Subaru World Rally Team driver Chris Atkinson made up three places during today's second Leg of Rally Turkey to end the day fourth overall. With three more stages left to run on Sunday, Atkinson is carrying the flag for Subaru after a stage winning performance from Petter Solberg was brought to an end by a rock on the day's penultimate test. Solberg is expected to re-join the event tomorrow.
SS10: 0833hrs Kemer 1 (20.50km)
Weather conditions for the first test of Leg two were dry, bright and sunny. But after so much rain in the previous 48 hours, the 20km Kemer stage was still wet and muddy in places, especially where it passed through the many shaded woodland sections. Petter Solberg was the early pace-setter and collected his fourth consecutive stage win by finishing 2.2sec quicker than Marcus Gronholm and 9sec ahead of third-placed Mikko Hirvonen. Manfred Stohl posted a slow time, which he put down to a lack of confidence at the wheel of his Peugeot, and dropped to tenth overall. Chris Atkinson also dropped a place, to eighth, after losing time with a new car set-up he felt did not suit the stage.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 14:54.9
SS11: 0921hrs Silyon 1 (27.36km)
Gronholm was quickest, with Hirvonen second and Petter Solberg third. Citroen's replacement driver Colin McRae dropped a place after selecting a tyre unsuited to the conditions; he dropped to seventh, while fellow Xsara driver Xavier Pons moved up to sixth. Henning Solberg said he was lucky to be able to continue at all after hitting a large rock 10km before the finish line. After the stage, crews drove a 74km road section back to Kemer for a 30-minute service halt.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 20:55.9
SS12: 1204hrs Kemer 2 (20.50km)
On the first of the day's repeated tests it was the familiar trio of Gronholm, Solberg and Hirvonen who set the best times. Gronholm was fastest by 2.6sec and extended his overall lead to a shade over 40 seconds, while Solberg remained almost 30 seconds ahead of Hirvonen. The only movement in the top-20 came from Pons, who moved up to fifth place, ahead of Kosti Katajamaki, who had a handbrake problem and stalled mid-way through.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 14:26.7
SS13: 1252hrs Silyon 2 (27.36km)
Mikko Hirvonen was quickest on the repeat of Silyon, beating his Ford team-mate Gronholm by 0.5sec. Petter Solberg was third, his brother Henning fourth while Atkinson rounded off the top five. Disappointing times for Katajamaki and McRae dropped them both behind Atkinson on the overall table. Harri Rovanpera continued to struggle in his Skoda WRC; the experienced Finn was 40sec off the pace which he put down to a bad tyre choice.
Fastest Time: Hirvonen (Ford) 21:21.4
SS14: 1600hrs Chimera 1 (16.91km)
Fresh from another 30-minute service, crews embarked on the day's final loop of three stages. The 16km Chimera section, already one of the hardest of the rally, was made more difficult by the return of the rain and a freak hailstorm which covered the last three kilometres in a blanket of ice and slush. Henning Solberg dropped 50sec with a throttle problem that caused him to drive off the road, while several drivers admitted to easing off in the ice and a particularly muddy section near the middle. For Subaru however, the wet and difficult conditions seemed ideal. Solberg brought his Impreza over the line with a fastest time 9.2sec quicker than Gronholm, who was second. Chris Atkinson was third fastest and moved up a place to fifth overall.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 12:22.5
SS15: 1658hrs Phaselis 2 (29.28km)
The longest stage of the rally brought Petter Solberg's encouraging performance to an abrupt and premature end. Four kilometres from the start line, Solberg's Impreza collided with a large rock in the road and was deflected into a roadside ditch. Despite frantic efforts from Solberg and co-driver Phil Mills the car could not be shifted and Petter had no option but to retire from the Leg. As news of Solberg's accident was relayed to his competitors, Hirvonen and Gronholm cooled their pace, which allowed some new names to feature on the stage classification. Quickest through the 29km section was Dani Sordo, with Katajamaki, also in a Citroen, the next fastest.
Fastest Time: Sordo (Citroen) 24:52.3
SS16: 1911hrs Akdeniz University SSS2 (5.20km)
The final test of the day was the spectator stage in Antalya. Headlights blazing, and in front of thousands of spectators, crews tackled the two lane 5.2km course in pairs. The quickest time was set by Mikko Hirvonen, with McRae just 0.2sec behind in second and Katajamaki third.
Fastest Time: Hirvonen (Ford) 4:06.5
Subaru World Rally Team Managing Director, Richard Taylor:
'I can't believe the contrasts of today. It started so well with Petter's fourth consecutive stage win and, with another one this afternoon, he was edging closer to the lead. Then, on the second last stage, he hit the rock and his rally was over. Chris has had a good day, setting some competitive times and has now moved up to fourth. We will take some positives from here and take a little consolation that, while there is still a lot more to do on the car development, we are certainly now heading in the right direction.' Petter Solberg:
'We came around a corner and the car hit a rock in the road. We bounced off the stage and into a ditch. I can't believe this after we've had so many positives earlier in the rally. It was an incredible feeling to again be fighting at the top, and it's very good to see that everyone's hard work is showing with more speed. There's still more to do, but we're getting back again.'
'The conditions on those last two mountain stages were very difficult. We went for a steady run and were cautious trying not to get caught out by the snow, ice or mud. There's no need to be a hero, however we've again moved up and are in fourth position. Tomorrow we will just continue this approach and try and make up more time and positions.'
News from Pirelli
Mario Isola, Pirelli Competizioni Rally Manager
'Both drivers again used the KP tread pattern throughout the day's stages. We were very pleased that Petter was able to score two stage wins, particularly given the very difficult conditions in the mountains. We hope that tomorrow Petter can restart and again demonstrate the increasing speed of the car and tyre package. We are hopeful too that Chris might yet finish the event with a podium finish.'