WRC

Rally Japan: Subaru leg two summary

The Subaru World Rally Team had a successful day as Petter Solberg continued to lead Rally Japan. The Norwegian collected five stage wins during the Leg and pulled further ahead of the chasing pack. Petter will start Sunday's final day of ...

The Subaru World Rally Team had a successful day as Petter Solberg continued to lead Rally Japan. The Norwegian collected five stage wins during the Leg and pulled further ahead of the chasing pack. Petter will start Sunday's final day of competition with a 30 second advantage over his closest rival, Marcus Gronholm. Despite some extremely tricky road conditions, Chris Atkinson also had an excellent day locked in an intense battle for fifth place with some very experienced competitors. Chris will start the final Leg just 10 seconds behind fifth-placed Harri Rovanpera.

Stage Reports

SS10 0720hrs Sinotcaki 1 (6.28km)

Leg two kicked off with the short Sinotcaki stage 20km north of Obihiro. Crews left parc fermé in light rain, which made the soft surface of the new-for-2005 stage very slippery. Crews started with a climb on a twisting road covered with a deep layer of gravel and a sequence of three jumps before a steep descent to the finish. Harri Rovanpera took his second stage win of the event despite a malfunctioning intercom for the last three kilometres. Marcus Gronholm was second and Solberg third to extend his lead over Loeb to 26secs. The Citroen driver was sixth-quickest through the pass behind the Fords of Toni Gardemeister and Antony Warmbold.
Fastest Stage Time: Rovanpera (Mitsubishi) 4:00.3

SS11 0816hrs Emina 1 (8.18km)

The second test of Leg two was also introduced to Rally Japan for 2005. The flowing forestry road was sheltered by overhanging trees, which ensured the road stayed damp after the rain showers. Marcus Gronholm negotiated the stage 4.5secs faster than second-quickest Rovanpera and his win moved him to within one second of second-placed Loeb, while Rovanpera closed to within one second of fourth placed Chris Atkinson. Rally leader Petter Solberg reported very heavy rain showers for those competitors further down the running order but eased further ahead of Loeb by setting the third fastest time.
Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 5:45.4

SS12 0851hrs Pawse-Kamuy 3 (9.05km)

The third run through the soft Pawse-Kamuy stage took place in the rain, which became increasingly heavy as the field passed through. The slippery surface was badly rutted after the passage of so many cars on Leg one. A stage win from Gronholm leapfrogged him ahead of Loeb, who reported he had chosen for the wrong tyre compound for the morning's loop of stages. Petter Solberg lost three seconds as he ran wide on a slippery right-hand corner, but the Norwegian retained the lead of the rally by 24secs from Gronholm. Solberg reported that he was struggling for traction on a tyre compound he felt was too hard for the soft conditions. Rovanpera moved into fourth ahead of Atkinson who struggled with his car in the ruts.
Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 4:38.7

SS13 0937hrs Rikubetsu 3 (2.73km)

Crews headed north east of Obihiro for the third pass through the short Rikubetsu stage, which incorporates part of a rally cross circuit. The rain continued and stage-winner Solberg was six seconds slower than his fastest time set on Leg one. The win, his first of the day, extended his lead over Gronholm to more than 25secs. Over such a short stage the top seven were covered by just two seconds, with Gigi Galli and Gronholm setting identical times in second, ahead of Loeb and Duval. Ford team mates Gardemeister and Kresta continued their battle for the final points scoring position with the sixth and seventh fastest times respectively, with the Finn only seven seconds ahead of Kresta in the overall classification.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 2:13.1

SS14 1033hrs Menan 1 (16.25km)

The longest stage of the Leg followed the course of a river through a gorge and included several narrow bridge crossings. As the rally reached its midpoint, Peugeot's Gronholm and Subaru's Solberg continued to duel for the lead of the rally. A stage win for Gronholm closed the gap between the pair to just over 20secs. The duo were a full six seconds quicker through the stage than third fastest Galli, whose time moved him to within 10secs of the Subaru Impreza of Chris Atkinson in the overall classification. Loeb was 20secs off the stage winner's pace, but remained over one minute ahead of Rovanpera in third overall, which would be enough for him to secure a second drivers' crown this weekend. After the stage end, crews returned to Kita Aikoku for a 30 minute service and refuel.
Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 10:28.0

SS15 1315hrs Sinotcaki 2 (6.28km)

The first stage to be run after service was again characterised by an extremely muddy, rutted surface, with some ruts up to 40cm deep. Marcus Gronholm recorded his fifth win of the day, with Petter Solberg just half a second slower after fitting softer compound tyres and making some suspension set-up changes at the preceding service. Francois Duval was third-quickest, his best result of the Leg so far, as he edged closer to Galli in sixth overall. Both drivers continued to catch fifth-placed Atkinson, who crossed the finish with the eighth quickest time. A short circuit on his car's radio system caused Atkinson's cockpit to fill with smoke near the end of the stage, but he and co-driver Glenn Macneall quickly fixed the fault after the finish control.
Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 3:56.0

SS16 1411hrs Emina 2 (8.18km)

Crowds of spectators watched as Petter Solberg recorded his second stage win of the Leg in his Subaru Impreza WRC2005 on the repeated run through the short, slippery forest road. The Norwegian was two seconds quicker than Gronholm to increase his lead to 22secs. Mitsubishi driver Galli's fifth fastest stage time closed him to within four seconds of young charger Atkinson in fifth overall and eased him away from Duval, who was one second slower.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 5:43.4

SS17 1446hrs Pawse-Kamuy 4 (9.05km)

