An icy start to Rallye Monte Carlo The Subaru World Rally Team duo of Chris Atkinson and Petter Solberg had a dramatic start to the season-opening event in demanding and unpredictable conditions, and finished the first day of competition fourth...
An icy start to Rallye Monte Carlo
The Subaru World Rally Team duo of Chris Atkinson and Petter Solberg had a dramatic start to the season-opening event in demanding and unpredictable conditions, and finished the first day of competition fourth and sixth respectively.
Using slightly revised Impreza WRC2007s, the team is confident of quickly developing a solid rhythm over the next three days that, in what have already proved to be challenging conditions, has always been the key to success on this unpredictable event.
In the first event in which all WRC teams are using the Pirelli control tyres, sub-zero temperatures in the mountains made grip challenging on the still unfamiliar rubber. Patches of ice littered the morning's shakedown stage, on which Solberg was fifth fastest, and remained into the evening's stages that rose high into the mountains.
In the treacherous conditions, Solberg and co-driver Phil Mills recorded the sixth fastest time in the opening stage after suffering a spin when they were caught out on ice at the top of the route. Atkinson and co-driver Stephane Prevot had a similar moment on the ice, but continued to complete the stage fourth quickest.
In the day's second stage, Atkinson/Prevot were again fourth fastest, this time just ahead of Solberg/Mills in fifth. Split times early into the stage showed podium potential, Atkinson running ahead of Ford's front-man Mikko Hirvonen before finishing the day close behind him in fourth overall. Solberg will start stage three tomorrow morning just one second behind Francois Duval.
With no snow for the second year running, there was one traditional Monte Carlo trait that could be relied upon. Its incredible diversity pitted the drivers against ice and driving in darkness, along a combination of wide and flowing main roads and narrow and technical mountain routes. A stern test for the entire field, several front-runners ran into difficulty on the notoriously treacherous roads.
Sub-zero temperatures and icy roads are predicted to be a feature for the remaining stages surrounding the Valence service park, meaning there is everything to fight for on tomorrow's narrower and less forgiving routes.
Petter Solberg: "I had a good feeling with the car this morning, and we were going well until we got caught by some ice and spun. But we can see how tricky this event can be, and we can take advantage of that over the next three days. I'm pleased with sixth as a starting point for this unpredictable rally, and am happy with the balance and feeling. We will make some adjustments overnight, especially as we learn more and more about the tyres, which are hard to get right on this surface where we have dry asphalt and then ice. We will keep pushing and just see. I'm not looking at the gap to Duval, we just keep pushing."
Chris Atkinson: "Today is not bad, I'm happy with fourth from today and the times weren't bad. It's been very tricky; at the top of the stage it was just ice, so I think everyone had a moment up there. We had a few small offs which lost us time but didn't damage the car as the road section was just wide enough. Fourth puts us in a good position for the next three days, and for sure there will be more changes to the leaderboard. I'd like to beat Mikko like last year, but fourth would be a good finish. The roads tomorrow are a lot narrower and have less grip then today, and it'll definitely get icy again overnight so the morning will be tough. We will make a few small changes but nothing too much -- I'm happy with the car and we'll keep pushing for Mikko."
Tomorrow the competition continues across 117 competitive kilometres of asphalt roads through the mountains to the South West of the Valence service park, in the Drome region. As the first stage starts at 0824hrs, overnight patchy ice is once again likely to be a factor, especially for those running at the front of the field. With the first full day of competition, the risk of punctures over the six stages may well start to have an impact upon driving styles and results.