WRC

Rally Sardinia: Subaru leg one summary

Chris Atkinson leads the Subaru World Rally Team challenge after the first Leg of Rally d'Italia Sardegna. The Australian drove consistently throughout the day to end Leg one in seventh place overall. Petter Solberg started well and maintained a...

Chris Atkinson leads the Subaru World Rally Team challenge after the first Leg of Rally d'Italia Sardegna. The Australian drove consistently throughout the day to end Leg one in seventh place overall. Petter Solberg started well and maintained a top six position until three punctures in quick succession forced his retirement eight kilometres from the end of the final stage. He will restart tomorrow with the objective of testing for the forthcoming Acropolis Rally.

STAGE REPORTS

SS1: 0846 Terranova 1 (24.10km)

The Subaru World Rally Team had a good start to the 2006 Rally d'Italia Sardegna as Chris Atkinson stormed through the first stage in the second fastest time. Atkinson's team-mate Solberg finished fourth after losing time with a spin. The Norwegian had difficulty manoeuvring his car back onto the narrow road and lost 18secs to stage winner Marcus Gronholm. The loose and slippery surface caused problems for several drivers, including Gigi Galli and Matthew Wilson. The Italian spun five corners from the start, while the young British driver picked up extensive rear suspension damage when he hit a rock one kilometre into the stage. Wilson had started the event with a one minute penalty after his team changed his Focus' engine before Thursday's shakedown.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 17:06.9

SS2: 0958 Onani 1 (18.47km)
The second test started with a long, downhill section with tight corners that pushed brakes and tyres to their limits. Ending with a 1.1km asphalt section, Onani was one of the fastest stages of the event with crews reaching an average speed of more than 90kph. Gronholm extended his overall lead to 20 seconds with his second consecutive stage victory, while Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen was second quickest. Hirvonen's time moved him ahead of Chris Atkinson into second overall. After a slow start to the day, Sébastien Loeb recorded the fifth fastest time and moved ahead of Petter into fourth overall, just 0.5secs from Atkinson in third. Kosti Katajamaki fell from 11th to 14th position when his Focus developed throttle problems, while Wilson lost nearly six minutes to Gronholm as a result of his suspension damage.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 12:46.0

SS3: 1110 Siniscola 1 (22.25km)
Gronholm hit a gate in the early part of the test although still retained the lead of the rally with a third stage win. Henning Solberg was second fastest and moved up two places into fifth, while reigning world champion Loeb was third to vault Atkinson into third overall. The Frenchman finished the morning's loop of stages just 0.3secs shy of second-placed Hirvonen, who had picked up four punctures in three stages. With a road temperature of 34 C, Subaru's Solberg held onto fourth overall but felt his tyre choice was too soft for the conditions. The Norwegian also collected some minor suspension damage after a collision with a rock.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 17:29.3

SS4: 1436 Terranova 2 (24.10km)
After a 30 minute service halt in Olbia, crews headed south for a repeat of the three morning stages. Loeb made amends for his slow start with his first win of the day and leapfrogged Hirvonen into second. Gronholm however retained the overall lead by 39secs with the second fastest time. Petter and brother Henning were evenly matched through the sandy 24.1km pass as they finished just 0.4secs apart. Henning edged closer to Petter in fourth, but both drivers had their share of problems. Henning ran off the road on a short stretch of asphalt while Petter picked up two punctures on the rocky surface. Matthew Wilson's difficult rally continued and he was nearly four minutes slower than Loeb. His team had repaired the Ford's suspension in service however he suffered an ECU problem through the first speed test of the afternoon.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 16:32.4

SS5: 1548 Onani 2 (18.47km)
Loeb carved a further four seconds into Gronholm's lead as he took his second stage win of the day through the repeat of the Onani speed test. After the end of the previous stage Petter Solberg changed one of his two punctured tyres but picked up another puncture through SS5 and lost 48secs to Loeb. The delay allowed brother Henning into fourth and team-mate Chris Atkinson into fifth overall. After reporting he was not completely satisfied with the handling of his Peugeot in the morning's loop of stages, Manfred Stohl recorded his best stage finish of the day in fifth.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 12:27.4

SS6: 1715 Siniscola 2 (22.25km)
In a disappointing turn of events for Subaru, Petter Solberg retired on the final stage of the Leg. The Norwegian started the test with two punctured tyres but by the 14km point the tyres were so badly damaged that he had to stop. Under the FIA regulations, Petter will restart Leg two with a five minute penalty. Henning Solberg was delayed when he stalled the engine and lost 15secs as he tried to restart. He finished the Leg in fourth with a 20secs advantage over Dani Sordo, who had inherited fifth following Petter's retirement. Marcus Gronholm won his fourth stage of the day to finish the Leg with a 35secs gap back to second placed Loeb. Chris Atkinson finished the Leg in seventh overall.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 17:12.8

TEAM QUOTES

SWRT SPORTING DIRECTOR, LUIS MOYA: Obviously we're disappointed for Petter. After the result in Argentina we know he has the speed to challenge the leaders, and he started well today, but this afternoon he's been unable to reach his potential. Mechanically his car has run perfectly but three punctures on the first two afternoon stages meant he was unable to complete the loop. Faced with some extremely difficult conditions Chris has driven consistently without error, conserving his tyres where necessary. Considering Petter's starting position tomorrow and the amount of time lost, his focus for the next two days will be testing. We will use the opportunity to learn as much as we can before the next rally in Greece.

PETTER SOLBERG: It's been a frustrating afternoon and as you'd expect I'm disappointed about not finishing the Leg. As a team we've got a lot of work to do. For the rest of this rally we'll concentrate on testing and trying different set-ups. We need to find some improvement before Greece. That's the plan now.

CHRIS ATKINSON: It's been a tough day. In terms of driving we've run at the same pace all day. Sometimes the stage times were really good, while other times they've not been so great but we did the best we could.

NEWS FROM PIRELLI

MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER: Petter has been very unlucky today and we have to investigate what happened with the three punctures in two stages. Petter was fast in the morning but the tyre choice was too soft. We chose the compound on the overcast conditions, but it proved hotter and sunnier than expected and the tyres were too soft for the temperatures. For Chris everything is working well and we're going in the right direction.

-swrt

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Manfred Stohl , Mikko Hirvonen , Kosti Katajamaki , Henning Solberg , Matthew Wilson , Chris Atkinson , Gigi Galli
Teams Citroën World Rally Team