The fourth pass through the Pawse-Kamuy stage just under 85km north of the rally's host town Obihiro was a challenge for crews as the surface had become massively rutted after heavy use and rain throughout the morning. The top two were identical to the results of the morning's pass, as Gronholm again took the stage win with a time over three seconds slower than his earlier run. The time nevertheless moved him two seconds closer to rally leader Solberg, who finished the stage fifth-quickest. Galli was once more the second fastest driver, which elevated him to fifth position overall ahead of Chris Atkinson. Duval was third-quickest to close to within four seconds of the Australian.
Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 4:41.6

SS18 1521hrs Nupri Pake (13.90km)

The very fast, wide road was the only stage of Rally Japan to be run just once. The road ran through open farmland in stark contrast to many of the other tree-lined stages of the rally. Subaru's hard-charging Petter Solberg responded to Gronholm's SS17 win by setting the fastest time through the 13.9km Nupri Pake stage and extended his lead to 23secs. Gronholm's Peugeot 307 WRC finished third fastest, just over half a second slower than Duval. The Belgian's drive edged him ahead of Atkinson for sixth overall, with a 0.2sec deficit to fifth-placed Galli.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 7:01.3

SS19 1602hrs Rikubetsu 4 (2.73km)

Solberg scored his fourth stage victory of the day on the fourth and final pass through the 'mini superspecial'. Gronholm had moved to within 20secs of the Subaru driver following SS17 but two consecutive wins moved Solberg over 25secs clear of the Finn. Gronholm set the seventh-quickest stage time, over two seconds slower than Solberg. Galli was second-quickest through the stage to extend his slender advantage over Duval to 1.4secs, while the cushion between third-placed Loeb and fourth-placed Rovanpera remained at 1min 14secs as the pair set identical times through the stage.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 2:07.7

SS20 1658hrs Menan 2 (16.25km)

As night fell, the second run through the longest stage of the Leg, Menan, provided plenty of action for spectators. A determined Solberg notched up his third consecutive stage win of the day, his eighth of the event, almost five seconds faster than Loeb and six seconds quicker than rival Gronholm. Gigi Galli's third-quickest stage time moved him ahead of team mate Rovanpera, who experienced problems with the spotlights on his Mitsubishi Lancer and lost over 23secs to Solberg to drop back to fifth position overall. Atkinson in his Subaru Impreza WRC2005 also moved back up the order, overtaking Duval for sixth overall with the fifth fastest stage time. The Australian also benefited from Rovanpera's problems to close the gap to the Finn to a little over seven seconds. After developing problems with his gearbox in SS18 Ford privateer Dani Sola rolled the car and failed to finish the stage.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 10:31.8

SS21 1835hrs Satsunai 2 (2.10km)

The crowd-pleasing Satsunai spectator stage was run under floodlights for the second time at the end of Leg two. Rovanpera was again fastest round the 2.10km figure-of-eight route, just 0.2secs faster than rally leader Petter Solberg. The Subaru driver finished the Leg over half a minute ahead of rival Gronholm, who dropped a further second to Solberg over the final stage. Citroen's Loeb finished the stage with a time identical to his team mate Duval to end the day 40 seconds behind Gronholm, but over one minute 30secs clear of fourth-placed Galli. Atkinson dropped two seconds to Rovanpera through the stage to finish the Leg just under ten seconds behind the fifth-placed Mitsubishi driver.
Fastest Stage Time: Rovanpera (Mitsubishi) 1:37.7

Team Quotes

Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth
It's been another great day for Petter. The conditions were very difficult this morning and in hindsight we could have chosen a softer tyre, but Petter did a great job of damage limitation and then more than made up for it in the afternoon. At the end of the day he has extended his lead slightly and, in such difficult conditions, that's no mean feat. For Chris this has been probably the most important day of his time with our team. After such a great start yesterday he was under massive pressure and in such difficult conditions even an experienced driver could easily be caught out. In fact, he hasn't put a foot wrong and has ended the day in a very strong position and in a great fight with some of the world's top drivers for fourth, fifth and sixth places.

Petter Solberg
It feels good, we're on target but there's still a long way to go. I've pushed to the maximum today, perhaps a little too much in the morning but my tyre choice was too hard and I had no option. We gave away a lot of seconds for free on the first group of stages but the afternoon was much better. It's not easy out there, the stages have been terrible. My biggest fight today was not with Marcus, it was with the roads. It's been a long time since I won a rally and it's a feeling I want back. I'm sure Marcus will attack very hard tomorrow, but I want this win very much indeed.

Chris Atkinson
Although we dropped from fourth to sixth it was still a good day. We are only 10 seconds behind fourth place and very much in contention to achieve our aim for the weekend of a solid result in the points. This morning's stages were very tough with the roads pretty rough but the changes we made in the midday service improved the set up for this afternoon's run. Throughout the day we continued to play it safe to make sure we got through okay, we sacrificed a little time in the process but we're still in the game. With it being so close for a spot in the top five it is going to be an interesting battle tomorrow on roads that we know well but our number one aim is make sure we get to the finish ramp.

News From Pirelli

Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
Petter's use of the soft KP tyre enabled him to dominate the afternoon's stages with the result that he now has a lead of over half a minute. Tomorrow we hope to give him the equipment to take a well-deserved second consecutive win in Japan.

Tomorrow's Leg

Cars leave Kita Aikoku parc fermé from 0630hrs for a 10 minute service. At 85km Leg three is the shortest of the event and comprises two runs through the ultra-fast Panke Nikorpet and Penke stages located to the north west of Obihiro. The Superspecial at Satsunai is also repeated for a third time midway through the day before the podium ceremony in the service park at 1505hrs.

-swrt-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team