Petter Solberg made an excellent start in Monte Carlo this morning by taking two stage wins and moving up the leaderboard into third position. Unfortunately a small mistake on a snow-covered corner cost him dearly and he retired from the event...
Petter Solberg made an excellent start in Monte Carlo this morning by taking two stage wins and moving up the leaderboard into third position. Unfortunately a small mistake on a snow-covered corner cost him dearly and he retired from the event after losing a wheel. On his WRC debut with the Subaru Team, Stéphane Sarrazin continued to impress on the stages and time sheets. Re-starting today's Leg in 24th position, he recovered ten places in just six stages.
SS10: 0757 Col de Braus - Col de L'Orme 1 (7.33km)
The shortest stage of the event, the 7km sprint from Col de Braus took place on a rough, narrow road that featured numerous damp patches on the final 4km. With his sights firmly set on a podium finish, fourth-placed Petter Solberg powered through the twisty stage in his Pirelli-shod Impreza WRC to take the stage win and reduce the gap between himself and third-placed Toni Gardemeister to six seconds. Responding to Petter's charge, Gardemeister was second fastest and moved to within ten seconds of second position overall. Marcus Gronholm was sixth fastest, while his new Peugeot team-mate Markko Martin, who was continuing to struggle with the set-up of his 307, was twelfth. Mitsubishi's Gilles Panizzi was third fastest, despite suffering with an automatic clutch problem near the end of the stage, while event leader Sebastien Loeb was fourth. After the test was complete, crews drove a 5km road section to the start of SS2. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 5:40.8
SS11: 0819 La Cabanette - Lantosque 1 (19.52km)
Continuing his charge, Petter Solberg set a blistering pace through the 19km stage from La Cabanette to take a second win and snatch overall third from Gardemeister. Negotiating the mix of dry and damp asphalt which made up much of the twisty descent, Solberg recorded the highest average speed of the event so far, 86.11kph, and ended the stage 9.3 seconds off Gronholm in second overall. Loeb was second quickest, while Marcus Gronholm picked up his pace and was third. Subaru driver Stéphane Sarrazin was slowed on the stage, and the others in the morning loop, when the clutch in his car began to slip. After the finish, crews moved to the start of SS12. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 13:36.1
SS12: 0855 La Bollene - Vesubie - Sospel 1 (31.19km)
One of the most famous stages in the Championship, the 31km test to Sospel includes a series of tight, icy corners that snake up and down the epic Col du Torini, which peaks at 1,600 metres above sea level. Renowned for its mix of narrow roads and icy bends, the stage was lined by thousands of spectators, many of whom had waited overnight to catch a glimpse of their favourite rally drivers. Petter's remarkable performance on Leg three came to a slippery end on an icy corner 11km from the start line when a mistake under braking caused his Impreza to slide into a roadside wall. The impact ripped off the left-hand front wheel and caused extensive damage to the car's front corner. Although Petter tried to continue, the damage was too serious and he retired. To make matters worse, the man he was chasing, Marcus Gronholm, crashed his Peugeot nearby in almost identical circumstances. Sustaining less mechanical damage than Solberg's car, Marcus was able to limp back to Monaco, but lost more than five minutes to the leaders and dropped to fifth place overall. His misfortune was Gardemeister and Panizzi's gain. Despite his slipping clutch, Stéphane Sarrazin was sixth fastest and quicker than many drivers with far more rallying experience. After the stage was compete, the remaining crews returned to Monte Carlo for a 30-minute service. Fastest Stage Time: Kresta (Ford) 22:16.2
SS13: 1146 Col de Braus - Col de L'Orme 2 (7.33km)
The temperature remained at around 5°C for the second pass through the short, but abrasive Col de Braus test. His Peugeot 307 repaired, Gronholm was back on the attack through the damp test and went fastest to take his second stage win and consolidate fifth position overall. Now lying second overall, Ford's Toni Gardemeister was second quickest, 0.2 seconds off the winning pace, while Loeb was third to retain his lead. Markko Martin suffered a spin near the start and was tenth fastest. There was no change to the overall top ten and, after the stage was complete, crews made their way to the start of the penultimate stage. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 5:31.6
SS14: 1208 La Cabanette - Lantosque 2 (19.52km)
Having led the event from the start, Loeb was quickest through the repeated La Cabanette test to increase his overall lead to 2min 33sec. Ford's Roman Kresta was second fastest, while Sarrazin was third, his best stage result of the event so far. Relishing the conditions on the mountain stages, the Frenchman demonstrated his increasing aptitude on the blend of wet and dry asphalt and, at the finish, had moved three places up the leaderboard. Once the stage was complete, crews drove 6.69km to the start of the final test.Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 13:31.5
SS15: 1244 La Bollene Vesubie - Sospel 2 (31.19km)
Sebastien Loeb was fastest through the repeated Col du Turini test to take his seventh stage win of the event and his third consecutive Rallye Monte Carlo victory. Finishing the stage second fastest and moving up another place in the overall standings, Stéphane Sarrazin concluded a highly promising WRC debut with the Subaru team. Toni Gardemeister was seventh fastest to secure overall second and claim the highest WRC result of this career (his previous best had been third on Rally New Zealand in 1999), while Gilles Panizzi was tenth quickest to round off the top three and secure the final podium position. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 21:40.4
I'm extremely disappointed. It seems like this sort of luck is with me every time in Monte Carlo. No mistakes all rally, we're catching up places, everything's perfect and then this. What's so frustrating is that I was so close to getting a good result and wasn't pushing over the limit. You'd never try anything at that point, it's always slippery, I just made a mistake, braked too late and got caught out - it's as simple as that.
I'm still unhappy about yesterday's crash, but overall I feel I have improved a lot this weekend and have learned a good deal. The Monte Carlo is a difficult rally for every driver and I finished it only because of the re-start regulation. I'm grateful for that because it helped me to understand more about the car and get experience of the range of tyres and how they work in these conditions. Using slick tyres on dry tarmac, then ice and snow is something that takes a lot of getting used to. I know much more about the team now and am excited about getting to Sweden, my last time on the test was good, I like the snow and I'm keen to get out there and learn more.
, Team Principal
Obviously I'm disappointed with the final result. The strategy was to come here and get a good points tally and we've missed the target. But we have to remember that this is just one of 16 rallies. On the other side, we're pleased to see that our asphalt performance is very competitive and that apart from the braking problems on leg one, we've had a technically trouble free run. I'm particularly pleased with Stéphane's first rally with the team. He's fitted in very quickly and has done a very professional job. He's demonstrated real speed on some stages and his mistake on day two was a typical Monte Carlo accident that's easily put down to inexperience. He's shown himself to be a quick learner and we're expecting great things from him on the coming events.
News from Pirelli
, Pirelli Motorsport Director
It's clear to see from the times that Petter had the possibility to finish third here. However, unfortunately he was not able to reach the finish and deliver on that clear potential."
Swedish Rally: 11-13 February 2005
Round two of the FIA World Rally Championship starts in three weeks' time when teams head north for Rally Sweden. Beginning on Friday 11 February, following a ceremonial start in the host town of Karlstad the previous evening, Rally Sweden is the only winter rally of the series and presents crews with a spectacular but bitterly cold environment - in previous years the temperature during the rally has dropped to -30°C. Over three days, drivers will contest 359.87 competitive kilometres based around the service park in the town of Hagfors, 80km north of Karlstad's Rally HQ. The first stage will start at 0900hrs on Friday 11 February and the last at 1259hrs on Sunday 13 February.