Sainz, while the Spaniard was fourteenth fastest after a spin and fell to overall third. Mikko Hirvonen was tenth fastest to end the day in overnight ninth.
Fastest Stage Time: Robert (Peugeot) 3:29.2

Team Quotes

Petter Solberg
Just after the start of SS12, we went over a crest and the car went a little off the road and into the concrete block. It rolled a number of times and then went into more concrete. It was a big shock, but the main thing is that Phil seems to be ok. The team have been really supportive, but the car is not at all nice. It's been very difficult conditions here, but then it has been the same for everyone. "At the moment I am not feeling so good and for sure it was no fun, but I'm not stressed. In the championship there is a long way to go. We'll be back again in Japan, where we'll be putting on a good show on the gravel - so just watch us go, as we will be going for the win.

Mikko Hirvonen
After a difficult morning, the afternoon was much better. This morning I had little feeling on the wet, but this afternoon we made a better tyre choice and, as the stages were drier than those earlier, we set some good times. I'm also growing in confidence on the wet - but it's been a pretty steep learning curve as I hadn't driven the car on tarmac in the wet before this event. The car has been strong and I've learnt quite a lot today, which makes me happy. The plan for tomorrow is to keep the speed and try to catch those up in front.

Team Principal, David Lapworth
We expected an eventful day, but hoped not to feature in the drama in this way. To retire a car is disappointing, but in a situation like this, the most important thing is that both Petter and Phil weren't injured. The challenge is to now put it behind us and refocus on going from here to Japan and then winning as many rallies as possible to the end of the year. Mikko has stuck to his strategy of staying out of trouble and in such treacherous conditions it's encouraging that he is now climbing the leaderboard.

News from Pirelli

Paul Hembery , Pirelli Tyres Director of Motorsport
What happened to Petter today was a real shame because we all believe he would have been capable of a well-deserved podium place. He drove very well on the first day, but in today's weather conditions anything could happen. Unfortunately, Petter was one of the victims, but these things can happen to anyone. Now we are all going to concentrate on helping Mikko achieve as much as possible on the final day.

-subaru-

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About this article
Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team