Crews completed two identical loops of three stages and 148.92 competitive kilometres. The Leg finished with a second pass through the Superspecial on the outskirts of Leon. Weather No rain fell during the day. Temperatures ranged from 15Â°C in...
Crews completed two identical loops of three stages and 148.92 competitive kilometres. The Leg finished with a second pass through the Superspecial on the outskirts of Leon. Weather
No rain fell during the day. Temperatures ranged from 15°C in the early morning to 28°C in the afternoon.
The Impreza WRC2006 proved its rally leading pace throughout the morning’s stages when Petter Solberg was locked in an intense battle for first place with Sebastien Loeb. The pair swapped the lead several times until the sixth stage of the day when Solberg dropped 23 seconds to his rival after his power steering was damaged in a collision with a rock. Petter will start tomorrow’s final Leg 37sec behind Loeb, with 60 competitive kilometres remaining. After crashing out of Friday’s first Leg, Chris Atkinson restarted today under Superally regulations. The Australian moved back into the top ten with a string of top six times, including the third quickest time in SS12.
SS8: 1008 El Zauco 1 (25.23km)
After a 10 minute service crews headed back to the mountains east of Leon.
The freshly regraded El Zauco stage proved to be one of the most
action-packed of the event with a complete change in the top three.
Second-placed Mikko Hirvonen cleared a crest too quickly 1.7km into the
stage and rolled his Focus, while fellow Ford driver Matthew Wilson went
off at a corner 4km from the start. Hirvonen’s car was not badly
damaged, but it was too far from the road to be able to rejoin and he
retired from the Leg. Wilson was similarly unable to get back onto the
road. With Hirvonen out of the running, Loeb set his sights on taking the
lead of the rally from Subaru’s Petter Solberg. In searing
temperatures, Loeb took the stage win to move into the lead by less than
one second. Chris Atkinson restarted the Leg after Subaru technicians
worked long into the night to repair damage on his Impreza caused by an
accident in SS5. After arriving in service with heavy damage and the back
of the car almost entirely missing, Chris left service with a car restored
to full health and went on to post the sixth fastest stage time to move
back up the order.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 16:30.4
SS9: 1126 Duarte 1 (23.75km)
Determined to regain the lead he had lost in the previous stage, Petter
Solberg charged through the twisty Duarte stage more than four seconds
quicker than rival Loeb. The time was enough to move the Norwegian back
into the lead by more than three seconds. The stage started on a very open
and dusty clay-packed road but moved across to a softer and sandier
surface as it continued higher into the mountains to finish at over 2,500
metres above sea level. Marcus Gronholm was third fastest as he sought to
make up positions following his retirement from Leg one. Manfred Stohl was
fourth quickest to maintain the third overall position he had inherited
from Hirvonen’s retirement in SS8, while a resurgent Atkinson posted
the fifth fastest stage time.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 18:07.4
SS10: 1217 Derramadero 1 (23.27km)
The Derramadero stage started on an open, flowing road where crews ran
flat out for 15km before descending down a mountain side through a series
of hairpin bends. Loeb and Solberg continued their closely-matched battle
for the lead in the final test before service. Loeb had the advantage
through the stage, but only by the narrowest of margins - just 1.5secs.
