WRC

Swedish Rally: Subaru leg two summary

Both Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen delivered some impressive times in their Subaru Impreza's today, including a stage win for Petter on SS13. Despite both suffering spins, the Subaru duo ended the day in the top ten. Petter lies third, well ...

Both Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen delivered some impressive times in their Subaru Impreza's today, including a stage win for Petter on SS13. Despite both suffering spins, the Subaru duo ended the day in the top ten. Petter lies third, well positioned for a podium finish, while Mikko is ninth.

Stage Reports

SS6: 0746 Sundsjön 1 (20.78km)

With the weather clearing after overnight snowfall, there was 5cm of fresh snow on the first stage of the day, the 20.78km test at Sundsjon. Recent mild weather meant there were none of the 6ft high snow banks that had lined last year's route, but sections of hard packed ice made driving conditions difficult. On a charge to make up yesterday's lost time, Marcus Gronholm was fastest, with Sebastien Loeb and Markko Martin tying for second. Carlos Sainz was fourth. Not the best start for Petter Solberg though. The Norwegian missed a braking point at a junction and went off the road. Spectators were on hand to push him back, but the incident cost him approximately 45 seconds. His Finnish team-mate Mikko Hirvonen was sixth, despite suffering a spin, while Mitsubishi's remaining works driver Kristian Sohlberg failed to start the second Leg due to a transmission problem that could not be fixed in the time allowed for the first service. After the end of the stage, crews moved directly to the start of SS7.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 11:22.4

SS7: 0822 Malta 1 (11.25km)

Having been graded by a snowplough, the second stage of the day presented a road surface of hard packed ice. Including two long straight sections, crews recorded average speeds of up to 120kph and top speeds in excess of 180kph. Gronholm was again fastest and finished 2.1 seconds clear of the rest of the field to take his third win of the event. Sainz was second fastest and Tuohino, third. Not a great stage for Peugeot's Freddy Loix. The Belgian ran into trouble when he spun his 307 off the road and slammed into a tree collecting substantial front-end damage. He was able to continue, but lost almost two minutes. After the finish, crews returned to Hagfors for the second service of the day.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 5:46.8

SS8: 1018 Fredriksberg (20.13km)

Special Stage 8 was run at Fredriksberg, 67km to the east of Hagfors. Regarded as a classic Swedish stage, the 20.13km route presented crews with a mixture of winding forest roads, sweeping corners, fast straights and narrow crests. There were no retirements, but Carlos Sainz lost almost a minute when he left the road in his Citroen and had to stop to clear snow that was blocking his Xsara's radiator. He fell from overall third to seventh. Gronholm took another stage win, with Martin second and Mikko Hirvonen third. The young Finn, who was clearly relishing the snowy conditions, finished just 2.7 seconds off the winning pace. A popular stage with the fans, hundreds had been arriving since the early hours of the morning to catch a glimpse of their favourite drivers, with many congregating near to the route's numerous jumps. After the finish, crews moved directly to the start of SS9.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 11:55.7

SS9: 1105 Lejen (26.40km)

This time it was Citroen's Sebastien Loeb who was fastest, with Martin second and Gronholm third. Subaru's Solberg was fourth quickest, with older brother Henning, who was competing in a Bozian-prepared Peugeot 206WRC, finishing a further 4.6 seconds back for fifth. There was disappointment for Subaru's Mikko Hirvonen. Negotiating the test's icy long crests, the Finn ran wide on a corner 4km from the start and his right front and rear wheels became stuck in a snow bank. With the help of some spectators, and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen with a shovel, Mikko got the car back on the road and safely to the end of the stage. Although the car was undamaged, the incident cost him six minutes and dropped him to thirteenth overall. In a similar incident, his ex team-mate Francois Duval spun his Ford Focus into a ditch near to the start. He eventually rejoined the road, but lost 45 minutes and with it any chance of a competitive finish. After the stage, cars returned to Hagfors for a scheduled service.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 13:45.2

SS10: 1332 Malta 2 (11.25km)

