Leg Two News Championship leader SÃ©bastien Loeb (Citroen) inherited a comfortable lead following GrÃ¶nholm's retirement and immediately eased his pace to protect his advantage. However, he still won four stages and leads Hirvonen by ...
Leg Two News
Championship leader Sébastien Loeb (Citroen) inherited a comfortable lead following Grönholm's retirement and immediately eased his pace to protect his advantage. However, he still won four stages and leads Hirvonen by 2min 17.0sec. The Frenchman hit the same rock as Grönholm but escaped with no damage. Henning Solberg (Peugeot) held third but the Norwegian retired on the last stage this morning after hitting a tree and holing his car's radiator. Dani Sordo (Citroen) and Gigi Galli (Peugeot) therefore enjoyed a titanic fight for third. They swapped places four times before Sordo eased ahead on the final test by 1.3sec. However, Galli damaged his engine and stopped on the liaison section back to Olbia this evening so Xavi Pons (Citroen) completed the top four. Galli will not restart tomorrow. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) climbed to fifth this morning but a heavy landing over the notorious 'Mickey's Jump' damaged his car's radiator and steering. Repairs in service took longer than expected and he incurred a 2min 20sec penalty. He slipped to eighth but recovered to fifth.
Kronos Total Citroen
There were as many twists and turns to day two as there were over the harsh Sardinian landscape, in conditions that were as hot as those of the opening leg yesterday. The three Kronos Racing crews proved to be as fast and reliable as their Xsara WRCs, coming into their own through six demanding stages. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena end the day in the lead, Dani Sordo/Marc Marti are third, while Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio finish fourth.
Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "Before Monte Lerno [SS8], I made an adjustment to the suspension. From the start of the stage I could tell that it did not result in the improvement I had hoped for. At the 24th kilometre, according to Daniel, a big impact with a rock embedded in the road surface hit the front of the car. It made me think briefly of the two incidents in Mexico and Catalunya 2004 that had forced me into retirement. But I also remembered that compared to those two occasions, the impact had been on the 'good' side of the car - the bit under the gearbox rather than the engine. The handling didn't seem to be affected, so I continued to push. Then we were told that Marcus had retired, putting us in the lead. At the end of the stage I examined the car carefully, but there was no real damage. The Xsara is certainly tough ! Afterwards, it was a question of controlling the situation, while still pushing hard enough to feel comfortable. It's at that sort of pace when you can drive most safely. »
Xavier Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: "I decided to protect those precious six points, which I would be really pleased to bring home to the team. I was very areful not to make any mistakes, and I plan to be extra careful tomorrow. »
The "Rally Italia Sardegna" proved unlucky for the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team so far. After Henning Solberg had managed to reach the podium following special stage eight, he had to retire during the next stage. The OMV driver hit a tree on SS 9 just 300 metres short of the finish, thereby drifting off the road. Driver and co-driver remained unhurt but the Peugeot 307 WRC was too heavily damaged to continue the rally. Meanwhile Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor are fighting to score one or more WRC-points.
Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "I really can't put my finger to it. Probably the whole package is lacking something here - including me. I never seem to gather real speed but I couldn't say where I'm loosing time. Currently we are testing a different set-up so that we might be able to improve our performance on Sunday."
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "We didn't want to risk any engine failure, therfore we didn't even try to go on. Exchanging the engine would cost us a 90-seconds penalty for Greece. But the damage isn't too bad. Just a small hole in the radiator. SupeRally on Sunday would be possible but we'll have to discuss this with the team first. The retirement did obviously hurt. But the rally proved to us that we can keep up with the speed of the top drivers on gravel."
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are chasing a career-best result after climbing to second during today's second leg of Rally d'Italia Sardegna. The Finns, who finished third in Spain last year, set a strong pace in their Focus RS World Rally Car over the gravel tracks on the sun-kissed Mediterranean island to hold a comfortable advantage over their pursuers. Hirvonen restarted in third this morning but inherited second following the retirement of team-mates and overnight leaders Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen. The double world champions hit a rock on this morning's second speed test and broke the sump on their Focus RS. Retirement was instant and the damage was such that they will be unable to restart tomorrow under SupeRally.
Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "Everything was going fine as we approached a left corner just before a hairpin right. I even braked early because I wasn't in a hurry and there was no pressure. But there was a big stone on the line and I hit it under braking. It was a surprise because I didn't see it and I hit it with the middle of the left wheel. There was a big bang as the rock hit the sump and the oil pressure warning light came on. I thought it was a sensor problem initially so I continued for another 800 metres but the engine oil had come out and I had to stop.
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "I had no battles today and it's hard to drive like that because I didn't find a rhythm and I lost concentration. I stepped up the pace a little this afternoon and it felt better. I enjoyed the stages more. Maybe driving flat out is a better choice. It's important to finish this rally for me and the team. I remember some sections of tomorrow's stages from when I competed on the Costa Smeralda Rally but it will be tough with no service during the day and I need to be really careful. I've never been in a position to take a podium where I've not had to take risks and push so this is new for me and I need to be sharp."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford
The second day of Rally d'Italia Sardegna was one of mixed fortune for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team. Matthew Wilson and Luis Perez Companc enjoyed a solid runs through the 137km of stage distance however the team's highest placed driver, Kosti Katajamaki, rolled his car early in the first stage of the afternoon.
Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "It's so slippery it's unbelievable. There's a slight line but there's still a lot of loose there. I just driving without full confidence and there's places where it feels really good then there's places where I'm not trusting the notes. This morning's the first competitive miles we've had so it's just getting into it, and it's alright considering. I had a really long brake pedal in the last stage and that wasn't the nicest feeling. There's a big jump and the Focus flew really well, it felt unbelievably high, but then you just land and carry on. We haven't had to stop in a stage and get out a single time today, which is always a good sign."
Luis Perez Companc/Jose-Maria Volta: "It was a very good morning with a very good three stages and good times. I went off at a junction on the second stage and there was contact with the bottom of the car. The stages are better than yesterday and they were better the second time through as they were cleaner than this morning. It was very tough in the last two stages, however, where we had no brakes as they were so hot. In the last stage they were practically nothing. But, we've had good luck and we're here at the end of the day."
Kosti Katajamaki/Timo Alanne: "I hit a rock in the morning but everything was okay although the engine stopped and took eight seconds to restart. It was more slippery than I expected, I went a little bit too wide and hit the rock in the morning. I was hoping it would be a little bit cleaner the second time through, but I didn't hear a pace note and that was my rally over."
Chris Atkinson continues to lead the Subaru World Rally Team's challenge on the second day of Rally d'Italia Sardegna. With six more stages to run tomorrow Chris holds fifth place overnight. After retiring from the first day of the competition, Petter Solberg restarted with the primary objective of testing set-ups for the forthcoming gravel rallies. The Norwegian demonstrated the performance potential of the Subaru Impreza WRC2006 by setting four top three stage times and winning SS10 outright.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: It's not as exciting as fighting for the lead but I've done my best out there today. We've been able to prove that we're quick when things work well and we've been able to gather data and try some new things. Tomorrow we'll continue to make the most of the opportunity to test."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "We've had a good afternoon and managed to claw back some of the time we lost earlier with the jump and the service penalty. After dropping down to eighth we're back up to fifth now. I think it's going to be tough to go any higher but we'll keep pushing tomorrow."
Red Bull-Skoda Team
Red Bull Skoda driver Andreas Aigner started the second day of Rally Sardinia as first car on the road, just like he did in Corsica. Finnish driver Harri Rovanpera, who had to start the second day in 19th after retiring yesterday due to a broken differential, was able to improve substantially today, moving up into 14th position:
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietiläinen: "On SS 9 I posted my first top ten stage time of this rally. The car was much easier to drive today after various changes to the setup. To improve the balance of the car even further we also changed the entire rear axle suspension of the Fabia WRC at today's midday service. For tomorrow I hope to further improve my times and to reduce the gap to the competition."
Andreas Aigner/Timo Gottschalk: "The road surface was very loose and slippery. Being the first car to start the stages there were obviously no tracks to follow. That made them not too pleasant to drive, after all I didn't want to make the same mistake as in Corsica. On a positive note I felt very confident at the wheel of the Fabia WRC the whole day long, and I was able to move up one position. Also I was delighted by the droves of Austrian fans with their flags, they motivated me a lot."