PETTER SOLBERG WINS CORONA RALLY MEXICO The Subaru World Rally Team crew of Petter Solberg/Phil Mills claimed an emphatic victory in Corona Rally Mexico in the debut outing of the Impreza WRC 2005. The Norwegian/Welsh pairing led from start to...
PETTER SOLBERG WINS CORONA RALLY MEXICO
The Subaru World Rally Team crew of Petter Solberg/Phil Mills claimed an emphatic victory in Corona Rally Mexico in the debut outing of the Impreza WRC 2005. The Norwegian/Welsh pairing led from start to finish and now top the FIA World Rally Championship points table after a second successive win this season. Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen and Markko Martin/Michael Park finished second and third respectively, claiming all-important points for Peugeot, which now leads the Manufacturers' Championship by eight points over Ford.
The final two stages and 62.65 competitive kilometres of Corona Rally Mexico proved as tough as the rest for the remaining crews and today was a leg of contrasts. The opening stage was the shortest of the event at 18.26 kilometres, while the final one was possibly the longest in the entire FIA World Rally Championship at 44.39 kilometres.
Petter Solberg adopted a cautious approach to the day, not prepared to jeopardise his position and the potential of a second consecutive victory after also claiming maximum points in Sweden. While the former World Rally Champion had his reservations about the new car prior to the start, all were unfounded and he romped to victory by 34.5 seconds, dedicating his win to the memory of Ryuichiro Kuze - the first President of Subaru Tecnica International and the man instrumental in launching the WRC campaign - who passed away last week.
"I was very pleased to win with the old car in Sweden and then it's an incredible feeling to win with the new one here," said Petter. "The tribute for the rally is for Mr. Kuze; it was him that made it possible for us to be here. I am so, so pleased! I was really nervous before the start because I was not completely happy with the new car, but this is a fantastic result for the whole team."
Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautianen notched up their best result of the season, finishing second in the Peugeot 307 WRC. The Finns cruised to the finish with a comfortable advantage, relieved to have picked up all-important points for themselves and the team.
"Normally I would not be happy to finish second, but now it feels good after retiring in Sweden and not finishing so well in Monte-Carlo," said Marcus. "Next time we will push harder to make it difficult for Petter."
Team-mates Markko Martin and Michael Park rounded off the podium positions, adding to Peugeot's tally of points and rocketing them into the lead in the Manufacturers' Championship. The Estonian also took it easy over the closing leg, learning more about the car and tyres all the time. "It was a lot more difficult to come to the rally this year, but at the same time I was quite happy with the way things went," said the 2004 Corona Rally Mexico winner. "I knew we had made some slight improvements on the set-up from Sweden and it definitely worked, but at shakedown I realised there were changes that had to be made for me."
Sebastien Loeb finished a surprise fourth, powering up the leaderboard from an overnight sixth, overhauling Harri Rovanpera and Toni Gardemeister in the process. The French Citroen driver won both stages and holds fourth in the Drivers' Championship.
"I've been pushing to the maximum all day," said Loeb. "Stage 14 I drove perfectly; it was one of my best performances ever."
Harri Rovanpera finished fifth in the lead Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 with Toni Gardemeister -- who has been suffering with the flu all weekend - claiming sixth to extend Ford's record-breaking points scoring tally to 47 rallies. "I couldn't have driven any faster today; I was flat out all the way," said Toni. "I'm a little disappointed with my final position but happy that we finished in the points."
Armin Schwarz finished ninth in the lead Skoda after a trouble-free rally, although the German admitted it was not his best performance. Francois Duval restarted under the SUPERally regulations this morning, but after completing the final stage he retired on the liaison section back to the finish with more engine problems.
In the FIA Junior World Rally Championship, Guy Wilks put in the drive of his career and claimed victory in the category after leading from start to finish in a performance that echoed that of Solberg's. The Suzuki Ignis driver won by over nine minutes and now leads the series, just one point ahead of team-mate P-G Andersson.
Mexican honours went to Ricardo Trivino, who finished 13th overall in his Peugeot 206 WRC, revelling in the support of the local fans who cheered him everywhere he went.