At the end of the second day of competition on Wales Rally GB, Petter Solberg holds second place overall, 44 seconds behind the leading Citroen of Sebastien Loeb. Solberg enjoyed another incident-free day on the Welsh gravel stages and his Impreza...
At the end of the second day of competition on Wales Rally GB, Petter Solberg holds second place overall, 44 seconds behind the leading Citroen of Sebastien Loeb. Solberg enjoyed another incident-free day on the Welsh gravel stages and his Impreza WRC2005 ran faultlessly over the day's 103 competitive kilometres. Solberg's team-mates Chris Atkinson and Stephane Sarrazin both retired from the Leg after separate incidents in the morning. Chris will re-start the event tomorrow under Superally regulations, but the damage to Stephane's car was too extensive to allow him to continue.
SS7 1028hrs Crychan 1 (19.47km)
Leg two of Wales Rally GB started at 0900hrs with a 10 minute
service. Ford privateer Jari-Matti Latvala was scheduled to be first on
the road, but left service 12 minutes late after detecting an alternator
problem. The Finn stopped on the road section to the stage to finish the
repairs and eventually started seventh on the road with a two minute
penalty. Subaru's Chris Atkinson clipped the apex of a right hand bend
seven kilometres from the start line and spun his car. The Impreza
WRC2005 slid down a steep slope and came to rest undamaged but 10 feet
below the stage. Despite their best efforts, Atkinson and co-driver
Glenn Macneall were unable to re-join the road and the pair retired from
the Leg. Skoda's British hero Colin McRae experienced problems with his
semi-automatic gearshift and switched to a slower manual system, while
Henning Solberg spun at a right-hand bend after hitting a pile of logs
and damaged the rear left wheel and exhaust of his Focus. He finished
the speed test 1m 16s slower than stage winner Loeb, who extended his
lead over Petter Solberg by a further six seconds. Ford's Toni
Gardemeister did not start the Leg after he was disqualified by Stewards
at the end of Leg one for running a car that was four kilograms
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 10:26.3
SS8 1106hrs Epynt 1 (13.33km)
The fast 13.33km Epynt stage, the highest of the rally, provided
a tough test for crews. The route covered some very long downhill
adverse-camber corners near the start, before joining onto a new road.
Just over six kilometres from the start of the stage Stephane Sarrazin
slid straight ahead at a junction and into a bank. His car suffered
frontal damage and Stephane retired from the Leg and the rally.
Citroen's Loeb set the fastest time for the second consecutive stage to
extend his lead over Solberg to just under 20 seconds. The Peugeot duo
of Martin and Gronholm were third and fourth respectively, with Martin's
time moving him to within two seconds of fifth-placed Duval in the
overall classification. Gronholm's charge narrowed the gap to Rovanpera
in third overall to under 25 seconds after the Mitsubishi driver
suffered a puncture out on the stage.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 7:20.3
SS9 1141hrs Halfway 1 (18.58km)
The first part of the tricky Halfway stage was run through a
forested area with the second part on military ranges. After a very
tight hairpin corner near the start, the road swooped downhill to a
right hander over a bridge and a couple of jumps in the middle of the
wood. Crews then passed through a quarry before a flat out sprint to the
finish. Loeb took his third stage win of the day, three seconds ahead of
Marcus Gronholm. Loeb's Citroen team-mate Duval was third with Solberg
fourth in his Subaru Impreza WRC2005, just under five seconds slower
than Loeb. Colin McRae dropped out of the top ten as his protegee Kris
Meeke set the tenth fastest stage time to move to tenth overall. After
the stage crews headed back to Felindre for a 30 minute service.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 10:22.5
SS10 1523hrs Crychan 2 (19.47km)
The first stage run after service took crews back to the
forests. The section started in a new location this year, but was
otherwise identical to 2004. The fast, narrow 19.47km Crychan saw crews
soar over some big jumps and water ranges before coming into a tight
section nicknamed the 'orange road' on account of the pine needles that
cover the ground. The second run of the stage gave much faster times
than the earlier morning session, with Loeb taking his fourth stage win
of Leg two, almost ten seconds faster than his previous time. Marcus
Gronholm continued to hunt down Rovanpera, classified third overall, by
setting the second fastest stage time and closing the gap to just over
eleven seconds. Subaru's Petter Solberg was third quickest through the
speed test and saw the gap to overall leader Loeb grow to 27 seconds. In
the battle for fifth overall, Francois Duval extended the gap back to
sixth-placed Markko Martin by a further six seconds with fourth fastest
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 10:17.7
SS11 1601hrs Epynt 2 (13.33km)
Conditions on the second run through Epynt were exceptionally
dry, with drivers reporting a dusty, hard, granite-like road. Sebastien
Loeb continued his clean sweep of Leg two wins with his fifth fastest
time of the day, three seconds quicker than team-mate Duval. Gronholm
moved to within seven seconds of Harri Rovanpera with the third-fastest
stage time, while Mitsubishi's Galli posted his best stage result of the
day in fourth. Petter Solberg dropped a further five seconds to overall
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 7:13.3
SS12 1636hrs Halfway 2 (18.58km)
Loeb was quickest again on the re-run of the Halfway stage.
