The Subaru World Rally Team has two cars in the points positions after leg two of the event. Petter Solberg and Phil Mills are holding down a strong third place despite a difficult day of rallying in the hills near Athens. Chris Atkinson and ...
The Subaru World Rally Team has two cars in the points positions after leg two of the event. Petter Solberg and Phil Mills are holding down a strong third place despite a difficult day of rallying in the hills near Athens. Chris Atkinson and Stephane Prevot have slipped down the order slightly to sixth position in the overall classification. They will be aiming to consolidate that place when the action resumes tomorrow.
SS10: 0903HRS AGII THEODORI 1 (48.20KM)
Leg two started from 0730hrs when crews collected their cars from the
Athens overnight parc ferme and checked in for 10 minutes of service
time. >From there they headed 91km to Agii Theodori, the longest stage of
the rally, and of the WRC season so far. Even the fact that the stage had
been shortened by 600 metres due to a landslide, still made it a huge
challenge. Described by Chris Atkinson as 'a monster' the stage
contains a punishing assortment of conditions from rough, downhill and
flat-out sections to more twisty and technical parts. The route includes
river crossings, dips, crests and some places that are so narrow the cars
only just squeeze through. One feature of the route which is consistent
is the razor sharp rocks, which are scattered across the road surface.
Building on their stage winning performance of leg one, Subaru's Petter
Solberg and Chris Atkinson were quick out of the blocks and at the 30km
point Atkinson was five seconds quicker even than World Champion
Sebastien Loeb. But a front-right puncture at the 38km mark hampered his
speed over the final 10kms and with the rubber flailing from the wheel
rim Atkinson dropped around 1m 50s and slipped from third to seventh
overall. Solberg also lost a little time over the final kilometres, as he
caught the dust cloud behind Atkinson's car, but the Norwegian set the
third fastest time and held on to second place overall.
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 32m 47.9s
SS11: 1036HRS LOUTRAKI 1 (9.18KM)
After the marathon opening test, crews drove to the town of Loutraki and
a 15 minute remote service zone. Here cars were re-prepped and fitted
with fresh tyres for the loop of three consecutive stages that followed.
Based on roads close to Agii Theodori, and a comparative sprint at only
9km long, SS11 is the most twisty stage of the rally, with hairpin after
hairpin, many of which have double apexes. To make things more complex,
big drops on the inside of most of the corners make neat driving
absolutely essential. Petter Solberg was the fastest Subaru driver, his
third-quickest time just 1.4sec off that of stage winner Loeb. The result
kept Solberg firmly in the podium battle, but dropped him just behind the
Frenchman to third overall. Chris Atkinson was the sixth fastest driver.
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 7m 21.1s
SS12: 1141hrs Agia Triada 1 (10.80km)
The 10km Agia Triada stage is strewn with huge boulders and features a
hard, bedrock base which is extremely abrasive and hard on tyres. But the
fearsome conditions seemed to suit Subaru's Petter Solberg well and he
drove his Impreza WRC2007 though in a remarkable time, winning the stage
by a margin of 4.7sec from the next quickest, Marcus Gronholm. The result
meant Solberg moved back ahead of Loeb and into second place overall.
Chris Atkinson also had a good stage. He was fourth fastest and moved up
to fifth overall.
Fastest time: Solberg (Subaru) 7m 24.5s
SS13: 1254HRS OLYMPIC PROPERTIES 2 (5.16KM)
The final stage before the cars returned to service was a blast along the
perimeter roads of the Olympic horse racing course. It was the second
time the competitors had tackled the stage: Petter had been quickest
through the 5.16km test on Friday, and repeated the feat to set his third
fastest stage time of the event and consolidate his second position
overall. He came into service just 15.8sec behind Marcus Gronholm, with
four more stages left to run on this leg. Chris posted a time of 3m
27.0s, which meant he ended the morning's action in fifth position
overall. Neither driver reported any problems on the stage.
