Cyprus Rally: Subaru leg one summary

A day of mixed fortunes for the Subaru team. Dominating the opening loop of three stages in his Subaru Impreza WRC2004, Petter Solberg demonstrated the car's impressive speed on some of the roughest conditions in the WRC by taking two stage wins.

A day of mixed fortunes for the Subaru team. Dominating the opening loop of three stages in his Subaru Impreza WRC2004, Petter Solberg demonstrated the car's impressive speed on some of the roughest conditions in the WRC by taking two stage wins. However, Petter's pace-setting performance was stopped on SS4 when a radiator problem cost him over nine minutes. He ended the day eleventh. Competing on rough gravel for the first time with the Subaru team, Mikko Hirvonen gained vital experience of both the event and Impreza WRC2004. He finished the day in overnight sixth place.

Stage Reports

SS1: 0823 Lagoudera - Spilia (38.32km)

Rally Cyprus started with a pass through the longest and most gruelling stage of the event, the epic 38km test from Lagoudera. Beginning with a tricky uphill climb and series of demanding, narrow tight bends, the opening stage provided the first indication of competitors' form on extremely rough-terrain in 2004. A rough first section gave way to a fast tarmac finish, meaning drivers had to balance speed with tyre preservation, an important consideration as there were two more stages to run before service. Fresh from his win in New Zealand, 2003 Cyprus Rally victor Petter Solberg set the fastest time in his Impreza WRC2004 to take the win, despite collecting three punctures on the rocky road. Harri Rovanpera was second with his Peugeot team-mate, Marcus Gronholm third. Not such a great stage for Ford's Francois Duval. The Belgian lost a front left wheel from his Ford Focus 5km from the finish and was unable to continue.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 35:26.8

SS2: 0946 Kordali - Asinou (15.00km)

Continuing his winning form, Subaru's Petter Solberg was again fastest over the rough terrain to take his second win of the day and increase his lead to 6.4 seconds. Citroen's Sebastien Loeb was second fastest, while Gronholm was third. Having struggled to prepare their cars to their satisfaction before the start of the event due to the late arrival of the boat carrying the team's equipment, there were problems for Mitsubishi. During the stage, both Lancers suffered with shock absorber problems, while Kristian Sohlberg collected a broken sump guard and was forced to slow his pace. He finished sixteenth, while team-mate Gilles Panizzi was ninth. Winding through a park in the Island's Troodos Mountains, the rocky stage included numerous narrow bridge crossings and a rough, loose gravel road surface. After the finish, crews moved to the start of SS3.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 15:49.5

SS3: 1014 Asinou - Agios Theodoros (7.57km)

Sebastien Loeb ended Solberg's run of stage wins on the first pass through the short test from Asinou and was fastest to take his first win of the day. Driving with revised suspension and transmission settings on his Xsara following tests after New Zealand, the Frenchman was 0.9 seconds quicker than the rest of the field. Gronholm was second fastest, while Petter Solberg set another excellent time to finish third. The twistiest of the day, according to Mikko's co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen, the short stage started on a rough medium-fast surface, before concluding with a series of fast, flowing bends. There were no retirements and after the finish crews returned to Limassol for the first service of the day.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 7:34.3

SS4: 1448 Lagoudera - Spilia (38.32km)

The second pass through the longest test of the event, the rocky and rutted 38.32km stage from Lagoudera saw the first large gaps appear on the overall leaderboard. Gronholm was fastest and took the overall lead, while Carlos Sainz was second quickest and Markko Martin third. But in a dramatic turn of events, there were problems for Petter Solberg when the radiator on his car became blocked with loose sand and dirt that was lying between the deep ruts throughout the stage. The situation was made worse as the protective lower lip of the bumper had been broken off in the arduous conditions. The blockage hampered airflow and caused the engine temperature to rise. To cope, the engine management system automatically switched to a safe running mode, which stabilised the temperature, but at the expense of some performance. At the finish, the Norwegian had lost 4 minutes 11 seconds. His team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen, was sixth fastest. There was more bad luck for Mitsubishi's Sohlberg as the Finn dropped a further eight minutes due to a slipping clutch. He ended the test in fifteenth place overall.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 34:55.7

SS5: 1611 Kordali - Asinou (15.00km)

