WRC

Rally New Zealand: Subaru final summary

The Subaru World Rally Team's focus for the final leg of Rally New Zealand was to get Petter Solberg to the end of the rally in a points-scoring position and gather data ahead of the final World Rally Championship round in Wales in two weeks' time.

The Subaru World Rally Team's focus for the final leg of Rally New Zealand was to get Petter Solberg to the end of the rally in a points-scoring position and gather data ahead of the final World Rally Championship round in Wales in two weeks' time. Even though changeable weather made conditions difficult, Petter's car ran reliably throughout the day and he consistently set top-five stage times on his way to a sixth-place finish.

Stage Summaries

SS12: 0738HRS MAUNGATAWHIRI 1 (6.69KM)

With Chris Atkinson not restarting the rally, Petter Solberg was the sole representative of the Subaru World Rally Team as the final leg got underway. The day started with a scare when Petter stopped the car prior to the time control at the start of the stage. When he jumped back in, he found that he couldn't restart the engine due to an electrical glitch. He eventually managed to fire the car up, but was six minutes late clocking into the time control, and incurred a 60s penalty. "I stopped before the stage start to check my tyre pressures and I couldn't restart the car," Petter explained. A third-fastest stage time of 3m 42.9s showed that the problem had no lasting effects. The Norwegian had a five-minute cushion to seventh-placed Luis Perez Companc, so the time penalty didn't cost him sixth position in the standings. Finland's Marcus Gronholm set the best time, just 2.3s quicker than Petter, and still led the event ahead of Mikko Hirvonen.
Fastest time: Marcus Gronholm (Ford) 3m 40.6s

SS13: 0806HRS TE HUTEWAI 1 (11.23KM)

The second stage of the day took the crews south along the route of the Opotoru River from Raglan toward Te Mata. The roads were starting to dry out on this stage, but mud was still a problem. There was no repeat of the starting problem that afflicted Petter's car prior to the start of SS12 and he negotiated the stage in 8m 01.5s. That put him third fastest through the test behind Gronholm and Xavi Pons and kept him sixth overall. "The car is getting better, but we're still lacking the magic grip," said Petter at the end of the stage. Gronholm and Hirvonen still led, with Manfred Stohl third and pulling away from Dani Sordo. Xavi Pons was fifth, within striking distance of his Spanish rival. Behind Petter, Perez Companc and Jari-Matti Latvala rounded out the points-scoring positions. In his privately-entered Impreza WRC2005, Rossi was up to 12th position overall and with the end of the rally almost in sight, he was not taking too many risks. "This is hard work but great enjoyment," said the Italian.
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 7m 56.2s

SS14: 0834HRS WHAANGA COAST 1 (29.82KM)

The gravel tracks through this renowned test were wet and extremely slippery. Conditions were mixed, with a rain shower in the middle of the stage, but blue skies at the flying finish. Petter was fourth fastest with a time of 21m 52.7s. Pons hit an object in the middle of the stage, but continued, while Sordo grappled with understeer. Rossi moved up to 11th place, despite two spins. After the stage, the crews headed back to Mystery Creek for service before the final loop of stages.
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 21m 38.1s

SS15: 1203HRS MAUNGATAWHIRI 2 (6.69KM)

With Petter looking comfortable in sixth position and more than five minutes ahead of seventh-placed Perez Companc, the team decided to use the final loop of stages to gather data in preparation for Wales Rally GB in a fortnight. The heavy rain of the last few days had made the conditions on the stages quite similar to those expected in the Welsh forests in early December: mud, rain and slippery gravel. Petter set the third-fastest time on SS15. Encouragingly, his 3m 38.3s effort was four seconds faster than his first pass through the test.
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 3m 37.3s

SS16: 1231HRS TE HUTEWAI 2 (11.23KM)

Petter was a solid fourth fastest on the second run through this tricky, slippery test. He encountered heavy rain midway through the stage, but was keeping plenty in reserve. "We are trying some different things and the car is much better. I am driving to make sure I get to the finish - that is the most important thing now," said Petter after the stage. Gronholm and Xavier Pons were joint fastest through the section. The Spanish driver moved past Dani Sordo into fourth place overall. Sordo was struggling on the wrong tyre compound for the constantly changing conditions.
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford)/Pons (Citroen) 7m 57.7s

SS17: 1259HRS WHAANGA COAST 2 (29.82KM)

Petter came through the final stage of Rally New Zealand in 21m 27.0s, which sealed his sixth place overall and gave him three World Rally Championship points. Pons set the fastest time to consolidate his fourth place ahead of Sordo, while Gronholm drove relatively steadily through the stage to ensure he made it to the finish to win. Hirvonen and Stohl completed the podium It was mission accomplished for Rossi, who finished 11th in his Subaru Impreza and said: "I've got to the end without any problems and with the car in one piece and that's important. I have work to do before I am fast, but myself and Carlo [Cassina] have had great fun in the car."
Fastest time: Pons (Citroen) 21m 09.7s

Team Quotes

SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM MANAGING DIRECTOR, RICHARD TAYLOR:
"It's been a tough event with only limited success for Petter and Chris. With just two fastest stage times we have struggled to match the performance of the last two events and clearly Petter had hoped to finish better than sixth. We have however identified several areas where we will be able to improve the car and we are looking forward now to Rally GB and a fresh start in the 2007 season."

PETTER SOLBERG:
"I tried as hard as I could but I've simply not been able to challenge the fastest guys this weekend. Of course it's very frustrating; I want to win rallies, and it's not much fun when that isn't possible, but I will keep positive and focus on improving the pace. We made some small improvements this weekend; we learned some more about the car and the tyres, and hopefully that will enable us to get a better result on the last round in Wales."

News from Pirelli

MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER
"We share the team's frustration with the results this weekend. Today Petter has continued to struggle on the stages and he has been unable to exploit the potential of the car and tyre combination. We focus now on Great Britain, with a four day test later this week and hopefully a better result on the rally."

-credit: swrt

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Manfred Stohl , Jari-Matti Latvala , Mikko Hirvonen , Xavier Pons , Chris Atkinson
Teams Citroën World Rally Team