Starters 74 crews left the service park in Ajaccio for today's first leg of the rally. Route Leg one took the competitors south of Ajaccio past the port of Propriano and into Sartene, 80km away. Upon reaching Sartene, SS3 turned competitors...
74 crews left the service park in Ajaccio for today's first leg of the rally.
Leg one took the competitors south of Ajaccio past the port of Propriano and into Sartene, 80km away. Upon reaching Sartene, SS3 turned competitors north again to just short of Ajaccio, thereby completing the first loop of stages. The opening stage of the day was cancelled due to a number of spectator cars partially blocking an access road, meaning that only two stages were run in the morning loop. The total competitive distance was 106.18km over five stages rather than the intended 124.28km over six.
The weather today started fine and dry, with a temperature of 13 degrees Celsius. This rose to a high of 26 degrees Celsius by mid-afternoon. While rain threatened the final stage, it held off leaving all the day's stages dry.
There were no retirements from the leading WRC group
Subaru World Rally Team summary
At the end of the first day of competition in Corsica, the Subaru World Rally Team Imprezas of Petter Solberg, Chris Atkinson and Xevi Pons hold fifth, seventh and eighth places respectively.
Solberg recorded several top-five stage times, despite struggling with grip on the twisty Corsican roads of the morning loop. By the midday service, he was only 0.8s behind asphalt expert Francois Duval after recording the fourth fastest stage time on SS3. A great battle between the two ensued and, more comfortable with his car in the afternoon loop, the Norwegian closed the gap to Duval to only 0.2s by the end of SS4. Although a stall on the start line of SS5 prevented Solberg from achieving his target today, he will start leg two only 5.3s adrift of fourth place.
Atkinson started the day well, and held sixth overall after the morning's two stages. While he felt happy with the balance of his car, he was unable to push as hard as he wanted on the smooth surface. Starting SS4 1.8s behind team-mate Solberg, Chris felt less comfortable following a set-up change in service and slipped to seventh place. Reporting a lack of confidence on the smooth sections, changes will be made to Atkinson's car before the start of leg two which should improve the situation for the longest leg of the event.
Xevi Pons finished the morning eighth overall but, like many drivers, reported grip difficulties on the unique Corsican asphalt surface. He completed his day nearly 50 seconds ahead of Jan Kopecky in ninth, but made some changes to the handling of his Impreza during the final service, with the aim of boosting his confidence throughout tomorrow's six stages.
SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM MANAGING DIRECTOR Richard Taylor:
"We have finished today with all three cars in the points, but we are still not showing as much pace on asphalt as we had hoped for. Tomorrow's stages have a slightly different character, and the team will be pushing to make progress up the leader board."
CAR NUMBER 7 Petter Solberg:
"Today has been a bit frustrating as we have finished 5.3 seconds behind Duval in fifth place, but I had a stall at the start of SS5 in which I lost six or eight seconds and we have had troubles with grip today. Still, we are in fifth overall after the first leg and close enough to fourth for it to be possible so we will keep pushing. We have won here in the past and hope that we can have a good result this weekend."
CAR NUMBER 8 Chris Atkinson:
"The middle stint of the last stage wasn't so bad, but the bumpy sections of route seemed to suit me better today than the very smooth asphalt. I don't have the confidence to push hard, and to commit to the faster, longer corners. The car is well balanced but it's very difficult to predict the grip. We have taken the steps that seem logical to arrive at a good setup but they don't seem to work so we will have to try something different."
CAR NUMBER 17 Xevi Pons:
"Today was not so good for me as I don't feel that I can push hard enough at the moment. We made some changes to the car and the afternoon loop was better, but I'd like to be higher than we are after today and so we will keep pushing as hard as we can to develop the feeling in the car. There are still two more days and ten stages, so I hope that tomorrow we will be faster and on leg three faster still. It would be a great boost to the team to be able to go to Japan knowing we have good pace."
Leg two is actually a little longer than leg one, given that SS1 was cancelled, at just under 123km. Competitors leave the service park for the first stage of the day, SS7, before returning to the town of Ajaccio to bear due north for the remaining two stages of the first loop. Following the same format as leg one, tomorrow consists of three stages before lunchtime service D and three in the afternoon. There are also two remote refuels due to the liaison distance.