Subaru World Rally Team Summary Subaru's young driver signing, Mikko Hirvonen put in a sparkling performance behind the wheel of his Impreza WRC2004 on today's second Leg of Rally Argentina. Firmly in the spotlight after the retirement of his...
Subaru World Rally Team Summary
Subaru's young driver signing, Mikko Hirvonen put in a sparkling performance behind the wheel of his Impreza WRC2004 on today's second Leg of Rally Argentina. Firmly in the spotlight after the retirement of his team mate Petter Solberg on yesterday's Leg, Mikko rose to the challenge to set a string of top five stage times and move up the leaderboard from sixth at the start of the day, to fourth this evening. Although Solberg did re-start today's Leg for testing purposes, his revival was short-lived as mechanical problems sustained yesterday brought his rally to a close before SS15.
SS13: 0848 Amboy - Santa Rosa de Calamuchita (1) (20.43km)
Quick from the start, and littered with water splashes and cambered jumps, the first stage of the day was typical of the hard-packed dirt roads around Santa Rosa de Calamuchita that made up most of Leg 2. Taking advantage of the FIA's trial re-start system, Petter Solberg rejoined the rally after retiring on Leg 1. Although no longer eligible to score championship points, Petter and the team were keen to test and learn more about the conditions that had proved so problematic on the opening day. Underlining the fundamental performance of the Subaru package, Solberg set the fastest time through the 20km stage and crossed the line more than two seconds ahead of rally leader Marcus Gronholm who was second. The other drivers in the battle for the overall lead, Carlos Sainz and Sebastien Loeb, were third and fourth quickest respectively. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 10:34.4
SS14: 0931 Santa Rosa de Calamuchita - San Agustin (22.57km)
According to Petter's co-driver Phil Mills, the road leading to San Agustin is the most difficult of the southern loop of stages. After a deep water splash 600 metres from start, the road winds uphill, getting progressively faster, narrower and more technical also featuring plenty of deceptive corners. It was a familiar story at the top of the stage timesheet, with Gronholm, Sainz, Solberg and Loeb jostling for positions. Gronholm held the advantage on this occasion, to record his sixth stage win of the rally and increase his overall lead over Carlos Sainz by 1.2 seconds. Solberg was third fastest, with Sebastien Loeb fourth. With his car returned to full strength after a 45-minute service on Friday night, sixth placed driver Harri Rovanpera pushed hard to make up time lost with mechanical problems on Leg 1. Harri was fifth fastest, narrowly beating Subaru's young charger Mikko Hirvonen who kept the pressure on with a fine sixth fastest time. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 13:41.8
SS15: 1024 Las Bajadas - Villa del Dique (16.42km)
The fastest stage of the event presented crews with a flat-out sprint along a hard-packed road, with fields on both sides and only a few corners to slow things down. Marcus Gronholm was quickest, with Carlos Sainz second and Sebastien Loeb third. Just 0.3 seconds separated the hard charging Finns Harri Rovanpera and Mikko Hirvonen who were fourth and fifth fastest respectively. Clearly relishing the battle with his experienced compatriot, Mikko felt he could have been quicker if it wasn't for an incident when his car touched a bank at 170kph and slid off the road and into a field. Describing the situation as "one of the biggest accidents I never had" Mikko driver recovered the enormous slide and steered his Impreza back onto the stage with no damage. Sadly, Petter Solberg wasn't sharing his team mate's good fortune and his car's engine began to lose oil on the road section before the start line. After assessing the situation the team decided it was best to withdraw the car from the rally in order to analyse the cause of the problem rather than risk further damage. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 8:47.2
SS16: 1120 Amboy - Santa Rosa de Calamuchita (2) (20.43km)
After a re-fuelling stop at the town of Amboy, crews embarked on a repeat of the stage run earlier as SS13. Marcus Gronholm continued his rally leading form by setting the fastest time, with Carlos Sainz less than half a second behind in second. Rovanpera was third quickest, followed by Sebastien Loeb while Mikko Hirvonen put in a spirited performance to round off the top-five. With the exception of Sainz and Gronholm, positions on the overall leaderboard were looking secure, with minutes rather than seconds separating the drivers. For the first time on the rally third placed Sebastien Loeb dropped more than a minute behind the duelling pair ahead of him. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 10:37.2
