The Subaru Imprezas of Tommi MÃ¤kinen and Petter Solberg ran without fault again today and allowed the pair to push hard and improve on their overnight positions. Ending the day with a stage win, Petter Solberg holds fourth overall ahead of ...
The Subaru Imprezas of Tommi Mäkinen and Petter Solberg ran without fault again today and allowed the pair to push hard and improve on their overnight positions. Ending the day with a stage win, Petter Solberg holds fourth overall ahead of tomorrow's final 100km. It's extremely tight at the top though, and just 0.5 seconds stands between Solberg and second place. The highest placed local driver, Tommi Mäkinen lies sixth and is well placed for a good points finish.
SS11 0804hrs Päijälä (21.95km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 11:21.4
Not a great start to Leg 2 for young Finnish hopeful, Mikko Hirvonen. With his usual team orders of 'steady to the finish' lifted for the event, disaster struck when his Focus caught fire, mid-test due to a turbo problem. Marshals extinguished the flames at the finish, but the twenty-three year old retired on the road section to SS12 after it was deemed unsafe to continue. He had been eleventh overall. Better luck though for his team-mate Martin. The Estonian set the second fastest time to maintain his overnight lead, but with Gronholm clinching the stage win and reducing the overall gap between the duo to less than a second, Markko couldn't afford to relax. Putting yesterday's frustrations behind him, Harri Rovanpera was back on the pace to finish third fastest, while Hyundai's Armin Schwarz had to contest the stage with no front brakes and dropped over a minute as a result.
SS12 0839hrs Ouninpohja 1 (33.24km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 15:31.0
With its undulating gravel surface, blind crests and massive speeds, the 33km Ouninpohja stage is one of the most difficult and demanding of the championship. Data from Tommi Mäkinen's Subaru showed a ground speed of 190kph while the car was still airborne after a jump! Charging through the fifth and sixth gear test, Gronholm carefully negotiated each jump and adverse camber to take the stage win and regain the overall lead from Martin by 3.7 seconds. Martin was second fastest, while McRae was third in his Citroen Xsara. Harri Rovanpera's miserable rally continued when his Peugeot left the road 2km from the start and hit a bank. He and co-driver Pietilanen were unhurt in the incident, but their car was too badly damaged to continue and they retired. After the finish, crews returned to Jyvaskyla for the second service of the day.
SS13 1129hrs Urria (10.00km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 4:48.4
The shortest stage of the day saw Richard Burns take his second win of the event, by a margin of 2.1 seconds. Not to be outdone, team-mate Gronholm put in another blistering time to finish second fastest and move 4.6 seconds clear at the top of the table. McRae was third and Sainz fourth. Another consistent performance from Subaru's Petter Solberg netted him fifth place, the same position that he held overall. No such glory for Skoda and the new Fabia WRC. Following Auriol's retirement before the re-start of Leg 1, remaining works driver Toni Gardemeister stalled his Fabia at the start-line. Unable to re-start it due to engine trouble, the Finn was forced to retire - making this the second consecutive event that Skoda had failed to finish.
SS14 1247hrs Ouninpohja 2 (33.24km)
Fastest time: McRae (Citroen) 15:25.1
Just when things looked to be settling down in the top-ten, the infamous Ouninpohja bit back. Picking up a front-suspension problem, then losing a front wheel 5kms before the finish, rally leader Marcus Gronholm dropped over a minute a half and tumbled down the leaderboard. He completed the stage, but was unable to continue and retired. Gronholm's misfortune was Martin's gain and despite posting only the fifth fastest time thanks to a continuing electronic problem, which meant his Focus had no dashboard display and no active differentials, the Estonian regained the overall lead. McRae took the stage win but his celebrations were short-lived, when he collected a one-minute penalty for checking into the previous time control one minute early, and dropped to sixth overall. Struggling with tyre-mousse vibration, Petter Solberg was sixth fastest, while Mäkinen, who suffered a similar problem, was seventh. After the finish and scheduled refuel, crews travelled the 29.21km road section to the start of SS15
SS15 1350hrs Ehikki (14.91km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 6:52.6
Now up to second place overall, and hungry for a win on his hundredth WRC event, Richard Burns started to apply the pressure through the short 14km Ehikki test. Flying over the test's multiple jumps, the Brit took advantage of rally leader Martin's continuing electrical problems, (which cost him another 6 seconds) and finished fastest to reduce the gap between the pair to just 13.1 seconds. In a similar battle for overall third, Sainz was second fastest to snatch the potential podium position from Solberg, who was hampered by his continuing tyre-mousse vibration problems. Tommi Mäkinen was now seventh overall, and the leading Finnish driver. After completing the stage, crews travelled back to Jyvaskyla for service.
