Competing in his 50th WRC event, 555 Subaru driver Petter Solberg put in another solid performance at the wheel of his Subaru Impreza WRC2003 and consistently set top ten times. He ended the day in overnight third, 49.8 seconds behind Richard...
Competing in his 50th WRC event, 555 Subaru driver Petter Solberg put in another solid performance at the wheel of his Subaru Impreza WRC2003 and consistently set top ten times. He ended the day in overnight third, 49.8 seconds behind Richard Burns in second. His 555 Subaru team-mate Tommi Makinen ended the day in ninth position. After a Stewards' meeting at the end of the second Leg, Tommi was awarded a five-minute time penalty for a traffic infringement. He had been in overall fifth.
Toshi Arai, driving a Subaru Impreza WRX, is leading the FIA Production Car Championship by 1 minute 1.3 seconds.
SS10 0843hrs Parahi/Ararua (59.00km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 33:20.5
Following overnight rain, Subaru driver Petter Solberg predicted that the epic 59km Parahi/Ararua stage, the longest of the WRC championship, would shake the overall leaderboard standings, and with three new drivers entering the overall top ten by the finish, it certainly did that. First to suffer was Subaru's Tommi Makinen. The Finn picked up a 10 second penalty after leaving the preceding service late, and then struggled to find grip on the test's mixture of narrow, twisty sections and very fast crests and experienced a spin 20km in. He also collected a puncture yet still managed to post the seventh fastest time. Similarly, team-mate Petter suffered a puncture 7km from the end. He was sixth. The Ford team continued to be dogged by transmission problems. Following Duval's incident on Leg 1, a hydraulic problem forced Markko Martin to use the manual gear change system from 4km in. There were problems also for Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard skidded 7km from the finish, left the road, and came to rest in a field. He completed the stage, but dropped over thirteen minutes and fell out of the top ten.
SS11 1131hrs Mititai Finish (20.15km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 10:03.0
The event's only run through the Mititai test, introduced to the Rally last year, saw Ford's Markko Martin break Peugeot's monopoly of stage wins, and the Estonian stormed through to finish 0.7 seconds ahead of Gronholm. His result moved him 14.2 seconds ahead of Burns, who was in overall third. After his incident on the previous test and tumble down the leaderboard, Citroen's Carlos Sainz was concentrating on undertaking a test programme for his team. He was seventh. No problems for Subaru drivers Petter and Tommi. Driving precisely through the narrow and tricky test, the duo finished fifth and eighth respectively.
SS12 1209hrs Tokatoka (10.15km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 5:07.1
Although only 10.15km, the medium tight corners, steep downhill sections and narrow roads of the short Tokatoka demanded the utmost in concentration from the drivers. Running through the dry conditions in temperatures of 17 degrees, Markko Martin repeated his form of SS11 and took his second stage win to extend his lead over third-placed Richard Burns by a further 2.5 seconds. With his Ford team having fitted a totally new hydraulic system to his Focus in the service prior to SS11, the Estonian seemed to have put his earlier troubles behind him. Stage times were relatively close on the short test with the top five drivers separated by just 5.7 seconds. After the finish, cars made their way back to the Paparoa service park for the third service of the day.
SS13 1332hrs Parahi (25.10km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 12:46.6
The tension mounted in afternoon sun on the penultimate road test of the day when Rally leader Marcus Gronholm rolled his Peugeot 206WRC mid stage. Fortunately for the Finn, the car landed on its wheels and the current World Champion was able to complete the test and maintain his position at the top of the leaderboard, albeit dropping 35 seconds to stage winner, Markko Martin. The Estonian remained in overall second. The stage saw more drama when Subaru driver Petter Solberg overshot a junction 4km in, left the road, and came to rest in a ditch. He lost about 30 seconds while spectators helped him get back onto the stage, but was able to finish and maintained overall fifth.
SS14 1405hrs Ararua (31.75km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 19:01.3
Obviously un-phased by his incident on SS13, Gronholm quickly reasserted his dominance on SS14 and charged through to take the stage win, quashing any rumours that his car had sustained terminal damage. He finished 16.6 seconds ahead of team-mate Richard Burns, and 19.4 seconds ahead of Loeb, who was third. No such luck for Ford's Markko Martin. After scoring a hat trick of stage wins earlier in the day, the young Estonian spun 4km from the end and stalled the engine of his Ford Focus. Although he eventually re-started it, it stopped 2km from the finish, due to loss of compression and refused to re-start forcing Martin to concede retirement. His loss bolstered Burns up to second overall. The stage also saw Rovanpera's rally some to an end. The Finn skidded off the stage near to the finish causing terminal damage to his Peugeot WRC206. He had been fourth.