SS17: 1439 Carlos Paz - Cabalango (14.81km)
Fresh from a 20-minute service halt at the rally base in Carlos Paz, Carlos Sainz ended Marcus Gronholm's run of three consecutive stage wins by setting the fastest time through SS17. Gronholm wasn't far behind, but the Spaniard reduced Gronholm's overall lead by three seconds. Peugeot's Harri Rovanpera was third quickest, with Loeb fourth and Hirvonen a fine fifth. Sebastien Loeb received a 20 second penalty for leaving service two minutes late after work to a replace a cracked alternator stand exceeded the permitted time. Fastest Stage Time: Sainz (Citroen) 10:03.5
SS18: 1512 Tanti - Cosquin (9.50km)
Sainz set the pace again through the shortest proper stage of the rally, and moved another 0.5 seconds closer to the lead. Marcus Gronholm was second, Rovanpera third, while another excellent performance from Mikko Hirvonen, on only his second attempt at Rally Argentina, was fourth in his Subaru. Fastest Stage Time: Sainz (Citroen) 5:52.4
SS19: 1549 Cosquin - Villa Allende (19.19km)
Starting with a climb to the mountain top village of Villa Allenda, then a scenic route past a ski station and ski lifts, SS19 later levels out and changes character to become a high-speed sprint to the finish. In a dramatic turn of events, Marcus Gronholm's Peugeot clipped a rock mid way through and lost a wheel, stopping it in his tracks. Unable to continue, the Finn retired on the spot, leaving the way clear for Carlos Sainz to take the lead of the rally. The Spaniard recorded the fastest time on the stage, 4.5 seconds ahead of Mikko Hirvonen who charged through to finish second - his best result of the rally so far. Double World Champion Sainz now held a comfortable 1 min 37 sec lead over his Citroen team mate, and current championship leader, Sebastien Loeb. Francois Duval in the remaining Ford entry held third, 2 min 20 sec further back, while Mikko Hirvonen in the Subaru moved up to fourth. Mitsubishi driver Kristian Sohlberg retired when his car lost drive to its wheels. Fastest Stage Time: Sainz (Citroen) 13:33.1
SS20: 1910 Super Especial Complejo Pro-Racing (3.02km)
Fastest Stage Time: Rovanpera (Peugeot) 2:15.3
SS21: 1910 Super Especial Complejo Pro-Racing (3.02km)
The final trip to the spectator friendly Pro-Racing Super Special brought no upsets to the top ten drivers. Harri Rovanpera won both passes, with Loeb runner up on SS20 and Duval just behind on SS21. Mikko Hirvonen consolidated his overall position with the fifth-fastest time on both. Fastest Stage Time: Rovanpera (Peugeot) 2:15.2
I'm glad I was able to re-start this morning and I felt it was very worthwhile to drive the stages and test some set-up adjustments for the future. The stage win was a bonus. It's unfortunate I can't re-start again tomorrow as I really wanted to drive those particular stages, some of which I've never tackled before, but that's life. I'd have wanted to start any event as I think the new re-start system offers us every opportunity to do more testing and get greater experience of the rallies.
The car is working very well and we have had a very good choice of tyres. It's good to be pushing all the time and getting the stage times that we have. The roads really suited me today and even when they started to get a little twistier I was maintaining my pace. It's easy to wonder what we could have done here without yesterday's problems, but I'm putting thoughts like that out of my mind. For tomorrow I'm going to have to keep pushing all the time to keep Harri behind me, make sure I finish, and get the most points I can.
David Lapworth, Team Principal David Lapworth, Team Principal
A very good day for Mikko. Before the rally we targeted today as a real opportunity for him to stretch himself and there has been a steady improvement in his times. Rounding off the day with a second fastest result is very encouraging and he is learning a lot over the course of this event. We'll try and build on this solid foundation tomorrow in preparation for Rally Finland next month. Petter took some consolation today when he set the fastest time on SS13 and it was a shame that the engine damage sustained yesterday made it unwise to continue any further.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Tyres Sporting Director
It's been a disappointing rally for us as we have once again lost out on the chance to win. When Petter was running without problems yesterday it was clear that we had every chance of a top result as our tyres were well suited to the conditions. Unfortunately Mikko doesn't yet have the necessary experience to fight for victory here but he's doing an excellent job in difficult circumstances and learning a lot about the capabilities of our P Zero tyre range.