The Subaru World Rally completed its objective of finishing in the points on Rally Norway. Petter Solberg/Phil Mills finished fourth, the duo's best result of the season so far, after the three days of snow rallying. On home ground, Petter drove very conservatively to ensure he came through the rally in a strong position. Although Chris Atkinson/Glenn Macneall were out of contention for points, they continued to gather experience of competing in snow and ice and completed the rally in 19th position.
SS15: 0808hrs Mountain 2 (24.36km)
The final day started with a second run through the Mountain stage. It
was a cold and clear morning and the stage had been scraped clean of
fresh snow before the cars passed through. The priority for Petter was
to bring his car home safely in the points, and even though his time of
13m 41.5s meant he dropped from third to fourth in the standings, he was
still on course to do that. "We knew this might happen," said Petter.
"Henning still has some tyres with long studs, but we have none of those
left in our selection." Chris set a time of 13m 44.5s and reported no
Fastest time: Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) 13m 18.2s
SS16: 0855hrs Ringsaker 2 (27.31hrs)
Petter's time of 15m 35.5s put him fourth fastest through Ringsaker
as the crews tackled it for the second time. With a gap of more than
a minute back to fifth-placed Jari-Matti Latvala, the Norwegian could
afford to keep his pace consistent during the rest of the day's tests.
Chris showed some bright form to post the sixth-fastest time of 15m
39.6s and continued to build his experience of rallying on snow and ice.
Fastest time: Henning Solberg (Ford) 15m 28.6s
SS17: 1005hrs Hamar 2 (1.15km)
The penultimate test of Rally Norway was a second run through the
spectator stage around the park in Hamar. Temperatures were higher in
the city and a thin layer of slushy, wet snow was quickly cleared by the
competing cars. Petter was joint-fastest, one second faster than Henning
and set a time of 1m 11.8s. So the gap between the brothers with one
44km stage to run was now 16s. Chris cleaned the test in a time of 1m
13.6s. Next the crews returned to the Viking Ship for the last service
halt of the rally.
Fastest time: Petter Solberg (Subaru), Loeb (Citroen), Xavi Pons (Mitsubishi) 1m 11.8s
SS18: 1214hrs Elverum 2 (44.28km)
A tough final challenge was made even more treacherous by heavy snow
flurries at the start of the stage, although it eased off midway through
the test. Petter completed the section in 24m 15.8s and said: "That was
really good fun. Henning stalled at the start of the stage, but we had
no chance because the gap was so big. I'm very happy with my result and
I did everything I could to hold onto third place, but that's life."
Chris finished with a time of 24m 41.5s, which placed him eighth fastest
on the test. He said: "We got to the end of the rally, so that counts
Fastest time: Marcus Gronholm (Ford) 24m 10.3s
Subaru World Rally Team Managing Director, Richard Taylor: "Of course we would have liked to have seen Petter on the podium, but our objective when we came here was to get a solid points finish, and we've succeeded in doing that. Unfortunately the tyre nominations we made a fortnight ago didn't give us enough choice of long-studded tyres to enable Petter to compete properly with Henning today. Chris has had a tough rally and the car has not felt quite right to him, but he's learned a lot. This is a unique snow event, very different to his previous experience in Sweden, and he has come away with a lot more knowledge for the future. Overall, we're reasonably happy with the performance of our 2006 car on its last event and now look forward to the debut of our 2007 car in Mexico."
Petter Solberg: "It was a shame that Henning got past me, but I'm still happy with this result in the circumstances. We couldn't have gone any quicker. We have been very realistic about what we can achieve on this rally and we have followed our strategy accordingly. The main thing was for us to finish in the points and not make any mistakes. This was the final rally with the WRC2006 and the points we've got here are very important for the season. It has been an incredible experience to drive these stages in front of so many spectators and see so many Norwegian flags."
Chris Atkinson: "It's been a tough rally for us, although there's no doubt that without the mistake on Saturday morning we would have been in the points. I have struggled a bit with my confidence this weekend compared to Sweden. I haven't been able to have the same feeling with the car. Now this rally is over we can start to look forward to Mexico and the first rally with the new WRC2007. We can make some steps forward now."
Matthieu Bonardel, BFGoodrich Rally Manager: "It was a good result to be close to the podium in the final rally for this car. This was the team's third rally using BFGoodrich tyres and the second on snow and ice, although it was a completely different event compared to Sweden, where there was less grip overall for drivers. Petter managed to secure a good fourth and that leaves him in a good position to climb the next three steps of the podium with the new Impreza rally car. We are looking forward to working with Subaru to develop the potential of the 2007 Impreza on BFGoodrich tyres."
The next event After the asphalt of Monte Carlo and the ice of Sweden and Norway, next the World Rally Championship shifts to its first gravel event, Rally Mexico, which takes place in the mountains of the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato, just outside Leon. The flowing Mexican roads traditionally suit Subaru very well -- Petter Solberg won there in 2005 -- and the event will mark the debut of the new Impreza WRC2007.