Marcus Gronholm was only three seconds slower than the Frenchman and
finally snatched third overall from Harri Rovanpera after the Mitsubishi
driver encountered problems with his gearbox. The Finn lost third gear
and over half a minute to Loeb. His mechanical problems dropped him to
fifth overall as Francois Duval also edged ahead. Citroen privateer
Manfred Stohl negotiated the stage in the fourth quickest time, ahead of
Petter Solberg. The Subaru driver finished the stage eleven seconds
behind Loeb as the gap to the rally leader was extended to just under 45
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 10:15.8
SS13 1859hrs Cardiff Spectator Stage (1.1km)
For the first time ever, World Rally Championship cars ran
undercover. The fully retractable roof on Cardiff's Millennium Stadium
was partially closed to provide an electric atmosphere for the 20,000
spectators who filled the stadium. The figure of eight track was run on
concrete after the grass was removed on pallets to be stored in a secret
location. Owing to unprecedented demand, organisers opened the upper
tier of the stadium's seats and the crowd, including the Deputy Lord
Mayor of Cardiff, Monica Walsh, watched as local hero Mark Higgins
posted the fastest stage time to move into tenth overall. The twisty
track provided plenty of entertainment as several drivers hit the
barriers, including Roman Kresta, who hit the inflatable arch marking
the finish line. Loeb was second quickest, narrowly missing out on
taking a clean sweep of stage wins, with Martin third. Petter Solberg
finished just over one second behind Higgins in front of co-driver
Mills' home crowd.
Fastest Stage Time: Higgins (Ford) 1:03.8
Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth
Petter's had a good day, but today Sebastien's pace has proved just a bit too much for us. Petter's driven well, we've had no technical problems and the tyres choices have been good. All we can hope now is that we can maintain this kind of pace and keep Loeb under pressure. There is still a long way to go tomorrow and Petter will give it his best shot. Obviously it's been a disappointing day for both Chris and Stephane. The plan was for both of them to start to build their speed a little today. But unfortunately they both succumbed to small but costly mistakes. The extent of the damage to Stephane's car means he will be unable to continue tomorrow, but at least Chris will get the chance to show his speed on the remaining four stages.
I've enjoyed the day and overall the feeling in the car is okay but I wish we were able to get closer to Sebastien. I particularly liked the stage inside the stadium - it was great fun and I hope the spectators enjoyed it as much as I did. We're trying as hard as we can out there, going absolutely flat out, but it doesn't seem to be quite enough. Sebastien is doing a good job and we have to work to find some solution to get quicker. I like tomorrow's stages, they're very good and there's still a long way to go, so I won't give up.
Not such a good day. I was on a slow, tightening corner when the front wheel just caught the apex and spun the car around. We dropped off the road a fair way into some bushes and there was no way for us to get back on the stage. It's a shame because before the incident the car and the tyres had felt excellent. We were running at a pace that wasn't far off the guys with much more experience, and when you're pushing harder then sometimes mistakes happen. The one consolation is that the car is absolutely fine and we can re-join the rally again tomorrow.
I'm disappointed not to be able to finish this event. It was a simple mistake in one junction; I began to make a right turn when in fact the note was for a left. The car went straight on and the front end was damaged on a low bank. Up until that point things had been getting steadily better. The speed was building and I was getting closer and closer to the competition. Generally though and despite the crash, there are quite a lot of positives to take from this rally, it's still only my third ever gravel event and Denis and I were making good progress. Now we'll concentrate on the next event in Corsica and hopefully a better result.
News From Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
It's been another day of extremely unusual conditions which have not been entirely representative of the expected weather on this event. Petter has done an extremely good job to maintain his position under difficult circumstances so we look forward to him taking a well-deserved podium place tomorrow.
Cars leave Felindre Parc Ferme from 0700hrs for a ten minute service. Although Leg three is the shortest day of the event, with only two stages run twice, it has a real sting in the tail. The gruelling 29.39km Resolfen and 27.42km Margam stages are the longest of the event and are run on rocky, twisty ground through forest and parkland to the east of Swansea. The ceremonial finish is scheduled to take place in Cardiff from 14.00.