Just weeks after an inspiring victory on the last WRC round in Australia, Leg 2 in Sanremo turned out to be a disappointing one for the 555 Subaru World Rally Team. Following Solberg's retirement on Friday, Tommi MÃ¤kinen put in a consistent and...
Just weeks after an inspiring victory on the last WRC round in Australia, Leg 2 in Sanremo turned out to be a disappointing one for the 555 Subaru World Rally Team. Following Solberg's retirement on Friday, Tommi Mäkinen put in a consistent and reliable performance in the team's remaining Impreza WRC2003, but on the dry tarmac stages he was unable to challenge the pace of the leaders. The Finn will start tomorrow's final Leg eleventh overall, but still determined to fight for the best position possible.
0920hrs Teglia 1 (52.30km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 35:01.7
At 52km Teglia is the longest asphalt stage in the World Rally Championship and the second longest in the whole 2003 series. The test takes crews on a winding ascent to the summit of Mount Ceppo before a roller coaster 1100m descent through hairpin bends and narrow roads that hug the mountainside. From the valley floor there's another 1000m climb to the Passo Teglia followed by a high-speed dash downhill to the finish line in the town of Rezzo. Taking at least 35 minutes to complete, historically Teglia is where big gains and losses are made on the leaderboard, but on this occasion the two drivers battling for the lead, Sebastien Loeb and Markko Martin, were separated by less than one second. Martin just edged ahead of Loeb to take the stage win, but overall he trailed Loeb by more than a minute. The gap between the pair had widened at the pre-stage service in Imperia when an electrical problem prevented Martin starting his Ford's engine. The fault was eventually fixed, but the Estonian left service three minutes late and collected 30 seconds in penalty time. Championship leader Richard Burns continued to struggle with a lack of confidence behind the wheel of his works Peugeot and dropped down to eleventh, his tenth place snatched by the privateer Peugeot entry of Frenchman Cedric Robert. A tyre vibration cost 555 Subaru driver Tommi Mäkinen some time, and this combined with a fine performance from tarmac expert Philippe Bugalski in a works Citroen meant the pair swapped places and Bugalski moved ahead of Tommi into eighth.
1226hrs Cosio 2 (19.19km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford)
After a 20-minute service halt in Imperia, crews headed back to the Cosio stage that was first run as SS3 on Leg 1. In clear conditions Martin was quickest again with Panizzi second and Gronholm third. Loeb dropped around nine seconds after a stall 12km from the start and was seventh fastest. Richard Burns was the only mover on the overall leaderboard, a time six seconds quicker than Robert moved him back up the order ahead of the Frenchman into 10th.
1318hrs San Bartolomeo 2 (25.31km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 14:44.2
Another repeated stage, San Bartolomeo was first run on Leg 1 as SS4. The 25km speed test took crews up to the 1146m peak of the Colle d'Oggia before one of the trickiest, narrowest sections of the whole rally featuring a succession of closely connected 90-degree corners. This section, according to 555 Subaru team co-driver Phil Mills, is one of the hardest pieces of pacenote reading in the WRC. In a repeat of SS4, Martin was quickest with Loeb second. Meanwhile Gilles Panizzi competitive recovery continued, and a fourth-fastest time was enough to move him ahead of Duval into fifth overall. Burns too was on the move again, the Brit edged ahead of Tommi Mäkinen into ninth.
1317hrs Teglia 2 (52.30km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 34:48.6
The Leg finished with a repeat of the opening stage, the marathon 50km section at Teglia. Martin was fastest, which gave him a 100% win rate on all of the day's stages, while Loeb was second and Sainz third. The lead pair will start tomorrow's final Leg separated by 43.2 seconds with 96km remaining. Over the course of today's 149km, Markko managed reduce the Frenchman's advantage by 19.2 seconds. Colin McRae had a lucky escape when he spun his Citroen Xsara mid-stage, but the Scot was able to continue and finished eighth fastest. The only movement in the overall top-10 came from Cedric Robert who moved into 10th place at the expense of Tommi Mäkinen who dropped to 11th. The Finn reported that the clutch on his car was slipping due to a small oil leak, so a precautionary transmission swap was carried out in the final 45-minute service.
Luis Moya, 555 Subaru World Rally Team Sporting Director: "Clearly this is not the result we were looking for here. We have to improve our performance on dry tarmac. We've agreed with the team to do some additional testing before Corsica to see what can be achieved immediately, but our competitiveness on this particular surface is not going to change overnight. We have to find answers to why we're not in the fight for the lead, and then we can look to find some solutions."
Tommi Mäkinen: "If you look at our times on the repeated stages then we are closer to the leaders than we were yesterday, but not close enough. We've certainly seen some improvement with the car today, but we have to try and make some steps that will work in Corsica. We'll keep trying our best tomorrow, that's all we can do."
News from Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager: "Tommi has continued to use the Pirelli PZero RX asphalt tyre for all of the day's stages. We have been working throughout the day on tyre performance, particularly on durability with both Corsica and Catalunya in mind. We will continue this hard work in the next week with a hope for an improved performance in Corsica."
Technical Talk - Brakes
* On tarmac events such as Sanremo brakes are one of the most critical components on a World Rally Car. 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal Engineer, Pierre Genon, explained the pressure the brakes are put under on the smooth surface events: "The cars get more grip on asphalt than they do on gravel, and the driving style is much more demanding on the brakes. There is a lot of energy to dissipate and heat generated when the stages are long, and today's Teglia section is one of the toughest tests. It is important that the temperatures do not keep going up and down and that they stabilise quite quickly. If the temperature keeps increasing the brakes will end up fading and losing power and performance."
* The 555 Subaru World Rally Team uses Alcon brakes on the Impreza World Rally cars. Andy Burton, Alcon's on-event technical adviser, explained how the brakes are designed to meet the specific requirements of the smooth surface WRC events. "Running on tarmac means energy levels absorbed by the brakes are considerably greater than those experienced during rallies on other surfaces. Often, disc temperatures will reach up to 900ºC (road car discs would not survive much above 600ºC, at which point cast iron is starting to glow red). Alcon's tarmac pads are specially manufactured to offer possibly the highest temperature capability of any pad available. Their unique formulation gives phenomenal bite and braking power, even at temperatures at which other tarmac rally pads either fade or start to deposit heavily on the discs, which can give rise to a loss of performance and consistency."
* Front (Sanremo specification): 366x32mm curved vane, 24-groove brake discs mounted to aerospace grade aluminium mounting bells. 6 piston, 6 pad, monobloc (single piece) calipers featuring titanium pistons to give maximum strength at low weight and water-cooled to help reduce fluid temperatures by between 100-150ºC. Special Alcon compound brake pads
* Rear (Sanremo specification): 304x24mm curved vane, 6-groove brake discs mounted to aerospace grade aluminium mounting bells. As with the front calipers, titanium pistons are used but are air cooled to maintain optimum operating temperature. Special Alcon compound brake pads
With a total stage distance of 96km, Leg three is the shortest of the rally and starts when crews collect their cars from Sanremo Parc Ferme from 0700hrs. The real action starts at 0912hrs when the first car will start the 26km stage at Vignai, followed by the 21km Colle d'Oggia section. After a 20-minute service halt back in Imperia crews will then repeat both stages in the afternoon. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp back in Sanremo at 1530hrs.