Chris Atkinson leads the Subaru World Rally Team challenge after the first Leg of competition in Cyprus. The Australian set a consistent pace throughout the day to finish the Leg in fifth overall. Team-mate Petter Solberg had a strong start to the...
Chris Atkinson leads the Subaru World Rally Team challenge after the first Leg of competition in Cyprus. The Australian set a consistent pace throughout the day to finish the Leg in fifth overall. Team-mate Petter Solberg had a strong start to the day, setting one fastest stage time, however he lost time in the afternoon when gear selection problems lost him more than seven minutes. The Norwegian will restart Leg two in 11th position.
SS1: 0943HRS XYLIATOS - KAPOURAS 1 (8.09KM)
After a spectacular ceremonial start on the Limassol seafront promenade
on Thursday evening, the competitive action of the Cyprus Rally got
underway on Friday morning with the 8km pass between the towns of
Xyliatos and Kapouras. Ford's Marcus Gronholm set the fastest time
through the rough, dusty road with Loeb second and WRC returnee Toni
Gardemeister third. Subaru's Chris Atkinson had a fighting start to
the most demanding event of the year as he posted the fifth fastest time.
Harri Rovanpera's rally came to a very premature end when his Skoda
started to overheat and the Finn ground to a halt after the flying
finish, retiring from the rally. Petter Solberg was eighth fastest having
struggled with grip on the sandy stages.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 7:43.3
SS2: 1004HRS KAPOURAS - ASINOU 1 (10.17KM)
Red Bull Skoda's torrid start to the rally continued as second
driver Andreas Aigner did not take the start of stage two; the Austrian
also suffering from an overheating engine. Just like his team-mate
Rovanpera, he too retired from the rally. Subaru's Petter Solberg
put in a determined performance through the second stage of the day as he
set third fastest time behind Gronholm and Loeb. The Norwegian however
collected 10secs of penalty time for jumping the start of the stage.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 9:14.1
SS3: 1037HRS ASINOU - NIKITARI 1 (25.61KM)
The hot road from Asinou to Nikitari was covered with loose gravel and
several drivers reported exceptionally slippery conditions and huge
amounts of dust that lingered in the air. Gronholm in particular reported
difficulties as he struggled through the 25km pass, however even with a
restricted vision of the road ahead, the Finn recorded his third straight
stage win and extended his lead over Loeb to more than eight seconds.
There were problems for several other drivers, including Dani Sordo, who
lost time when his Xsara's engine briefly stopped, Xevi Pons, who
spun 17km from the start, and Petter Solberg who was also slow as he
struggled for traction on the slippery road. The Norwegian nevertheless
maintained eighth position overall, two positions behind team-mate
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 26:52.4
SS4: 1205HRS KATO AMIANTOS - PLATRES 1 (11.87KM)
Petter Solberg took a sensational first stage win of the event to break
Gronholm's monopoly of fastest times. The Norwegian's pace
moved him one place up the overall order to seventh. Petter's
brother Henning however had a rather more difficult run as he negotiated
the last two kilometres of the stage with a broken driveshaft. Toni
Gardemeister also had problems as he reported his transmission only
worked intermittently. His troubles allowed Hirvonen into third overall
position. After the stage finish crews returned to Limassol for a 30
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 9:33.4
SS5: 1503HRS XYLIATOS - KAPOURAS 2 (8.09KM)
Toni Gardemeister's encouraging morning performance did not
continue into the afternoon when a tyre on the Finn's car exploded
immediately after the stage start. The shards of rubber and gravel caused
extensive damage to the front of his Xsara and he lost more than a minute
to stage winner Gronholm. Gardemeister's misfortune was
Stohl's gain as the Austrian moved up to fourth overall.
Subaru's Solberg also jumped up the order to fifth ahead of
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 7:26.5
SS6: 1524HRS KAPOURAS - ASINOU 2 (10.17KM)
Loeb secured his first stage win of the day through the repeat of the
newly-regraded Kapouras speed test. The Frenchman's time edged him
marginally closer to rally leader Gronholm, however the gap still
remained over 16secs with two stages of Leg one to run. Petter Solberg
edged closer to Stohl in fourth with the fourth quickest stage time,
however Chris Atkinson dropped to seventh overall on the slippery, gravel
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 8:56.4
SS7: 1557HRS ASINOU - NIKITARI 2 (25.61KM)
The penultimate stage of the Leg brought disappointment for the Subaru
team as Petter Solberg developed gear selection problems close to the
start of the 25km special stage. The Norwegian was forced to drive the
pass in second gear and finished over five minutes slower than stage
winner Loeb. Citroen privateer Sordo retired from the Leg with engine
problems, however is expected to restart under Superrally regulations on
Leg two. The dramas of Solberg and Sordo elevated Petter's brother
Henning and Chris Atkinson to fifth and sixth overall. Loeb continued to
close the gap to Gronholm with his second consecutive stage win.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 26:07.1
SS8: 1725HRS KATO AMIANTOS - PLATRES 2 (11.87KM)
Cyprus' infamous rough gravel roads again caused problems for
several crews. Citroen privateer Pons hit a rock in the middle of the
road and lost over one minute to stage winner Loeb as drove the final
half of the stage with a broken steering arm. Petter again negotiated the
last stage of the day in second gear and dropped another two minutes to
the leaders, while brother Henning, blinded by bright sunlight streaming
through his windscreen, went off the road and retired from the Leg.
Matthew Wilson finished the stage, however stopped on the road section
back to service with an electrical problem. Subaru's Chris Atkinson
had a trouble-free run through 11km test to finish the Leg in fifth
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 9:26.8
SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM MANAGING DIRECTOR, RICHARD TAYLOR:
'Coming into this rally we knew that it was going to be very tough as there is still considerably more that we have to do to make the car fully competitive. Both drivers have performed very well given the conditions with Petter setting top-three times and winning stage four and Chris moving up to fifth at the end of the day.'
'We did not have such a good day. I'm not sure quite what happened, however on the third stage this afternoon we had a gearbox problem and had to push on through the last two stages with just the one gear. It was very difficult and will make it very tough to get any result from this rally.'
'We're doing ok. The second pass through the stages was pretty rough with lots of big rocks pulled out. We managed to avoid most of them and got through with no problems, although the times weren't what we expected, but that's how it is right now. I think at this stage fifth is the best we could hope for and tomorrow we'll keep going and keep trying.'
News from Pirelli
MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER
'Today the Subaru drivers used the XR tread pattern of tyre throughout. The tyre performed well and despite the very hot, sandy and rough conditions Petter was able to win a stage before encountering a gearbox problem later in the day. We look forward to seeing both drivers back tomorrow setting top times on the Pirelli tyres.'
Crews will again tackle the rough, gravel roads in the Troodos mountains on the second day of the Cyprus Rally. Leg two's route takes crews to the hills east of Limassol for a further two loops of four stages, including the longest stage of the event at 30.33km.