SWRT team-mates battle head-to-head as Solberg snatches second Both Subaru Impreza WRC2007s remain firmly in the top three after another strong performance in Argentina. Team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson spent the day trading faster...
SWRT team-mates battle head-to-head as Solberg snatches second
Both Subaru Impreza WRC2007s remain firmly in the top three after another strong performance in Argentina. Team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson spent the day trading faster stage times in a close fight for position, just seconds apart. Solberg emerged in second position overall, on track for his best result of the season, with Atkinson close behind in third.
Crews were welcomed by a damp start to the day following overnight rain, although further downpours held off. The character of the stages changed today, with more flowing and faster roads that took crews south of the service park, but the weather remained a stern test of both man and machine.
"We have again showed a strong performance today and both Petter and Chris have driven exceptionally well to win six of the nine stages between them" said David Richards, Subaru World Rally Team Principal. "I'm really impressed with the maturity of Chris' decision not take any big risks and focus on scoring crucial points for the team, and Petter is very clearly building his confidence in the car after a difficult period."
Atkinson was the second competitor to start this morning, with Solberg in third. Both benefited from better road conditions than they experienced yesterday when starting further down the order and were more able to attack. Nevertheless, on the soft roads the mud was soon knee-deep. As the tyres fought through the slime, so the Impreza vs Impreza battle raged. Solberg was first to strike, taking second position overall on the first stage in which Atkinson felt uncomfortable with the balance of his car in the slippery conditions.
With Solberg ahead, Atkinson soon responded and drew closer to the Norwegian throughout the morning. Pushing flat out in a straight fight between team-mates, Solberg won five stages and Atkinson collected his second stage victory of the rally on their way to consolidating the Subaru World Rally Team's strong start to this event. With only three stages left to run tomorrow, the team is on course for its first double podium finish since Wales Rally GB in 2003.
As the afternoon's repeat stages gave way to the combination of hard tyres and horsepower and became very badly rutted, Solberg repeated his early scintillating pace to mount a charge, closing on the rally lead and increasing his gap over Atkinson. As the day drew to a close the Australian eased his pace to avoid any unnecessary risks, ensuring he brought his Impreza home safely on course for his third podium finish from four rallies this season.
Solberg's five stage wins give him the most stage victories over the last two days of competition, and coupled with Atkinson's two stage wins, the team have also won more stages this weekend than any other manufacturer team.
"It's been a really good day, I mean I really, really enjoyed this afternoon" said Petter Solberg. "The car worked very well first thing this morning, and then I lost a bit of the feeling in the conditions, but in the afternoon it was really good. Everything worked and we pushed hard but without taking big risks or making any mistakes. The guys have worked so hard, and they made some changes in service that really worked and after that it's been really good. We have to finish with both cars and the Manufacturers points are very important, but we are in a good position tomorrow. We'll drive fast but try to take it a little bit carefully as anything can still happen and we don't want to risk anything at all. I'm very happy though, it's a great feeling."
"I'm pleased with the way today has gone, even though we lost a position" said Chris Atkinson. "We were fast this morning and it's good to win stages for the team. We've had some good results this year and it's important to keep finishing well, so I decided to back off a little, not take any risks and make sure we got to the finish. Petter had a lot of experience here so I decided to settle. Two Subarus on the podium is the main aim here now and it's important we finish like that tomorrow, for the points and also for everyone in the team."
Lying behind the Subaru duo in fourth at the start of the day, Ford's Gigi Galli retired leaving Citroen's Dani Sordo the nearest competitor, almost one minute and a half behind Atkinson as crews head into the short final day of competition.
Today's route took crews south of the Villa Carlos Paz service park through nine stages and 156 competitive kilometres. As per competition on day one, it was brought to a close by a second high-octane blast around the Cordoba Stadium spectator stage.
The final day of Rally Argentina will take competitors through 43 competitive kilometres and just three stages; the famous El Condor stages and the third and final running of the spectator stage in the Cordoba Stadium. Heading west from the service park into the mountain roads of Traslasierra, crews will climb to an altitude of 2122 metres above sea level for perhaps the most evocative stage of the rally, the so-called Down Condor. Day three is the highest of the rally and engines will start to lose power in the oxygen-thin air. The twisty roads can be unforgiving if crews start the day fighting for positions and pushing hard.