Petter Solberg dominated today's action and consolidated his position at the top of the leaderboard. Having led the event from the outset, the reigning World Champion scored six wins out of seven stages today to take his total on the event to nine.
Petter Solberg dominated today's action and consolidated his position at the top of the leaderboard. Having led the event from the outset, the reigning World Champion scored six wins out of seven stages today to take his total on the event to nine. He will start tomorrow more than a minute ahead of second-placed Sebastien Loeb. Mikko Hirvonen re-started today after his retirement in Leg one. Although ineligible to score Championship points, the young Finn demonstrated his potential at the wheel of his Impreza WRC2004 and set the second fastest time on SS10.
SS7: 0854 Sas Molas 1 (28.62km)
Continuing yesterday's winning pace, Subaru's Petter Solberg was fastest on the first pass through the narrow Sas Molas stage to extend his overall lead and take his fourth win of the event. Marcus Gronholm was second fastest, 5.2 seconds off Petter's time, while Sebastien Loeb was a further 3.6 seconds back in third. A good stage for Mikko Hirvonen. Having re-joined the event using the WRC re-start system, the young Subaru driver was fourth fastest, finishing ahead of far more experienced drivers, such as Markko Martin, Carlos Sainz and Francois Duval. Taking crews through a series of flowing corners, across a short stretch of tarmac and over a long, narrow medium-fast section, the loose surface stage featured a softer base than those used in Leg one. Running seventh on the road, Harri Rovanpera complained of poor visibility as he caught the clouds of dust kicked up by the cars in front, while Peugeot privateer Nicolas Vouilloz drove off the road and out of the rally. After the test was complete, crews drove a short 5.92km liaison section to the start of SS8.Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 19:17.3
SS8: 0939 Le Sughere 1 (9.06km)
Solberg was again fastest on the first pass through the short 9km stage from Le Sughere. Negotiating the stage's blend of slippery long straights and tight, loose surface hairpin bends, the Norwegian set an average speed of 83.87kph to clinch his second consecutive win of the day. Gronholm was 1.9 seconds slower in second, while Loeb was a further 1.5 seconds back for third. Mikko Hirvonen had another trouble free run and was fourth fastest, but there were problems for remaining Skoda driver, Armin Schwarz. After starting the stage late, the German broke one of his Fabia's front wishbones and lost over eleven minutes to the leaders. He was able to complete the test, but with 120km remaining before the next service, he retired his Fabia at the finish. After losing his Leg one battle for overall fourth with Sainz, Martin was back on the attack. He was 0.4 seconds faster than the Spaniard on this stage, but at the finish remained 4.7 seconds behind overall. Once the stage was complete, the remaining crews moved to the start of SS9.Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 6:28.9
SS9: 1031 Tandalo' 1 (34.21km)
Starting 700 metres above sea level, peaking at 950 metres and then descending to 200 metres, the narrow, loose surface Tandalo stage was the longest of the event. It was also a disappointing one for the Peugeot team as both works drivers tumbled out of the top ten. Engine problems, including a broken turbo, cost Marcus Gronholm more than 23 minutes and any realistic hope of a strong points finish. Simultaneously, the 307 WRC of his team-mate Harri Rovanpera developed an electronics problem which affected its gearbox and meant he could only engage first gear. Unable to continue at a competitive pace, he retired from the event. There were problems too for Francois Duval, who went off the road and hit a wall near the start line. The incident damaged the right rear suspension and cost the young Belgian six minutes, but he remained in sixth place overall thanks to Peugeot's misfortune. Looking to the leaders, Solberg was fastest, with Loeb second and Sainz third. Hirvonen maintained his impressive pace and set another fourth fastest time. After the finish, crews returned to Olbia for a 20-minute service.Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 25:26.0
SS10: 1401 Lovia Avra (4.21km)
Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen were fastest in their blue Imprezas through the short test from Lovia Avra, to score a Subaru one-two. Setting an average speed of 80.06kph, Solberg increased his overall lead to more than a minute, while Hirvonen achieved his best result of the event so far. Broadcast live on national television, the stage took crews along a confined, sandy narrow road that was lined by large boulders. Sainz was third fastest and Gronholm, who had had his 307's turbo problem rectified in the preceding service, was fourth. After the finish, crews completed a 46km road liaison section to the start of the repeated SS11. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 3:09.3
