WRC

Swedish Rally: Subaru leg one summary

After an impressive performance at the wheel of his Subaru Impreza WRC2003, Tommi Makinen of the 555 Subaru World Rally Team holds overnight second place, 27 seconds behind overnight leader Marcus Gronholm. His team-mate Petter Solberg is in...

After an impressive performance at the wheel of his Subaru Impreza WRC2003, Tommi Makinen of the 555 Subaru World Rally Team holds overnight second place, 27 seconds behind overnight leader Marcus Gronholm. His team-mate Petter Solberg is in eighth place.

Stage Reports

SS1 0835hrs Sågen 1 (14.17km)
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 7:25.6

Despite concerns of the front-runners being slowed as they swept the roads of loose snow, a fresh dusting on the 14km Sågen test this morning did little to hinder first-on-the-road Sebastian Loeb who charged through to take the fastest time. His Citroen team-mates, Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz, running second and third respectively, were not as quick and finished fifth and eighth fastest. Just over one second separated the top three. Richard Burns finished the 14km run 0.6 seconds slower than Loeb to take second, with his Peugeot team-mate Marcus Gronholm finishing a further 0.5 seconds behind in third. Running thirteenth on the road on Pirelli ice tread tyres, three-times Sweden Rally winner Tommi Makinen was fourth fastest while 555 Subaru team mate Petter Solberg was 13th.

SS2 0927hrs Rammen 1 (23.16km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 12:05.5

Problems in the snow for Citroen driver Colin McRae on SS2, which took crews through forest roads near Lake Holmsjon. The Scot spun his Xsara on the first corner and hit a snow bank, partially blocking the car's air filter with snow. The resulting lack of power cost him around 50 seconds. Last year's winner Marcus Gronholm was fastest. At an average speed of 110kph, the Finn pulled 8.1 seconds ahead of the rest of the field to take the overall lead. Peugeot team-mates Rovanpera and Burns were second and third. This time, running first proved to be problematic for Sebastian Loeb. With more snow on the road than on SS1, Loeb found himself acting as a plough for the rest of the cars and was only 16th fastest. Tommi Makinen continued his excellent run and finished fourth, 9.9 seconds behind Gronholm.

SS3 1155hrs Granberget 1 (43.69km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 21:43.9

After promising in Service B that he would push harder on SS3, Makinen did exactly that through Granberget, the longest and highest stage of the rally. Running thirteenth over the stage's icy surface in light falling snow and despite contending with a tyre vibration 20km from the start and a stall near the finish, the Finn finished second fastest, 8.3 seconds behind the stage winner Marcus Gronholm. The Subaru star's charge was enough to move him to second place overall and relegate Peugeot's Richard Burns and Harri Rovanpera to third and fourth respectively. Petter Solberg was eighth fastest in his Subaru Impreza WRC, just behind the Hyundai of Freddy Loix. Loeb continued to struggle and finished over a minute behind the leaders. At the end of the test, crews made their way back to Hagfors for the third scheduled service of the day.

SS4 1428hrs Malta (11.25km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 5:39.1

In a repeat performance of last year's run through the short Malta stage, Marcus Gronholm was fastest, and cruised through to score his third successive stage win and increase his overall lead to 26.3 seconds. Hot-on-his-heels however, was the blue Subaru of Tommi Makinen. Revelling in the mixture of fast, long straights and ninety-degree corners through the Swedish forests, the four-times World Champion finished second quickest to extend his lead over Richard Burns to 5.4 seconds. Rovanpera was third fastest, followed by Richard Burns and a rejuvenated Petter Solberg in fifth. The popular Norwegian finished joint fifth with Carlos Sainz, who was the fastest of all the Citroen drivers after team-mate Colin McRae lost time following another meeting with a snow bank near the finish.

SS5 1525hrs Brunnberg 1 (11.25km)
Fastest time: n/a

Disaster for Ford's Francois Duval who was running sixth on the road. The young Belgian crashed 3km from the finish, broke the suspension on both front corners of his Focus and blocked the stage. As only five cars completed the stage before the incident, FIA stewards cancelled all the results of the stage.