The time was not enough to move ahead of Solberg and the Subaru driver
retained the lead by two seconds. Spaniard Dani Sordo posted his best
stage result of the event in third, but he was nearly 20secs slower than
the battling Loeb and Solberg. Chris Atkinson similarly achieved his best
stage finish so far in fourth as he moved to 12th overall. Marcus Gronholm
had an alarming incident when he cleared a corner and found 20 goats in
the middle of the stage.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 14:03.6
SS11: 1510 El Zauco 2 (25.23km)
Crews left Leon after a 30 minute service for a repeat of the morning’s
loop of stages. El Zauco started with a series of fast bends and blind
crests before turning into open and spectacular scenery. Loeb and
Solberg’s battle for the lead resumed and the pair set almost identical
times through the 25km pass. The Frenchman was just 0.3secs faster and
edged within two seconds of the Subaru driver. Chris Atkinson collected
1min 40sec of penalty time when he left the preceding service 10 minutes
late. The delay was caused by a brake problem in service.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 16:21.4
SS12: 1628 Duarte 2 (23.75km)
The modified-for-2006 Duarte stage started on very open and hard-packed
clay roads as it passed through brightly painted traditional Mexican
villages. The lead of the rally changed for the third time in five stages
as Loeb moved back ahead of Solberg. Citroen privateer Loeb and Subaru
driver Solberg were again closely matched over the 23km stage, with the
Frenchman fastest by 6.5secs. The time moved him back ahead of Solberg
into the lead with a 5secs cushion over the Norwegian. Petter’s
team-mate Atkinson continued to impress with the third fastest time and
moved back into the top ten.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 17:44.0
SS13: 1719 Derramadero 2 (23.27km)
Sebastien Loeb extended his lead over Petter Solberg to nearly 30 secs through the 23km rocky stage from the village of Derramadero. Petter hit a rock with a front wheel in a corner 3km from the start of the stage, breaking the power steering system. Forced to drive more than 20km without steering assistance in temperatures approaching 30°C, Petter finished 23secs slower than Loeb. Like Marcus Gronholm in SS10, Manfred Stohl had trouble with animals on the road. The Austrian rounded a corner and came nose-to-nose with a herd of cows. Chris Atkinson also encountered the same problem and drove slowly through a gap between them. The cows were so close to the side of the car that they took off both wing mirrors. Stohl remained in third position with a 26secs advantage over Dani Sordo. Reigning JWRC champion Sordo capped an impressive day with the third fastest stage time on his first-ever WRC gravel event. He remained fourth overall, almost five minutes ahead of fifth-placed Henning Solberg.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 14:03.6
SS14: 1949 Nextel Superspecial 2 (4.42km)
The final stage of Leg two was a repeat of the Superspecial on the
outskirts of Leon with its watersplashes, jumps and straights. Loeb posted
his sixth win of the day as he went through the twisty stage nearly 2secs
faster than Gronholm. Subaru technicians had fixed Petter’s broken
steering rack in service, but he lost nine seconds with a spin and a stall
on the wet and muddy course. Solberg finished the Leg 37secs adrift of the
Frenchman, but 3min 49secs in front of Stohl. Petter’s team-mate
Atkinson had a half-spin, but dropped only eight seconds to finish the Leg
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 3:21.7
SWRT sporting director, Luis Moya: "We are very pleased with the performance of both our drivers today. Petter proved that the car is very competitive and that we are more than capable of fighting for victory. Like Petter, everybody in the team is disappointed about the time lost with the power steering damage. We will have to see what he is able to do tomorrow. After his accident yesterday, Chris took it easier this morning but has improved all day long."
Petter Solberg: "Sebastien and I have had a good fight out there today. Of course, it’s a shame that the power steering problem means it’s not quite so close now but the important thing is how far ahead of the rest of the field we’ve got. I really feel that we’re back in business now. The car is improving all the time and today we’ve found some more really good things that enable me to push hard. I think we’re in for an exciting finish tomorrow. Second place would mean some useful points but I came here for a win and I’m going to try my best to get one."
Chris Atkinson: "It’s been a good day. We made some changes to the differentials this afternoon and it seemed to make quite an improvement, especially on SS12 and SS13. Overall we’ve had a clean, reliable run, with no problems to report. The car has performed perfectly all day and the only unexpected thing we’ve had to contend with was the herd of cattle on the last stage. It was a fairly tight squeeze and they took both our wing mirrors off, but we were all okay in the end."
The final Leg will comprise just three stages and 60.42 competitive kilometres before a podium finish at 1230hrs in Leon. The route takes in two stages in the mountains to the east of the host city, plus one final blast through the Superspecial.