SS16 1618hrs Moksi-Leustu (40.96km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 20:39.2
Drama for Colin McRae on the longest stage of the event, the epic Moksi-Leustu. Rolling his Citroen 9km from the start, the Scot left the road, sustaining significant damage to his Xsara. Both he and co-driver Ringer were uninjured in the incident, but retirement was immediate. Better luck for Subaru's Petter Solberg. Running on a fresh set of Pirelli's, the Norwegian was back on the pace and flew through the stage's long crests, blind corners and big jumps to set the second fastest time, and end the test four seconds behind Sainz, who was third overall. His electrical problems rectified, Martin took the stage win to defend his lead, while Burns was third and Sainz fourth, 4.3 seconds behind the fastest time. At the finish crews moved directly to the start of SS17 for the final test of the day.
SS17 1730hrs Himos (13.62km)
Fastest time: Solberg (Subaru) 7:30.1
Continuing his impressive performance, Petter Solberg was fastest through the final test, to take his first win of the event and move to just 0.2 seconds off Sainz in overall third. No such luck for Burns. Suffering with a wheel-bearing problem, the Brit dropped almost a minute and clung on to overall second by the slimmest of margins. At the finish just 0.5 seconds separated him from Solberg who held overall fourth. Tommi Mäkinen was fourth fastest, while Martin was second quickest, to end the Leg with a comfortable lead of 1 minute 13 seconds before tomorrow's final tests.
David Lapworth, 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal: "It's been a great day for Petter, he's put in some excellent times and is now only half a second off second place overall. Tommi has gone quicker and quicker as the day has gone on, all he needs to do now is maintain his speed to collect more points for Subaru and himself. We've been impressed with the performance of the new Pirelli tyre constructions in these conditions, but it's a shame that vibrations from the mousse have been so frequent today. We will be working closely with the engineers at Pirelli to get to the root of the problem."
Petter Solberg: "I must say I'm very happy to be third! The car has been very good, and tomorrow looks like it will be an exciting day. I'm getting used to battles here, last year it was with Carlos, now it'll be Carlos and Richard. I've been pushing at 120 percent today, there's nothing more I can give, and so I'll just carry on driving as hard as I can, keep the same speed, flat out, and see how we do."
Tommi Mäkinen: "It's okay, and we're better placed now than yesterday. I pushed as hard as possible, but we've had to back off sometimes and that cost us. For tomorrow though the plan is still to go flat out and we'll try our best to catch Loeb."
News from Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager: "We continued to use our new construction of Pirelli PZero K4 for the majority of the today's tests with a change to KM4 for Tommi and KM2 for Petter in order to combat the loose gravel conditions on the final two stages. The performance of the tyres has been excellent, however we have experienced some difficulties with our EMI anti-deflation device, which has resulted in some vibrations. Our technicians are analysing the situation. These issues do not affect the performance of the EMI in the case of a puncture."
Team Talk - From the Subaru Team of '93
As the 555 Subaru team celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Impreza WRC, we spoke to Ari Vatanen, one of the drivers who competed for the team 10 years ago when the Subaru Impreza made its rally debut in Finland 1993--
@#Q: What do you put the Impreza's success down to?
A: Lots of hard work, not changing direction when developing the car, and working to maintain and build both the image and the brand. All the effort throughout the last ten years has paid dividends.
@#Q: You've competed in one hundred rallies - can you talk us through your first?
A: This is my one hundred and first rally I believe, my hundredth was the last event that I did in Great Britain. My first rally was in Finland 1974 - I remember it as if it was yesterday. I competed in my very own Skoda and made it into the top ten, which was very good. I started the event on Friday evening, and when we came back on Saturday morning I saw from the leaderboard that I was in the top ten. I could not believe it, it was a total surprise as I had no idea where I was placed. One of the works Skoda drivers at that time was just one place in front of me - it was incredible. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to the end of the rally. I stayed on the road, but a wheel came off and I had no spare. For me, that was the end of the event.
Q: What's more difficult, competing in a round of the WRC or carrying out your duties as a Member of the European Parliament?
A: I think rallying is definitely fairer because you're judged only by a stop-watch. Rallying can be cruel and there can be bad luck but it's fair - you don't get hit below the belt.
Q: You and Markku are already rally legends here in Finland, but who do you think will be the next big thing to come out of Finland?
A: I think in F1, it's Raikkonen. In the WRC, there are a few - Latvala is certainly one to watch and a driver with the same surname as me, Vatanen. He's not a relation of mine, but I think he's going to be very, very quick.
@#Q: Does it feel like 10 years ago that you were here with the Impreza?
A: No, not at all - why do I look ten years older?
The third and final leg of Rally Finland starts tomorrow at 0800hrs, when the remaining cars will leave Jyvaskyla parc ferme. The final day will see crews travel north and east of Jyvaskyla to contest six further smooth gravel stages (two will be repeated), and a final 100.90 competitive kilometres. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp at 1545hrs.