SS11: 1506 Sas Molas 2 (28.62km)
Putting his earlier difficulties behind him, Marcus Gronholm was fastest through the repeated Sas Molas test to end Solberg's monopoly of wins. However, Petter remained on the pace and, finishing just 1.4 seconds slower than the Finn, was faster than closest rival Loeb to extend his lead to 1 minute 2 seconds. Having proved his pace on the morning's loop of stages, Mikko Hirvonen used the afternoon's second pass to experiment with different car set-ups for future gravel events and was sixth fastest. Martin was third fastest as he continued his charge to catch Sainz, but at the finish he remained 8.6 seconds adrift of the Spaniard's overall time. Loeb was fourth fastest and Sainz fifth. After the repeated narrow, ascending stage was complete, crews moved to the start of SS12. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 19:04.3
SS12: 1551 Le Sughere 2 (9.06km)
Solberg was back on top for the penultimate stage of the day to finish fastest and take his eighth win of the event. By the finish, the Subaru star had increased his commanding lead to 1 minute 3.8 seconds. Martin was second fastest, while Gronholm, Loeb and Sainz were also on the pace and completed the test within two seconds of Solberg's time. Despite continuing to eat into Sainz's overall third position, Ford's Martin could not quite snatch the place and, at the finish, a gap of 6.8 seconds remained between them. The stages mixture of slippery fast straights and tight hairpins bought no leading WRC retirements and, after the stage was complete, crews moved to the start of SS13. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 6:21.2
SS13: 1643 Tandalo' 2 (34.21km)
Solberg powered through the final stage in his Pirelli shod Subaru Impreza WRC2004 to shave 31.5 seconds off his previous Tandalo' stage time and take his sixth win of the event. Completing the narrow, technical test 7.7 seconds quicker than the rest of the field, the reigning World Champion ended the day with a healthy lead overall. Loeb was second fastest through the rutted road, while Gronholm, no longer able to challenge for the lead after losing 20 minutes earlier in the day, was third fastest. Martin was fourth, ahead of Sainz, but his pace was not enough to take overall third and he would start the final day with a 2.9 second deficit to the Spaniard. The stage was to be the last of the event for Petter's brother Henning Solberg, who went off road and sustained damage to his Bozian prepared Peugeot 206. He was able to complete the test, but not the 54.68km road section back to service and he retired. Hirvonen completed an encouraging day by finishing sixth fastest and, after the finish, crews returned to Olbia for a 45-minute service. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 24:54.5
It's been really good fun out there. A perfect day with no problems at all and everything has worked well. The stages were better today than yesterday. It's still been tough, but we've done seven stages and to win six of those is not too bad at all. Of course, it's difficult to fight for the championship when Sebastien is so close behind me, but all I can do is carry on and concentrate on doing the best job I can. It won't be an easy day tomorrow, I have to keep my concentration, but I'm looking forward to it, so let's see what happens.
Overall it's been a good day. I had quite a steady run in the morning and the times were good. It's just a shame because we could have been fighting for a good finish. In the afternoon we knew things would be tough because we had to compromise on our tyre choice. We changed the suspension settings too and tested a possible set-up for Australia. Even with tyres that weren't an ideal choice, I was pleased with the way we went. In many ways it was helpful to be in this position as I had to concentrate on driving smoothly and neatly to minimize tyre wear, and I'm happy with the progress I've made. Tomorrow we'll carry on learning and concentrating more on developing a good set-up for Australia.
Sporting Director, Luis Moya:
It has been a fantastic day for Petter, the car and the tyres, everything worked really smoothly, no problems whatsoever. Despite having a good lead Petter was able to take six fastest times from seven stages without pushing hard and we just hope he can so the same again tomorrow. I think today we have seen probably the best performance from Mikko since he joined the team. We are very pleased to see that even in these narrow and tricky stages he's shown a very competitive pace and we believe that given more time and experience his speed will continue to increase in all conditions.
News from Pirelli
, Pirelli Tyres Director of Motorsport:
It's been an excellent second Leg in which Petter, using the new P Zero KP tyre, was quickest on six of the seven stages run. He managed to consolidate his grip on this rally with some excellent driving on the fast, but compact, roads around the Oschiri region.