After the two sprints east of Hagfors, SS10 saw crews return to the town of Malta for a repeat of the short and icy 11.25km test. Driving past thousands of spectators huddled around bonfires along the roadside, Gronholm was fastest to shave 11.9 seconds from his previous Malta time (SS7) and take his fifth win of the event. Sainz was second fastest and Loeb third. Subaru's Mikko Hirvonen clawed back some time by setting the ninth fastest time, enough to move him two places back up the overall leaderboard to eleventh, while his team-mate Petter Solberg lost around 15 seconds with a spin. Freddy Loix's miserable event continued. After incurring a 30 second penalty for leaving the preceding service 3 minutes late due to engine trouble, the Belgian's 307 continued to misfire and he lost more time. After the finish, crews moved directly to the start of SS11.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 5:34.9

SS11: 1427 Sundsjön 2 (20.78km)

In a dramatic turn of events in the Leg's closing stages, Markko Martin lost the lead of the rally when he struck a rock in his Focus near the start line, breaking its rear suspension and knocking a rear wheel out of alignment. He was able to nurse his damaged Ford to the finish, but lost almost six minutes and with it any realistic hope of victory. Martin's loss was Loeb's gain. The French driver was fastest to take his second win of the day and snatch the overall lead. Gronholm was second fastest and Sainz third. There were nervous moments for World Champion Solberg when he hit what he believed was the same rock as Martin, but despite damaging his Impreza's left-front wishbone, his car withstood the impact and he only dropped around ten seconds. After the finish, the crews returned to service at Hagfors.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 10:54.4

SS12: 1546 Vargåsen (39.95km)

Lamp pods were fitted onto the WRC cars as dusk fell over the last two stages of the day. Including big crests, open flowing roads and a huge jump in the first 5km, the long Vargasen test was an unlucky one for Peugeot. Freddy Loix's rally finally came to an end when his 307 suffered terminal engine failure in the first section, while Marcus Gronholm suffered a spin, sustained front-end damage to his Peugeot and lost over ten seconds. New leader, Sebastien Loeb was again fastest, while an excellent run from the World Champion Petter Solberg saw him finish second-fastest and move up to third position overall. After the stage was complete, crews moved to the start of the final test of the day.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 20:57.9

SS13: 1711 Hagfors Sprint 2 (1.86km)

The second and final run round the Super Special based in Hagfors brought more close racing from the WRC drivers. In front of a bustling crowd, Solberg was fastest to clinch his first stage win of the event, while Johansson was second and Sainz was third. The Super Special result meant that Loeb kept the overall lead of the rally, and would start the final Leg 40.6 seconds ahead of Gronholm.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 1:55.5

Team Quotes

Petter Solberg
It's been a difficult day. I'm surprised at the final position, especially considering that, with the exception of the final stage, I haven't had an incident free stage all day. It's been great to see so many supporters out in the stages again. Hopefully, I can do a good job tomorrow to make them feel proud. Anything is still possible, even the win, I'm just going to do my best.

Mikko Hirvonen
Yes, all okay. I had one accident and that cost me pretty bad. You definitely have to have a bit of luck here, just look at Marcus - flat out, 360-degree spin, and ended up in the middle of the stage. Whereas I slid off doing 50kph and got stuck for six minutes! Overall, I think it's been another good day and I can't complain. We'll see what happens tomorrow, I'm really looking forward to it.

David Lapworth
We've had a few ups and down today, but the overall picture is very encouraging. For Petter, despite the disappointment of a couple of spins, he's ended up finishing where he was yesterday and well on target for a podium finish - which is what we came here for. On one hand it's disappointing that Mikko lost a lot of time when he went off, but the reality is that it was just a small mistake that cost him dearly. Overall he's done a good job, his pace is very encouraging - about half a second per km off the best in the world - and he's certainly proving to be a quick learner.

News from Pirelli

Fiore Brivio , Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager:
Leg two saw both Petter and Mikko using both the Pirelli PZero J1 and W1 snow and ice tyres. The stage conditions have been either snowy, or ice and slush resulting in the Pirelli PZero J1 ice tyre being cut to aid dispersion of the slush. We hope Sunday will see Petter score a podium finish and Mikko consolidate his position.

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About this article
Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team