Cyprus: Subaru leg two summary

Between them, 555 Subaru drivers Petter Solberg and Tommi Mäkinen demonstrated the competitive performance of the Subaru Impreza WRC and dominated today's stage times. Leading the rally from the Leg's opening test, Petter Solberg delivered a...

Between them, 555 Subaru drivers Petter Solberg and Tommi Mäkinen demonstrated the competitive performance of the Subaru Impreza WRC and dominated today's stage times. Leading the rally from the Leg's opening test, Petter Solberg delivered a mature and measured performance, and tonight holds the lead, 25.3 seconds ahead of Harri Rovanpera. After setting four fastest stage times, his team-mate Tommi Mäkinen withdrew from the event after a broken wheel on SS6 caused him to exceed the time allowed on the following road section.

Stage Reports

SS5 0743hrs Kourdali - Asinou (15.00km)
Fastest time: Mäkinen (Subaru) 15:56.8

Subaru driver Tommi Mäkinen was on the attack from the outset and put in an astonishing time, winning the test 8.3 seconds ahead of second placed Petter Solberg. With Solberg finishing 6.3 seconds ahead of third placed Rovanpera, the Subaru duo clinched an impressive one-two for the team. Citroen's Sebastien Loeb was back on the pace, and after admitting that he had driven too cautiously on Leg 1, he stormed through to finish fourth fastest. Regarded to be the twistiest and slowest stage of the event, the dusty terrain saw a double blow for the Ford Team. In an incident similar to that suffered by Martin in Argentina, Francois Duval and Markko Martin were forced to retire when dust blocked their Focus' engines causing low oil pressure, while Peugeot's Gronholm lost over a minute with a rear differential and prop shaft problem. At the finish Solberg moved into the overall lead.

SS6 0813hrs Asinou - Nikitari (25.61km)
Fastest time: Solberg (Subaru) 26:28.3

A second consecutive stage win for the Subaru team, but this time it was Solberg's turn to take the top spot. The Norwegian finished 5.8 seconds quicker than second placed Harri Rovanpera, with Carlos Sainz third and Loeb fourth. The rutted, dusty terrain brought another wave of leading WRC retirements. First to go was World Champion Marcus Gronholm. Starting the test with front wheel drive only on his Peugeot, the front differential on the Finn's 206's then broke and he retired before the first split. Gilles Panizzi was next when his Bozian Racing Peugeot 206WRC suffered engine failure. There were problems too for Hyundai. Freddy Loix's Hyundai suffered a terminal dust-related engine problem 6km in, while team-mate Armin Schwarz's efforts were hampered when his Accent lost third gear. After setting the fastest time on the previous test, Tommi Mäkinen suffered a setback when a rear wheel broke in two, 3km in. The Finn stopped to remove the rear corner upright, damper and rim on the roadside, before rebuilding it and putting on a new wheel in the searing Cypriot heat and with limited tools. The incident cost the Finn more than 25 minutes, but he completed the test and was able to continue.

SS7 0913hrs Orkondas - Stavroulia (17.99km)
Fastest time: Mäkinen (Subaru) 19:02.7

Tommi Mäkinen demonstrated his four-time World Champion credentials and stormed through Orkondas to set the fastest time, 8.3 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Petter Solberg was second quickest, while best of the rest was Peugeot's Rovanpera in third. At the end of the test, Solberg and Rovanpera, lying in overall first and second respectively, were well over a minute clear of the rest of the field. Citroen drivers McRae, Sainz and Loeb took the next three fastest times to round off the top six. With the top 15 cars running in reverse order for Leg 2, running first on the road was clearly causing problems for Toni Gardemeister and he managed only the twelfth fastest time. After the finish, cars retuned to Limassol for the scheduled service.

SS8 1133hrs Akrounda - Apsiou (7.99km)
Fastest time: Mäkinen (Subaru) 8:01.4

Running in air temperatures of 33 degrees, Tommi Mäkinen continued his charge and demonstrated the Impreza's competitiveness on the tough Cyprus terrain by notching up the team's fourth consecutive stage win. Negotiating the Akrounda test, the shortest of the event, Rovanpera was second fastest, but Solberg was hot on his heels in third and the Peugeot driver's charge wasn't enough to snatch the overall lead. At the finish 10.3 seconds separated the pair.

SS9 1236hrs Foini - Koilinia 1 (30.33km)
Fastest time: Rovanpera (Peugeot) 27:23.4

Another technical, twisty stage and another retirement, this time for Skoda's Toni Gardemeister. Contesting his last event in an Octavia before the introduction of the Fabia WRC in Germany, the Finn flew over a crest 5km in, left the stage and nose-dived into a tree stump. The impact damaged the Skoda's engine and retirement was instant. Looking to the leaders, Rovanpera was fastest, to end Subaru's run of stage wins, but only just. Completing the long test 2 seconds faster than the Subaru's of Mäkinen and Solberg, who were second and third fastest respectively, the Finn remained second overall, and there was no change to the overall leaderboard. Despite sustaining front right tyre damage towards the end of the stage, Citroen's McRae still posted the fourth fastest time, the same position that he maintained overall, while Richard Burns lost more than a minute with an overheating engine.

