Catalunya: Subaru leg two report

Rallye Catalunya Leg 2 (Saturday 23 March 2002) Rallye Catalunya resumed at 0800hrs this morning when 52 cars left Lloret de Mar parc ferme. The day started clear and sunny with light cloud cover and temperatures of around 15 degrees. The day ...

Rallye Catalunya Leg 2 (Saturday 23 March 2002)

Rallye Catalunya resumed at 0800hrs this morning when 52 cars left Lloret de Mar parc ferme. The day started clear and sunny with light cloud cover and temperatures of around 15 degrees. The day remained mainly clear although there was some heavier cloud cover on the later stages.

Early on in the day spectator parking caused problems for the rally organisers. There were many cars parked in dangerous positions on stages six and seven and in the interests of safety both were cancelled. Organisers managed to rectify the problem by the third stage - a total of 236 cars were removed during the day.

The 555 Subaru World Rally Team's Tommi Makinen retired from the rally this morning. His car's engine failed on the road section to the first service. This was a direct consequence of the incident on the final stage last night, when the car's radiator was damaged in an accident and the engine overheated. Rally veteran Stig Blomqvist retired on last night's road section back to parc ferme, when his Skoda suffered an alternator failure. Leg two also saw an unfortunate end to local hero Carlos Sainz's rally after an accident on SS10.

On today's first stage Petter Solberg was slowed by the same handling problems that affected him yesterday, however, before the final three stages team engineers tested some different electronic settings and his fortunes improved dramatically. Petter went on to win the next stage -- and became the only driver to beat Peugeot's tarmac expert, Gilles Panizzi so far. Despite a relative lack of experience on this event, Petter finished the day strongly and holds an excellent sixth position overnight.

For the last two stages of the day Panizzi was back on top and he continues to hold the lead of the rally he secured on the very first stage. Peugeot's Richard Burns and Philippe Bugalski of Citroen complete the provisional podium line up.

Stage Reports

SS7 1008hrs Coll de Bracons 1 (19.66km)

Fastest Time: n/a

The first 20km test, Coll de Bracons, was cancelled due to crowds and vehicles lining the route. The safety steward deemed it unsafe for the cars to drive through at competition speed.

SS8 1121hrs Vallfogona 1 (14.54km)

Fastest Time: n/a

Once again the huge amounts of spectators lining the route forced the rally organisers to cancel the stage for safety reasons.

SS9 1214hrs Les Llosses-Alpens 1 (21.80km)

Fastest Time: Panizzi (Peugeot) 13:19.9

The rally finally got underway when SS9 began, albeit with a fifteen minute delay. Gilles Panizzi, who won all of yesterday's tests, took the honours again on the smooth asphalt stage. It was a challenging mix of 60-80 metre straights and sharp twisty corners. Citroen's Sebastien Loeb finished second, just 3.7 seconds behind Panizzi, and Richard Burns rounded off the top three. Philippe Bugalski came in fourth, closely followed by Petter Solberg, a mere 0.6 seconds slower than the tarmac specialist. The Peugeot of Marcus Gronholm finished sixth. The Fords of Sainz, McRae and Martin had a disappointing time finishing 11h, 12h and 16th respectively - after the stage Martin complained of steering problems causing his Ford to veer to the left. Ford discovered he had lost pressure in the centre diff, this was replaced in service and there were no further problems. The surprise of the stage was privateer Achim Mortl, who brought his Peugeot home 10th. Skoda's Kenneth Eriksson experienced a loss of oil pressure on the road section back to service after SS9, but was able to continue on the rally.

SS10 1432hrs Coll de Bracons 2 (19.66km)

Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 12:44.3

The stage was quite narrow, not too twisty and had a good smooth surface. 555 Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg became the star of the day finally breaking Gilles Panizzi's stronghold of Rallye Catalunya, beating his time on SS10 by 0.2 seconds. It was the usual Peugeot and Citroen sweep after that with Richard Burns third followed by Loeb, Gronholm, Bugalski, Rovanpera and Puras. Loix and Colin McRae rounding up the top ten. The stage saw an unfortunate end to Carlos Sainz's rally. The Spaniard went off the road 10km into the second Coll de Bracons test after swerving to avoid a spectator car badly parked on the stage. His car went into a spin and hit a rock on the rear, damaging the suspension. He and co-driver Marc Marti were unharmed but retired from the event.

SS11 1545hrs Vallfogona 2 (14.54km)

Fastest Time: Panizzi (Peugeot) 8:30.3

This tricky stage featured a real mixture of asphalt surfaces making tyre choice difficult. The route consisted of both old and new tarmac, with some older broken sections of tarmac. There was a lot of dirt and gravel on the corners. Panizzi took the stage win followed by the familiar sequence of Burns, Bugalski and Loeb. Once again best of the rest was the lightening quick Petter Solberg. He took fifth place and continued to close the gap on the driver ahead of him, 2000 World Rally Champion Marcus Gronholm. The Finn finished sixth, Colin McRae seventh with Puras, Loix and Martin completing the top ten.

