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.
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
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
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."
"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."