After stopping at the roadside to clean the sand from his car's radiator using water from his drinking bottle, Petter Solberg, and the remaining WRC drivers, headed 6.72km north to the start of the repeated 15km stage near to the town of Kourdali. Sebastien Loeb was the pace-setter and took his second win of the day, while gravel specialist Rovanpera was second quickest and Martin third. Still encountering blocking problems with his car's radiator, Solberg lost more time when he stopped twice to clear the dust, while Mitsubishi driver, Kristian lost a further 4 minutes due to a continuing clutch problem.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 15:32.2

SS6: 1649 Asinou - Agios Theodoros (7.57km)

A repeat of the shortest stage of the day, Ford's Markko Martin was quickest to take his first win of the event, with Sebastien Loeb close behind in second. Harri Rovanpera was third. Marcus Gronholm dropped 10.6 seconds to finish seventh fastest, but at the finish he maintained the overall lead. Petter Solberg lost a further two minutes to the leaders, while Kristian Sohlberg dropped two minutes and 16 seconds.
Fastest Time: Martin (Ford) 7:27.8

Team Quotes

Petter Solberg
It was going really well. Everything was going according to plan and then we had a small problem that cost us nine minutes. It's very upsetting to lose so much time over such a small thing, but that's the way it is and I just have to accept it. It's so disappointing after such a good feeling, nice control in the car and no worries. But, for tomorrow and Sunday I just have to do the best I can and see what we can do.

Mikko Hirvonen
Well, It's been another day of learning for me and more experience in the car. We had a trouble free run and I think I've learnt a lot. I'm certainly not happy with my pace at the moment, but going flat out isn't really the immediate objective. I was happiest with the last stage (SS6) and I'm hoping there will be more improvement tomorrow.

David Lapworth , Team Principal
It's very difficult to end a day looking to salvage points when this morning Petter looked to have everything under control from his position in the lead. The stage conditions today, especially on the second pass, have been so bad it's been a bit of a lottery. It was Petter's turn to have bad luck today, but I'm sure if conditions are the same tomorrow then the others will have their share of problems too. It's been a tough day for Mikko. His game plan was to stay out of trouble and learn, and in these conditions that has not been an easy task.

Fiore Brivio , Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
We're very happy with the performance of our tyres in the morning, which have once again demonstrated our high level on rough gravel. The end of the day was disappointing, but we're confident that Petter will be able to fight back and score points.

Team Talk

Drivers and the heat of Cyprus

As one of the hottest and roughest rallies of the year, Cyprus can be a gruelling event for cars and drivers alike. Drivers and co-drivers can spend up to 13 hours a day in the car and, contesting some of the twistiest stages in the Championship, they face an enormous physical challenge. SWRT's Driver Trainer John Mills explains how the drivers have prepared for the event and how they'll keep cool in such extreme conditions...

Since January 2004, the SWRT drivers have been following an increased training programme to improve their body composition, fitness and functional strength. A fitness assessment on 5 March showed that Petter and Mikko had become 10 per cent fitter and were more able to endure extreme conditions

A pre-event training camp was organised by the team's Human Performance dept. for the drivers, co-drivers and management to help their acclimatisation. This included a number of exercise sessions and challenges to identify each individual's weaknesses and strengths in the heat

The Subaru Team's Human Performance dept. recommend that whilst competing a driver should drink up to 1.5 litres per hour to combat the dehydrating effect of driving in temperatures of 30°C. If a driver becomes thirsty, he has already lost 1 per cent of his/her body weight in sweat and suffered a ten per cent decrease in performance. Therefore, in Cyprus, a WRC driver is likely to consume 8 litres of water per day to avoid dehydration

The team has also devised a number of cooling strategies to help keep the SWRT drivers' and co-drivers' temperatures down once the event is underway. For Cyprus, both Subaru Impreza WRCs have been fitted with roof-vents, sun-reflective glass, white painted roofs and auxiliary fans, while each race suit will be cooled in the service area fridge before use

To help the drivers keep cool, portable flat pack showers will be erected in the Subaru service area. Drivers will also be able to change into fresh T-shirts at the end of each stage

Tomorrow's Leg

Saturday 15 May
Tomorrow's leg is once again based around the single service park in Limassol. Teams will contest six further rough gravel stages (three repeated) and a total of 109.56 competitive kilometres. Stages will be based in rugged countryside to the north of the town. The leg starts at 0745hrs, with the first stage commencing at 0855hrs.


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About this article
Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team