SS12 1638hrs Les Llosses-Alpens 2 (21.80km)

Fastest Time: Panizzi (Peugeot) 13:20.4

The final stage of the day was a repeat of SS9. Gilles Panizzi won the stage, followed by Bugalski, Gronholm and Loeb. Colin McRae scored his best stage position of the day by finishing fifth, 0.6 seconds ahead of Petter Solberg. Richard Burns slipped down the standings, finishing seventh with Harri Rovanpera close behind. Martin and privateer Mortl completed the top ten. Panizzi remains overnight leader some 44 seconds ahead of second placed team-mate Richard Burns. The remainder of the top ten stayed very much in formation from yesterday. Petter Solberg took overnight sixth place and will run tenth on the road tomorrow.

Driver Quotes

Petter Solberg: "It's been a hard rally but I am very, very pleased with what has happened today. We have managed to sort out the problem that we had earlier on in the rally. The car is 100%, and I have been able to take on and beat the Peugeots. You can see from the stage times that things are going well. For me Spain is all about experience - I have only done three stages here before and I am looking forward to tomorrow even though all the stages are new to me."

Tommi Makinen: "It was a big, big disappointment. The car started normally at parc ferme. It was not smoking, everything seemed fine and up until that point it was 100%, but suddenly something broke and we could go no further. It was definitely something to do with our problems last night. For me we have had many difficulties on this rally. On a positive note we have gathered some useful information on our tarmac tyres which will help later in the year but for now we have to concentrate on the gravel. We need to relax, get a relaxed feeling in our minds and get the good feeling like we had after Monte Carlo."

Team Talk -- Matthew Corby, 555 Subaru World Rally Team Tyre Manager

What does your job involve?

"Tyres are a vital part of a rally cars performance, and in broad terms I make sure that the team is getting the best out of them. Whenever possible leading up to an event, I'll drive the stages myself and get an idea of the conditions out there - this helps a lot in the service area. I also work with the weather crews to collect up-to-the-minute data or split times to help analyse the performance of the tyres. Once we have all this information we can tell where we lost or gained time. I work closely with Pirelli to make sure all the choices are available in the service area and speak to the drivers to make sure they have the right information and are happy with the selection. Post event I prepare a detailed report with all drivers' comments and any other information that can be used for future events or the same event in future seasons."

How did you get into rallying?

"My interest in rallying started when my family business sponsored the driver David Llewellin in 1979. I was 18 and I have worked in rallying, one way or another, ever since. I worked for Toyota Team Europe for ten years - specifically on tyres, and on the co-ordination side for Toyota Team Sweden."

What is the challenge with tyres in Spain?

"There are two different types of surfaces here - for leg one in the south, the surfaces are more abrasive than those in the north on legs two and three. Sometimes we have a batch of stages together between services in which some of the road surfaces are quite hard on the tyres and some surfaces have very low grip levels. There's a balance to be struck and we have to help the drivers select a tyre that will give the best performance as well as durability over the whole distance."

What difference can the weather make here and what conditions do you favour?

"Rallye Catalunya is contested over a very wide area compared to many in the WRC and the weather can vary a lot depending on the location of the stage. This isn't a problem and can work very much to your advantage if you are willing to gamble on tyre choice. A lot of time can be lost with an incorrect choice though, and if you get it wrong it could easily make the difference between winning and losing. We like to think that damp conditions suit us a little better - but the latest developments from Pirelli are proving very strong in the dry too."

Did you learn anything in Corsica that will help in Spain?

"The weather in Corsica was mainly damp and if the conditions were the same here we would be able to use the information, but the surfaces now are hotter and drier - quite different to those in Corsica. The set up of the car in general has changed a huge amount over the last couple of months and we are still building up our tyre information on this new set up. I expect to take a good deal of data away from Spain to help us on the remaining smooth-surface events of the season."

Tomorrow's Leg

The final leg of Rallye Catalunya starts at 0615 when cars leave Lloret de Mar parc ferme. Sunday's leg comprises six special stages covering a total competitive distance of 106 kilometres. It will take the same format as today, with three stages to be run in the morning, then repeated in the afternoon. The top fifteen placed drivers at the end of today's leg will run the stages in reverse order. As today's leg, the service area will be based at Manlleu.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Richard Burns , Harri Rovanpera , Gilles Panizzi , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Philippe Bugalski , Kenneth Eriksson , Marc Marti , Stig Blomqvist
Teams Citroën World Rally Team