Petter Solberg recorded his fourth podium finish of the year today when he secured third place on the Rally of Turkey. In a thrilling final Leg battle, Petter set a string of fastest stage times to pile the pressure on the leaders and narrow the...
Petter Solberg recorded his fourth podium finish of the year today when he secured third place on the Rally of Turkey. In a thrilling final Leg battle, Petter set a string of fastest stage times to pile the pressure on the leaders and narrow the gap to second place. Having won 39 special stages so far this season, Solberg maintains his position as the fastest driver in the series, six ahead of his nearest WRC rival Sebastien Loeb. Mikko Hirvonen brought his Subaru safely to the finish in sixth place to add to the Subaru points haul.
SS14 0748 Olympos 1 (33.35km)
Of the two different stages that made up Leg three, the 33km
Olympos test was the critical one where gains and losses were most
likely to be made. The medium-twisty road featured some of the roughest
sections of the rally, including two water splashes and a surface
scattered with rocks and stones. Last year's frozen conditions meant
that most of the rocks were held solid in the ice, but roasting
temperatures on this occasion made the going even more treacherous. All
eyes were on the lead trio of Loeb, Gronholm and Solberg as they jostled
for podium positions. Overnight, the job of catching leader Sebastien
Loeb became more difficult when a 10 second penalty given to him for a
jump-start on SS9 was removed by event stewards after an appeal.
Gronholm pushed hard regardless and set the fastest stage time to close
the gap to 20 seconds, while Petter Solberg set the second-quickest
time, just 0.4 seconds slower than Marcus. Loeb was third and conceded
5.9 seconds of his overall lead, but the podium positions remained
unchanged. With almost no breeze blowing over the mountain raods, dust
from the speeding cars hung in the air, and some of the faster
competitors, including sixth-fastest Mikko Hirvonen, struggled as they
caught the cars ahead.
Fastest: Gronholm (Peugeot) 25:17.9
SS15 0906 Aspendos 1 (5.60km)
In marked contrast to the arduous Olympos stage, SS15 presented
drivers with a 5.6km high-speed dash along a coastal road near the
service area in Kemer. Not much longer than a super special, the
predominantly wide and downhill stage produced some extremely close
competition. Petter Solberg and Sebastien Loeb set exactly the same
fastest time, while third-quickest Marcus Gronholm was a mere 0.4
seconds behind. Francois Duval was fourth and Gilles Panizzi, who
re-started after retiring on Leg 2, was fifth. Mikko Hirvonen was tenth
quickest after losing time with a spin on the loose gravel. Behind the
podium race, most of the other top-ten places were relatively well
spaced out and as many competitors drove to consolidate positions rather
than improve on them, the gap between the lead group and the rest of the
field became more pronounced. After the stage, crews returned to Kemer
for the final 20-minute service.
Fastest: Solberg/Loeb (Subaru/Citroen) 3:52.8
SS16 1147 Olympos 2 (33.35km)
With a possible second place tantalisingly close, Petter Solberg
gave the repeated Olympos stage his best shot in an effort to close the
34-second gap to Marcus Gronholm. As the tension mounted, Gronholm's
Peugeot developed a gear-selection problem and split times along the
35km test showed that at the mid-point he was 22 seconds slower that
Solberg. By the finish line however Gronholm had picked up the pace and
reduced the deficit, but the combination of the problem, and Petter's
excellent time, had brought the gap down to 18 seconds. Sebastien Loeb
was Solberg's closest challenger on the stage, and his time was enough
to keep him in a comfortable lead with one stage remaining.
Fastest: Solberg (Subaru) 25:00.3
SS17 Aspendos 2 (5.60km)
The last stage may only have been five kilometres long, but as
two of the top three drivers experienced problems, it was the setting
for a nail-biting and incident-filled finale. In a dramatic turn of
events, rally leader Sebastien Loeb experienced brake problems on his
Citroen Xsara WRC and lost time as the system overheated. The Frenchman
pressed on regardless and crossed the finish line to take the rally win.
But for Loeb it wasn't the end of the story. On the road section back to
service, an overheating brake-disc set fire to one of his tyres and he
was forced to remove the wheel and drive the rest of the trip on the
three that remained. In the battle for second place, Marcus Gronholm
continued to struggle with a gear selection problem. Solberg tried
everything possible to catch him, but after a tremendous push, in which
he reeled in almost eight seconds over the short distance, the Peugeot
driver had just enough time in reserve to beat him. Mikko Hirvonen
rounded off a successful Rally of Turkey with a fifth-fastest time to
secure sixth overall.
Fastest: Solberg (Subaru) 3:52.4
I'm quite happy to be on the podium again. Overall I think the performance has been good. We could have done so much better if it wasn't for the first day. It's unfortunate, but that's how it is. Second place this morning looked possible, especially when I heard the splits. Although we tried everything we could, it just wasn't possible to close the gap on the guys up ahead. Looking forward, I'm feeling very optimistic about Argentina. I've done well on every rally so far and I hope it's going to be a good fight all the way this year.
We got some more points for ourselves and Subaru so are very pleased. The event was rougher than I thought it would be and extremely hard on the tyres. The next two events should prove good for me as there is much more fast stuff, which is what I prefer, and I'm looking forward to the cooler conditions of Argentina.
David Lapworth, Team Principal
We have to be pleased that we have come out of this event with a podium place and six points for Petter. Petter remains the only leading driver to have scored points on every round this year and from a Championship perspective we remain in a strong position. Mikko has got another important finish under his belt and we've been working on particular aspects of his driving here in Turkey. He's learned a lot, gained valuable experience of another entire event and contributed more points to the Team's effort.
News from Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
The key to this most difficult rally was finding the right rhythm after the unusual conditions of wet mud on the first day. Petter maintained his podium position thanks to the high durability of the P Zero XR tyre which made a big difference on the hardest stages.
Next Event Rally Argentina: July 16-18 2004 Teams cross the Atlantic for the next round of the 2004 World Rally Championship, the Rally of Argentina, which starts on Friday 16 July. In contrast to the recent rough events, Argentina is a smoother, faster gravel rally, which will also be considerably cooler this year thanks to a calendar shift to the winter.