SS15 1900hrs Manukau Super 1 (2.10km)
Fastest time: Duval (Ford) 1:36.4
The first of two passes through the head-to-head Super-Special at Manukau saw a stage win for Francois Duval. The Ford young gun charged around the figure of eight track to finish 1.3 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. There was no change to the overall top ten.
SS16 1930hrs Manukau Super 2 (2.10km)
Fastest time: Solberg (Subaru) 1:40.2
The final pass through the Super Special saw no major dramas, although a stall near to the start cost Duval overall ninth position. Gronholm was seventh fastest to confirm his overnight lead. He ended the day 1 minute 0.9 seconds ahead of Richard Burns, who was second. Petter was fastest and took the stage win.
, 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal:
"Overall, we're satisfied with the outcome of today. Petter continued with the same strategy as yesterday and it's paid dividends. He's in a potential podium position, and if it wasn't for a couple of small mistakes, he could even have been challenging for second place, which is very encouraging. Tommi has been making some minor adjustments to his car throughout the day, and has now found a set-up that he's happy with. We're confident that both cars will finish tomorrow within the points."
"We've been following the same plan as yesterday and, apart from a couple of mistakes, it's been a good day. It's too bad that we had some problems on the long stage this morning, but these things happen and if it wasn't for that, it would have been perfect. I think everyone was expecting this afternoon's stages to be a lot cleaner, but they were more slippery than we anticipated and we suffered with a little spin on SS14. We've changed the set up of the car a little bit throughout the day, and it's felt very good to drive. The plan is to keep going for it tomorrow and hopefully, end up on the podium."
"The conditions have been pretty tough today. We lost some time on a couple of stages but, as some cars have shown, things can happen very quickly, so I'm pleased that we're still in the fight. I feel that I've really got the car performing the way I want it now. After shakedown, I was very happy with the set-up, but out on the stages it didn't work so well for me. We've played with the rear suspension quite a lot during the day, and I'm now confident going into tomorrow."
News from Pirelli
, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager:
"Today's stages have been much harder and more abrasive than yesterdays. As a result, both drivers selected a medium to hard range of compounds. Petter continued to use the PZero KM tyre with no cuts, while Tommi continued with the PZero K tyre, again with no cuts."
Technical Talk -- Pirelli talks EMIs
With the drivers having to contend with dusty tracks, gravel and rocky terrains in the WRC, it's vital that their tyres are able to withstand the elements. Therefore, Pirelli and the 555 Subaru World Rally Team use EMIs on all the WRC events. Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager, told us more--
* The Pirelli EMI is a mousse material which replaces the air in the tyre by expanding if the tyre should collect a puncture
* The EMI is put into the Pirelli tyre using special equipment and lubricants. Both the tyre and EMI are then fitted onto the wheel rim
* The EMI enables the driver to attack the stages much more aggressively. Before EMIs, drivers were more cautious in order to prevent collecting punctures and losing time. Now, EMIs enable drivers to compete at maximum speed
* The EMI is generic across the range. The only difference is size. There are three different sizes, including one for tarmac tyres, one for gravel tyres and one for snow tyres
* Following a puncture, it takes approx 200 metres for the EMI to become effective. On collection of a puncture, the tyre will initially feel soft, but then the EMI will expand, make the tyre hard and enable the driver to continue competing at normal speed
* Pirelli supply approximately 100 EMIs to the 555 Subaru World Rally Team per car, per event. For the 2003 WRC season, Pirelli will supply the two-car Subaru Team with 2800 EMIs
* Each EMI costs approximately 400 Euros and weighs 3 kilos. It can last for 50km, and is effective for up to a 15cm hole
* The only downside of using the EMI is that its adds 2-3 three kilos to the un-sprung weight (tyre and wheel unit)
Starts at 0600hrs, when competitors will leave Auckland for the final time to travel to the service park at Te Kauwhata. The first service is at 0705hrs. A further 113.81 competitive kilometres comprising six stages lie ahead, with the first test starting at 0823hrs. The event will conclude with a double run through the 10.60km Fyfe stage, and the winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp in Manukau at 1530hrs.