After a difficult event for the Subaru team, Petter Solberg crossed the finish ramp of Rally Finland in fourth place today to collect five World Championship points. Locked in a close battle over the final four stages, Solberg carefully controlled...
After a difficult event for the Subaru team, Petter Solberg crossed the finish ramp of Rally Finland in fourth place today to collect five World Championship points. Locked in a close battle over the final four stages, Solberg carefully controlled his pace to remain ahead of local star Mikko Hirvonen, who was at maximum attack on his home rally. Chris Atkinson continued to gain experience of his car in the specialist conditions, although his day was cut short by engine damage sustained in an accident on Leg two.
SS18: 0944 Kuohu 1 (7.80km)
After overnight rain, crews left Jyvaskyla under grey skies and
on damp roads to make their way to the first stage of the day at Kuohu.
The gloomy weather had made the stage damp, muddy, and very different in
character to the hard packed, dusty roads seen on yesterday's second
Leg. The times on Kuohu suggested that the overall top three of Marcus
Gronholm, Sebastien Loeb and Markko Martin, were content to hold their
positions until the end of the rally. Gronholm's lead of 1min10sec
seemed too much for Loeb to catch up on the day's 66 competitive
kilometres. At the finish line, Loeb said that he was controlling his
speed according to the split times of the driver 35sec behind him,
Markko Martin. But while things seemed relatively settled at the top,
the battles for fourth and sixth place still raged on. Toni Gardemeister
set the fastest time to move ahead of his compatriot, Harri Rovanpera,
into sixth, while Petter Solberg was second quickest to defend his
fourth place from a chasing Mikko Hirvonen who was third fastest. Chris
Atkinson re-joined the rally on SS18 after crashing the previous day on
SS16. Subaru team technicians worked late into the night and used all
the time available under Superally regulations to make repairs to his
Impreza. During the rebuild, Subaru engineers found that Chris's engine
had been damaged in the crash, but the decision was taken to re-start
anyway, to give him experience of the stages. With his engine running at
less than 100 per cent, Chris still managed to set the sixth fastest
Fastest Stage Time: Gardemeister (Ford) 3:44.4
SS19: 1042 Kruununpera 1 (25.48km)
Less that nine seconds separated the top seven drivers on the
high-speed 22km section from Kruununpera, which meant no change to the
overall leaderboard. Sebastien Loeb was fastest, with Markko Martin just
0.7sec slower in second and Toni Gardemeister a further 4.3sec back in
third. The battle between Petter Solberg and his ex team-mate Mikko
Hirvonen continued, Solberg set the fourth fastest time but a mid-stage
stall from Hirvonen meant he was 3sec slower and the gap between the
pair increased to 7.1sec. Chris Atkinson brought his Impreza over the
finish line in the seventh fastest time, but reported ominous noises
from the engine. Rather than risking further damage, and having driven
each of the day's two stages, he retired from the leg.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 11:53.2
SS20: 1155 Kuohu 2 (7.80km)
The battle between Mikko Hirvonen and Petter Solberg intensified
on the penultimate test when Hirvonen set the fastest time and collected
his first stage win of the rally. However, Petter Solberg was right
behind and conceded only 1.9sec of his advantage. With one 25km stage
remaining, Solberg maintained a 5.2sec gap. Petter's brother Henning set
the third fastest time, with Gronholm and Loeb sixth and eighth
Fastest Stage Time: Hirvonen (Ford) 3:43.1
SS21: 1253 Kruununpera 2 (25.48km)
Adjusting his pace according to Hirvonen's split times, which
were sent to his car throughout the test, Solberg kept ahead of his
rival to secure fourth place and end the rally in style with another
stage win. All the other drivers in the top ten emerged unscathed from
the repeated 25km test, which meant Marcus Gronholm won the rally for
the second year running, Championship leader Sebastien Loeb came second
and Markko Martin finished third.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 11:58.1
Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth:
It's some consolation for Petter to have won the battle for fourth place. He and Mikko dominated the stage times today and to finish with a stage win is not a bad way to end the rally. Of course we're here to win rallies and now we have to apply the lessons of this weekend to make sure that we can maintain Petter's strong form at the next gravel event, Rally GB. Chris again showed good speed today. This is not a rally to approach cautiously. If he wants to win he needs to attack, which is exactly what he has done. Deutschland will be different ball game, as the first proper tarmac event of the year. This is an event that Stephane made an impressive debut on last year and we're looking forward to seeing what he can do in a factory car.
It's a disappointing result, but after the bad landing on Friday and the split brake pipe yesterday I have to be happy with fourth. I tried to push so hard and we made a number of changes to improve the set-up yesterday and today. I was happier with how we finished today and after a quick break I'm going to be working hard, as I want so much to be back on top again, it's been too long now. We're going to do some very intensive testing before Germany and I know the car will have lots of new parts for the rally. You can be sure I'm not giving up and so I'm looking forward to getting out there again.
I can take a lot of positives from this weekend. It's my first time in a World Rally Car in Finland and I managed to set times that were quicker than some of the Championship contenders and the experienced locals. This shows we have a good pace, but we now need to keep building our experience. The car and tyres were good all weekend, and we didn't change the set-up at all. We're learning all the time and we want to come back next year and be quicker and more consistent to get a good finish.
News From Pirelli
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director: "It's been a dominating performance from the Pirelli 'K' tyre in these extremely demanding conditions, which call for sustained high-speed performance from the tyres. The rubber has been both fast and reliable, enabling all the Pirelli runners to be consistently at the sharp end of the field."