Both Subaru World Rally Team drivers finished in points-winning positions in the final Leg of the Cyprus Rally. Petter continued to recover places lost due to a radiator problem on Leg one and, although unable to battle for the lead, claimed his...
Both Subaru World Rally Team drivers finished in points-winning positions in the final Leg of the Cyprus Rally. Petter continued to recover places lost due to a radiator problem on Leg one and, although unable to battle for the lead, claimed his sixth stage win of the event and moved from eighth to sixth. His team-mate Mikko Hirvonen finished seventh to collect points in both the Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championships.
SS13: 0643 Vavatsinia - Mandra Kambiou (25.24km)
With 33.6 seconds separating the top three drivers going into the final Leg, the long 25km stage from Vavatsinia provided the best opportunity for second-placed Sebastien Loeb and third-placed Markko Martin to make up time. But, consolidating his position at the head of the pack, it was event leader Marcus Gronholm who set the pace. Finishing fastest, the Finn extended his lead by 17.5 seconds to end the test with a 40.4 second advantage overall. Loeb was second fastest and Martin third. Many drivers complained of decreased visibility due to dust hanging in the air. In a strange twist of fate, the dust cloud Petter Solberg was rapidly catching was left by the Peugeot of his brother Henning. Mikko Hirvonen slid wide on a corner and hit a rock 4km from the finish which damaged his power steering. With no power assistance for the remainder of the stage, the young Finn faced a gruelling drive as he negotiated the twisty terrain to the finish. As mechanics battled to fix his car's gearbox problems in the preceding service, Harri Rovanpera incurred another 30-second penalty for leaving service three minutes late. That took his total penalty time to one minute. Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 23:06.8
SS14: 0731 Mancheras - Agioi Vavtsinias (12.90km)
No change to the overall top three as Gronholm, who had opted to run on harder tyres than this rivals for the first loop of stages, was again fastest, with Martin second and Loeb third. Subaru's Mikko Hirvonen continued to battle with no power assisted steering and endured a gruelling 12km though the highest stage of the event. Taking crews on a rough ascent up a rocky mountain road 1199 metres above sea level, the stage from Macheras concluded with a twisty, dusty descent down the other side. Despite the efforts of his mechanics at the beginning of the day, gearbox problems continued to afflict Harri Rovanpera's 307 and, also suffering with no differential pressure, he ended the test 33.2 seconds off the pace. After the finish, crews moved directly to SS15. Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 11:28.5
SS15: 0814 Kellaki - Foinikaria (9.49km)
Presenting drivers with a layer of loose, dust like gravel upon a hard-packed surface, the short 9.49km stage from Kellaki was the most slippery of the day. Loeb took the stage win, with Gronholm second and Martin third. Hirvonen continued to lose time with no power steering on his Impreza and, after the finish, was glad to return to Limassol for the scheduled service. Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 8:28.3
SS16: 1118 Vavatsinia - Mandra Kambiou (25.24km)
As temperatures rose in the midday sun, Gronholm drove to the limit through the repeated test from Vavatsinia and set another impressive time to take his fifth win of the event. Ending the stage with an overall 50.6 second advantage, the Finn looked on course to secure the first WRC win for the 307. But it wasn't all smiles for the Peugeot team. In the preceding service, Harri Rovanpera and his mechanics had faced a difficult decision - whether to continue with his 307's malfunctioning gearbox or swap it for the damaged one that had been removed the day before. Opting for the latter, the Peugeot driver completed the stage 1 minute 11 seconds slower than the winning pace. Fresh from service with a new steering rack, power steering pump and front left and right track control arms, Mikko Hirvonen was back on the pace and was sixth fastest. Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 22:52.6
SS17: 1206 Mancheras - Agioi Vavtsinias (12.90km)
It was tight at the top. While Loeb and Gronholm were neck-and-neck through the penultimate test to set exactly the same time and tie for the stage win, just 0.7 seconds separated the top four finishers. Solberg was 0.2 seconds off the pace to finish third fastest and snatch overall sixth from team-mate Hirvonen, while Markko Martin was a further 0.5 seconds behind in fourth. Having completed 304.25km and with just 22.43km left to run, Henning Solberg was forced to retire at the start of the stage due to an electrical fault on his Bozian prepared Peugeot. After the finish, crews moved directly to the start of the final test. Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) & Gronholm (Peugeot) 11:21.0
SS18: 1249 Kellaki - Foinikaria (9.49km)
No problems for the leading WRC crews on the final test of the day. Marcus Gronholm was third fastest to take the overall victory by a margin of 54 seconds. His win marked the first for the Peugeot WRC 307 since its introduction in Monte Carlo earlier this year, and the sixteenth of Gronholm's WRC career. He last won in Argentina, 2003. Loeb was fourth fastest to take overall second, while Markko Martin was second fastest to take overall third, 15.1 seconds behind the Frenchman. The Subarus of Petter and Mikko completed the test first and sixth fastest respectively, and both collected Manufacturers' and Drivers' points. Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 8:24.6
For me, the rally started better than it finished and obviously I'm still disappointed about the radiator problem. But, without that it would have been a perfect rally. We should have had more points but I'm still pleased to take something away. The car is perfect and I'm sure it will be really good on the next two rallies. As far as the Championship goes, there are still plenty of rounds to go this year - so I'm focusing now on better fortunes in Greece. I'm sure the lessons we have learned here will be of great use.
The main thing is that I finished the rally. It was very, very difficult, but I came here to learn, that was my main objective and I'm happy I achieved that. To begin with I struggled a little to find a speed I was happy with but I have experimented a littled with the set up over the last three days and we certainly learnt a lot about the car and these conditions. We'll be putting some of that into practice in Greece.
David Lapworth, Team Principal
We knew ahead of this trio of rough rallies that each would be eventful and although we felt confident, we knew we could take nothing for granted. Of course we're disappointed to have been leading this rally and in the end take only a few points, but at the same time we're pleased that we have proved the potential of the car in these extreme conditions. Looking ahead to the next two events, there's no reason why we shouldn't be challenging for the lead again and hopefully enjoying some better luck.
News from Pirelli
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Tyres Motorsport Director
The final result of this rally has been disappointing for us, but we come away from it confident that the overall performance package on this type of rough surface will enable us to fight for victory in Greece and Turkey.