Subaru World Rally Team Summary
Subaru World Rally Team driver Chris Atkinson finished sixth on Rally Turkey today after a tense final Leg of competition which brought multiple changes to the top ten. Atkinson started the day in a realistic pursuit of third place, but a small mistake on the second test dropped him into the frantic battle for fourth instead. After 351 stage kilometres in some extremely difficult conditions, Chris finished the rally just nine seconds adrift of fourth place and 30.5 seconds off the podium. After retiring on the second Leg, Petter Solberg restarted today to test different settings for the forthcoming gravel events. Solberg set the quickest time on two of the three stages.
SS17: 0948HRS TEKIROVA 2 (5.50KM)
Crews left the Parc Ferme under a cloudless sky for the final loop of
three stages. With just 50 competitive kilometres remaining and an
overall lead of more than two minutes, Marcus Gronholm took things steady
over the short, repeated Tekirova test and set the fourth fastest time.
But with less than a minute separating third to seventh places,
competition further down the order raged on. Stage winner was Francois
Duval, closely followed by Xavier Pons and then Manfred Stohl. Chris
Atkinson in the leading Subaru had his sights set on Henning
Solberg's third place - he took a couple of seconds from the
Norwegian's advantage and reduced it to 15.9sec.
Fastest Time: Duval (Skoda) 4:11.5
SS18: 1031HRS CHIMERA 2 (16.91KM)
After retiring on Saturday afternoon, Petter Solberg re-started on Leg
three and set the fastest time, his sixth of the rally, on SS11. Marcus
Gronholm was second fastest with Dani Sordo third. The time moved Sordo
up a place to eighth, ahead of Duval who struggled with a puncture and
two stalls. Problems too for Chris Atkinson who spun and took a while to
get going again - Katajamaki moved ahead of him into fourth as a result.
On course for the first WRC podium or his career, Henning Solberg was
fourth fastest despite reporting a front brake problem. Colin McRae also
complained of technical difficulties - his Xsara had a high water
temperature and was down on power.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 12:06.0
SS19: 1119HRS OLYMPOS (28.55KM)
The rally ended with one of its longest stages, but far from being a procession to the line, for most drivers there was still plenty to play for. Fastest over the 28km section was Petter Solberg, who was using Leg three as an opportunity to test the increasingly competitive Impreza WRC2006. Although the time made no difference to his overall placing, he remained positive about his improving pace throughout the event. The first change to the top-ten came when Citroen's Colin McRae retired mid-stage with an electrical problem. This bunched things up further and a second fastest time for Sordo moved him up from ninth to seventh, while an excellent finish from Pons moved him from sixth to fourth. Chris Atkinson had a trouble free run but lost out in the nip and tuck battle and dropped to sixth. After making repairs to a broken brake pipe before the start, Henning Solberg finished third - his highest finish in a WRC event. There were no dramas for the lead Fords; Gronholm took the rally win, the 23rd of his career, while Mikko Hirvonen equalled his best ever WRC result by finishing second. Solberg (Subaru) 21:47.3
SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM MANAGING DIRECTOR, RICHARD TAYLOR:
"We leave Turkey in better shape than we have the past few events. Petter collected seven fastest stage times, more than any other event this year. We were unfortunate not to get at least one car on the podium after determined drives in difficult conditions from both crews. We know that the development direction we are taking is correct and we are continuing to improve the car's performance. There is still much more to do, however we are now looking forward to Rally Australia where we hope to be challenging the top of the leaderboard again."
"Apart from hitting the rock yesterday, the rally was actually quite good for us. The car has improved and we enjoyed being back again where we should be. Of course we are not happy with the overall result, but we're happy with the performance. We'll keep pushing harder as we know there is still much more to come."
"It's been a tricky weekend as the speed is encouraging but still we want better results. We struggled with the set-up all weekend and trying to find the right balance, so it's good to get to the finish. We're sure to be trying in Australia as it's my home rally and we led there last year and want to get a strong result."
News from Pirelli
MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER
"The Subaru drivers used the KP tread pattern throughout Rally Turkey. We have seen very challenging and varied conditions with dry gravel, mud, hail and snow all on the stages. Throughout the event the tyres have performed well and it was unfortunate that our drivers were not able to get a better result despite the increase in performance over the previous few rallies."
The Next Event
Round 14 of the 2006 World Rally Championship is Rally Australia, which starts on 27 October. Whilst Europe gears up for winter, Australia is heading for summer and this will be the last time that the rally is held in Perth. Local hero Chris Atkinson mastered the gravel stages to lead in 2005, as did Petter Solberg before an encounter with a kangaroo put him out of the rally. The stages are fast and flowing but the ‘ball bearing' surfaces punish the first car on the road, which has to sweep the surface clean for everybody else. Temperatures are usually hot, adding to the challenge of this extremely popular event.