Fastest time: P. Solberg (Subaru) 3m 23.4s
SS14: 1519HRS AGII THEODORI 2 (48.20KM)
For the second pass through the rally's longest stage, the air
temperature had risen to 32 degrees Celsius, while a ground temperature
of 39 Celsius meant clever tyre conservation was vital. Other hazards
included large rocks which had been dragged onto the racing line by the
competing cars during the morning's action. Petter set a time of 32m
52.9s, seven seconds quicker than his morning effort. The time meant he
remained second overall behind Marcus Gronholm. Chris sped through the
stage in 33m 14.9s and consolidated his fifth position. The Aussie drove
well within his limits and preserved his car for the rest of the
Fastest time: M. Gronholm 32m 33.0s
SS15: LOUTRAKI 2 (9.18KM)
After a swift 15-minute remote service halt on the west coast of Greece,
120km from rally headquarters, the crews set off for the last three
stages of the leg. Although SS15 was mercifully short, it was still a
demanding test packed with slow corners. Petter set a time of 7m 23.8s,
which put him fifth quickest, while Chris was two places behind his
team-mate with a 7m 26.6s effort. That meant that the Norwegian remained
second overall, albeit with Sebastien Loeb just 4.5sec behind him. Chris,
meanwhile, dropped one place from fifth to sixth, but was comfortably
clear of seventh-placed Jan Kopecky.
Fastest time: S. Loeb (Citroen) 7m 14.7s
SS16: 1757HRS AGIA TRIADA 2 (10.80KM)
For the penultimate stage of the day, the crews headed east from Loutraki
back towards Athens. Petter's time of 7m 40.3s was the seventh quickest
through the test. He reported a problem with the front-left damper which
compromised his pace during SS15 and SS16. With more than one minute's
advantage over fourth-placed Mikko Hirvonen, however, he remained on
course for a podium finish. Chris also experienced some difficulties with
a damper, and also a driveshaft failure. He dropped more than one minute
to his rivals, but remained sixth overall.
Fastest time: S. Loeb (Citroen) 7m 17.2s
SS17: 1917HRS HIPPODROME 2 (3.20KM)
The day ended with the second of three runs through the Superspecial
inside the Olympic equestrian centre at Markopoulo. Petter stopped the
clocks in 2m 58.5s, which was enough for him to ensure he would end the
second day in third position overall. For Chris, the mission was to make
it through the stage safely and he remained sixth in the overall
classification after the 3.20km test.
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 2m 52.8s
Subaru World Rally Team managing director Richard Taylor: "It's been a fairly typical day on Rally of Greece and most of the leading competitors have experienced problems of one kind or another. It was as tough as we expected -- Chris was slowed by a puncture on the first stage of the day, and Petter had to slow towards the end of the same stage when his visibility was obscured by dust. Then Petter experienced a broken damper near the end of the day, while Chris had a driveshaft problem which cost him quite a lot of time. Nevertheless we still have two cars in the points after two days of extremely challenging conditions. Before the rally we would have been very happy to be looking at a podium and a sixth place, but in light of the position we were in yesterday, we now feel slightly disappointed. That's a measure of the recent progress the team has made."
"Without the damper problem this afternoon I think we could have had a much better result, but we are here, we are on the podium and from the point of view of the team and Subaru we can be happy with what has been achieved. Again we showed we have the performance to take on Marcus and Sebastien and that's very important for the future. But this rally is certainly not over yet. I'm still going to fight tomorrow and as we saw this afternoon, things can change around very quickly."
"We started the day with a really good pace, but again things didn't really go to plan as the day went on. I'm happy with the way I was driving, and it's clear that the basic car package is improving all the time, but the rough conditions gave us a few mechanical problems and prevented us from pushing for a better result. But there's still the chance that we can have a better day tomorrow, so we'll do our best and see what happens."
The final leg of the rally comprises four special stages and then another thrash around the Superspecial inside the stadium at the Olympic equestrian centre. The competitive distance covered will be 78.94km.