SS6 1626hrs Hagfors Sprint 1 (1.86km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 1:58.0

Following the dramas of the previous stage, the final test of the day, the short sprint around the Hagfors sports stadium brought no major problems. Richard Burns posted the fastest time followed by Markko Martin and Carlos Sainz in third. The hundreds of spectators who had braved the chilly weather conditions to see their favourite drivers in action weren't disappointed. Just 2.2 seconds separated the top ten fastest times, which included Tommi Makinen who was sixth. His team-mate Petter Solberg was twelfth.

Team Quotes

David Lapworth, 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal: "I'm very happy with where Tommi has ended the day, and he's now in a great position to keep Marcus under pressure. Tommi loves to be in a fight and he is relishing the challenge ahead. Both cars have run well today, Tommi found a nice rhythm where he didn't need to push too hard or take risks, but it hasn't been so easy for Petter. He's recovering from the 'flu and when he came down to breakfast this morning, he was looking a bit off-colour. We've spoken with the engineers tonight and will try a set up on his car that is similar to Tommi's and see if that gives him the edge that he's looking for."

Tommi Makinen: "It's been a good day for me, no problems. We have had some small things to deal with, but overall I'm very, very happy. The new car has behaved well and we've been able to stay right with the leaders. Tomorrow, I'm going to be looking for little things to improve the speed and we'll see what we can do. This year, the roads are very good. I think it's much faster than last year and I'm enjoying my driving."

Petter Solberg: "I'm a bit frustrated. It's a mystery to me, but I just don't seem to have the speed today. The car and tyres feel good on the stages but the times just aren't reflecting that. It seems no matter what I do, there's something missing. We'll be making some changes tonight to make the set-up more like Tommi's, and hopefully that will improve things tomorrow."

News from Pirelli

Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager: "Today's conditions have been split 80 per cent ice and 20 per cent light snow. We have been pleased with the performance of the J1 ice tyre, which both Tommi and Petter selected. The forecast for the next two days is for slightly milder weather, yet we expect the ice conditions to remain and expect the good performance of the tyres to continue."

Technical Talk -- Gripping (not Slipping!) in Sweden

* In Sweden, both Tommi and Petter will use narrow P-Zero Pirelli studded tyres fitted on 5.25 x 16-inch cast magnesium wheels manufactured by O.Z.

* In contrast to asphalt rallies, where the correct tyre compound is vital for good grip, for snow and ice events the most important elements are the right stud type and tread pattern to suit the conditions

* Swedish Rally regulations state that there can be up to 400 studs on each tyre, and that each must measure a maximum of 20mm and weigh no more than 4g

* Studs can protrude from the tyre by a maximum of 7mm. But longer isn't necessarily better - longer studs are best in softer snowy conditions, while shorter studs are used for mixed ice and packed-gravel conditions

* The Pirelli snow tyres are much slimmer than their asphalt relatives (145mm as opposed to 225mm). This means a smaller 'footprint' for each tyre, and a high pressure contact area which helps it bite through to the hard surface beneath the snow

* Stud retention is a key consideration on the Swedish Rally. At maximum speed each spike will hit the ground up to 30 times per second -- making a strong anchor essential. Approximately 10mm of each stud is buried in the Pirelli rubber

* Each tyre is fitted with 380 studs, and over the three days of the rally, Petter and Tommi are expected to use 50 Pirelli tyres each. That's a total of 19,000 studs per driver!

Tomorrow's Leg

Starts at 0530hrs, when competitors will leave Karlstadt and travel back to Hagfors for the first service of the day. A further 140.37 competitive kilometres comprising six stages lie ahead, with the first test, a second run through the long Granberget stage, starting at 0818hrs. The day will conclude with a final run around the short Hagfors Sprint circuit, before the final service at 1640hrs.

-subaru

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About this article
Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team