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Tour de Corse: Subaru Leg 2 report

Tour de Corse (Saturday 9 March 2002) Summary Unpredictable rain showers, changeable road conditions and complex tyre choices made today's second leg of the 2002 Tour de Corse a lottery for most of the 51 crews that started it this ...

Tour de Corse (Saturday 9 March 2002)

Summary

Unpredictable rain showers, changeable road conditions and complex tyre choices made today's second leg of the 2002 Tour de Corse a lottery for most of the 51 crews that started it this morning.

Ahead lay seven competitive stages, some 150kms of bumpy and twisty roads in the mountains to the east of Rally HQ at Ajaccio. Rain began to fall on the first stage, and over the next seven hours the notorious mountain weather systems brought a volatile mix of mist, heavy rain, light rain and occasionally some dry and bright spells.

The 555 Subaru World Rally Team were the early leaders in the strategic game. Tommi Makinen and Petter Solberg made huge gains on the first stage and moved up the leaderboard to third and fifth respectively. But by the following group of three tests the Peugeots were back in the fight and ahead of tomorrow's four remaining stages Panizzi leads the rally, with Gronholm second and Burns third.

It was an up and down day for the 555 Subaru World Rally Team. Some bad luck with tyre choices later in the leg robbed Solberg and Makinen of their early advantage, and although he set another fastest time on SS10 Solberg lost time with two punctures. Despite running as high as fourth he will start tomorrow in seventh. There was worse news though for Tommi Makinen who after SS8 held third overall. He retired on SS10 after aquaplaning off the road and damaging the suspension of his car.

Stage Reports

SS6 0924hrs Petreto - Ampaza (36.73km)
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 24:29.2
There were damp roads and dark skies in Ajaccio before the second pass through the longest stage of the rally, and rain was a distinct possibility in the mountains. Tyre choices were the hot topic of conversation in the preceding service and by the time the stage started heavy rain was falling. Once again the Michelin-shod Peugeot's that has dominated the action on yesterday's dry stages, slipped down the order in the wet, and the Subaru's of Solberg and Makinen streaked ahead of the field. Running on Pirelli cut-slick tyres Solberg was fastest, with Makinen two seconds behind in second. Panizzi was third - almost 13 seconds back. The result changed the overall top five. Makinen overtook Burns and snatched third while Solberg made 32 seconds on Carlos Sainz and moved up to fifth. Afterwards crews returned to service before attempting SS7, 8 and 9 which were run as one group.

SS7 1140hrs Gare de Carbucchia - Gare (10.66km)
Fastest Time: Panizzi (Peugeot) 7:28.2
By the second stage the rain had become more persistent and teams once again gambled on tyre choices for the wet conditions. Peugeot had better luck this time with their wet-weather selections. Panizzi was quickest, Gronholm third and Burns fourth. But Colin McRae was the surprise of the stage, he was second fastest - although it wasn't enough to improve on his overall standing of eighth. Makinen and Solberg were unable to repeat their triumph on the previous stage, both had changed tyres to an intermediate-tread but Petter believed the compound was too soft, they were fifth and ninth respectively.

SS8 1205hrs Vero - Pont D'Azzana (18.28km)
Fastest Time: (Panizzi) Peugeot 13:01.7
In intermittent rain showers and low cloud Panizzi was fastest, but this time both Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae helped split the dominance of the Peugeots. Carlos was second, Burns third, McRae fourth and Gronholm fifth. Makinen and Solberg struggled in the conditions and were sixth and ninth - both now under pressure from cars they had previously overhauled on SS6. Burns was 0.3 second behind Makinen, Sainz 9.5 seconds behind Solberg. Bad news for Ford's young works driver Francois Duval, his Focus suffered a puncture and he dropped from 10th to 11th overall.

SS9 1244hrs Lopigna - Sarrola (27.81km)
Fastest Time: Burns (Peugeot) 18:11.6
Richard Burns' was fastest. He recorded his first stage win of the rally, and moved back ahead of Tommi Makinen to third overall. Peugeot now held the top three places on the leaderboard. Tommi and Petter continued to struggle with their tyre choices and both dropped places. Tommi slipped back to fourth, while Petter, who was also slowed with a front-right puncture, moved to seventh behind Sainz and Bugalski. After the stage crews returned to service before attempting a second pass through the same three sections.

SS10 1501hrs Gare de Carbucchia - Gare (10.66km)
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 7:55.4
After changing his tyres to the same cut-slick pattern that proved so successful on the first stage, Petter Solberg repeated the performance and won SS10. He moved up the leaderboard to fourth. Marcus Gronholm was second quickest, followed by Panizzi and Armin Schwarz. But there was disaster for Petter's 555 Subaru team partner Tommi Makinen. The Finn's Subaru hit a patch of water and aquaplaned going into a right-hand corner 5kms from the start. His car left the road and suffered front suspension damage. He retired from the rally and his fourth place.

SS11 1526hrs Vero - Pont D'Azzana (18.28km)
Fastest Time: (Panizzi) Peugeot 13:11.0
Another stage win from Panizzi, with Colin McRae just one second behind. Gronholm was third and Bugalski fourth. Carlos Sainz meanwhile was not enjoying a good day in the Focus and could only manage the thirteenth-fastest time. Bugalski moved ahead of him overall and took fifth place. Petter Solberg stalled on the start line but quickly recovered and finished sixth.

SS12 1605hrs Lopigna - Sarrola (27.81km)
Fastest Time: Panizzi (Peugeot) 11:33.0
Panizzi won, but Colin McRae was obviously a man happy with his tyres for the final three stages. He was second again and jumped up the leaderboard from seventh to fifth. His cause was helped by Petter Solberg who encountered some miserable luck. The Norwegian driver collected a puncture 12kms from the start line, and 5kms before the finish the tyre began to slide off the wheel. The episode cost him around 30 seconds and relegated him from fourth to overnight seventh.

Driver Quotes

Petter Solberg: "It's not been a very good day at all. I was fourth this morning but I've had some bad luck - two punctures for instance, and that's put me down the order. The only thing I can hope to do tomorrow now is to try and take the two Fords in front of me."

Tommi Makinen: "On stage ten we hit a patch of water which was impossible to see under the trees. The car rode up on to the surface, then there was nobody home - we were just passengers - I tried to turn and tried to brake but it was absolutely too fast and we slid onto some rocks. I'm very disappointed. It seems the Corsica rally is very bad for me. I just need to concentrate now on Spain."

Tomorrow's Leg

Starts at 0820hrs when crews leave the overnight Parc Ferme in Ajaccio. After a 20-minute service at the complex near the city's airport they will travel out into the hills for the final four special stages of the rally. At 150 competitive kilometres leg three is the shortest of the rally and is made up of just two stages both of which will be run twice. The winning car is expected to cross the finish podium back in Ajaccio at 1436hrs

-swrt-

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