SS10 1331hrs Galatareia - Nata 1 (15.55km)
Fastest time: Mäkinen (Subaru) 11:14.7

As the tension mounted on the Leg's first run through the rock littered, slippery Galatareia test, Solberg answered Rovanpera's previous charge by completing the stage almost ten seconds faster than his rival, and extended his overall lead to 14.3 seconds. By the finish, the pair's advantage over the rest of the field had increased to more than 2 minutes. Mäkinen again took the stage win, his fourth of the day, with Loeb finishing fourth fastest and Sainz fifth. Burns continued to be dogged by his Peugeot's engine overheating problem and he dropped another 1 minute 25 seconds, despite having topped up the engine fluid prior to the start. He later retired on the road section to service, just 2km from the regroup in Limassol, elevating Ford's remaining driver Hirvonen to overall sixth. Didier Auriol also retired on the 70km road section with an electric failure and after setting a string of fastest times throughout the day, Subaru's Tommi Mäkinen withdrew from the event before the scheduled service. He had earlier exceeded the time allowed on the road section to SS7, after stopping to make the repairs to his Impreza on SS6.

SS11 1627hrs Foini - Koilinia 2 (30.33km)
Fastest time: Rovanpera (Peugeot) 26:54.4

Locked in their own battle at the top, and posting times much faster than the rest of the field, Petter Solberg and Harri Rovanpera continued to trade stage wins, and this time it was Rovanpera who claimed the fastest time. Petter was right behind though, and the Norwegian finished 11.5 seconds faster than third place McRae, despite contesting the event with a small bird in the cockpit of his Subaru that entered his Impreza through the roof scoop! At the finish he maintained a 13.2 second advantage overall. The Citroen's of Loeb and Sainz filled the next two positions, taking fourth and fifth fastest respectively. Hirvonen was sixth, the same position that he held overall.

SS12 1725hrs Galatareia - Nata 2 (15.55km)
Fastest time: Solberg (Subaru) 10:58.6

In the previous service, Petter stated his intention to seize some more seconds from rival Rovanpera, and concluding an excellent day at the wheel of his Impreza, the leading Norwegian did just that when he set another fastest time, 12.1 seconds ahead of second-place Rovanpera. His blistering pace consolidated his overall lead, and at the finish he held a 25.3 second advantage. Young Ford driver Hirvonen completed the test fifth fastest, ahead of the more experienced Carlos Sainz, but the test brought no change to the overall leaderboard.

Team Quotes

David Lapworth , 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal: "It was a top class performance from Petter and Phil today. They have played cat and mouse with Harri Rovanpera and lifted their pace when they needed to, to maintain his lead and set themselves up for the best possible chance of victory tomorrow. It's a shame Tommi ran out of luck yet again. He really came back today, determined to score points for the team. His effort to repair the car and get to the finish was outstanding and we take consolation from his string of fastest stage times."

Petter Solberg: "It was good to take some seconds on the last stage from Harri, but I know that it only takes a puncture or a spin tomorrow to lose the lead. We'll try to keep away from trouble but my idea is to push on the first group of stages in the morning. We've had no problems at all today and the car's been 100 per cent reliable. I had a good speed, with no crazy attacks, but I'd like to gain some more seconds and we want to win."

Tommi Mäkinen: "Unfortunately, we lost too much time and had to withdraw from the event. We've seen that the car's performance has been very good and the improvements that we've made to the car have had a big impact. I'm sure that we could have been challenging for the lead without the difficulties we've experienced. Petter has a good lead, a good chance and we're hoping for the best for him on the remaining stages. In preparation for Germany, we'll doing some tarmac testing soon and we've got some good ideas to try."

News from Pirelli

Fiore Brivio , Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager: "Today, both drivers continued to use the Pirelli PZero WR3 racing gravel tyre and both were happy with the performance of their tyres. We hope that Sunday will see the continuation of Petter's excellent run."

Technical Talk - Grooving in Limassol!

To help the 555 Subaru drivers obtain the maximum grip on dusty, gravel covered stages, it's common for extra cuts to be made to the team's Pirelli tyres. We spoke to 555 Subaru World Rally Team Tyre Manager, Matthew Corby to find out more^Å

Q: Why are cuts added to the tyres?

A: On gravel stages, such as those used in Cyprus and Greece, it's important that the drivers can cut through the loose surface and find the hard rock base underneath. We use quite a closed pattern tyre for these events, so additional cuts help to flick out the loose gravel, enable the tyre to find the hard rock base and achieve the maximum grip. This gives the drivers extra confidence when braking and helps if they go off the clean driving line into the loose gravel at the side of the road.

Q: How many extra cuts do you add to each tyre for this tyre of gravel event?

A: It depends on certain factors. At this event, lots of the stages are repeated and so the nature of them changes as more cars pass through. For the first run through a stage, more cuts would be added to help the drivers find sufficient grip, especially if they were running near to the front of the field. On Leg 1 Petter was running just three places in front of Tommi, but even this difference meant that he needed more cuts than his team-mate. During the first run through a stage, the loose gravel tends to be 'swept' away by the cars, so for the second run tyres may not require any extra cuts at all. We have a gravel crew that drives through the stages before the competitors to keep us informed about the changing nature of the stages. It's not always necessary to add extra cuts, for example in Argentina we didn't add any.

Q: How do you make the cuts?

A: We make them using an electric gun which has a very sharp, hot blade. When it's heated up, it cuts through the rubber like a knife through butter. It looks much easier than it is. Speed is the important thing, tyre cutters need to be able to cut quickly and accurately. A trained cutter would complete a set of four tyres for this event in about twenty minutes.

Q: Are there any negative effects of cutting the tyres?

A: Yes, it's a trade off. When you cut the tyre it tends to wear more quickly. You therefore have to make sure you strike just the right balance between obtaining the maximum grip and ensuring that the tyres will maintain enough tread to complete a group of stages.

Tomorrow's Leg

The third and final leg of the Cyprus Rally starts tomorrow at 0730hrs, when the remaining cars will leave Limassol parc ferme. The final day will see crews travel northeast of Limassol to contest six stages (three repeated), and a total of 82.86 competitive kilometres. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp at 1520hrs.


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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team