Petter Solberg (Subaru) remained Hirvonen's main challenger. The Norwegian won one speed test but was unable to make inroads to the BP-Ford driver's advantage. Xevi Pons (Citroen) began the day with a slender advantage over Manfred Stohl...
Petter Solberg (Subaru) remained Hirvonen's main challenger. The Norwegian won one speed test but was unable to make inroads to the BP-Ford driver's advantage. Xevi Pons (Citroen) began the day with a slender advantage over Manfred Stohl (Peugeot) in third, but the Austrian driver moved ahead on the second test and extended his lead over Pons to 20.1sec. Production Cup driver Toshi Arai (Subaru) climbed to fifth on the opening stage and pulled clear of his rivals before rolling into retirement this afternoon. Argentine Marcos Ligato (Mitsubishi) replaced him in the top five. All yesterday's leading retirements returned to action today under SupeRally, with the exception of Henning Solberg (Peugeot), whose car was too badly damaged.
Kronos Total Citroen
After an action-packed opening leg, day two of the Rally Australia was considerably calmer. The two Kronos Total Citroen Xsara WRCs enjoyed a trouble-free run through all the stages. Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio end the day in fourth place. Having picked up 40 minutes of road penalties yesterday, Dani Sordo and Marc Marti are currently in 30th position. The format of leg two was identical to that of the previous day, starting with a loop of stages in the morning to the south of Rally HQ. This time it was the famous Bunnings stages in the Sotico complex, rather than the Murray stages run yesterday morning. Then the route moved to the east of Perth towards the Helena river, for a re-run of Beraking and Flynns in the afternoon. Finally, the crews went to the head-to-head Perth City superspecial, run for the fifth and sixth times.
Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: "I wasn't really able to fight back on the afternoon stages, partly because I had chosen a soft BFGoodrich tyre that was not correct for the road conditions. It had rained, but the road had dried out completely. Suddenly our car was moving about a lot, which is not what you need when the roads are this fast. Manfred is only 20 or so seconds ahead though so the fight is not over yet. I'm going to go for it, but I will also remember that it is crucial for us to finish - both in terms of the manufacturers' championship and to stay ahead of Marcus [Grönholm] "
Dani Sordo/Marc Marti: "I wasn't as confident in the afternoon for my first run through Beraking, which was narrower and more difficult. I also discovered there that my notes were far from perfect. I came to Australia with little confidence, as I had been warned about this rally many times. It's quite something to be flying through these tree-lined roads with so little grip.. My feeling now is that this is a rally one would grow to like with time and experience. I think we have worked well today. I know where I've lost time and I know where I'm going to lose some more, but this is what learning is all about. Looking at the time sheets, I'm not too unhappy - bearing in mind my position of second on the road, my inexperience of the stages, and my determination not to make any mistakes. "
One could call the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team the winner of the second day of the "Telstra Rally Australia". During the 120,36 special stage kilometres, Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor overtook the Spanish duo Xavi Pons/Carlos del Barrio, who are giving a strong performance in the works Citroen with Number one. But the Austrian OMV duo turned the eight seconds they were behind into a lead by 20,1 seconds. Now it is paramount to get this result across the finish line. But there are still over 100 special stage kilometres to go on Sunday.
Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "I can't complain. The streets weren't half as slippery today. This was because the surface beneath the loose gravel was very soft. That does give you more grip. And I naturally increased the speed and tried to put pressure on Xavi. It is quite a joy when everything works faultlessly."
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: Retired
Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen continue to lead Rally Australia after today's second leg. The BP-Ford World Rally Team pair returned to Perth this evening having extended their opening day advantage to 32.3sec in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car. The Finns, chasing their maiden victory in the FIA World Rally Championship, controlled their pace over the slippery gravel tracks in Western Australia on a day when the team won eight of the nine speed tests.
Team-mates Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen continued to fight back up the order after yesterday morning's roll. The Finns, who began the day in 18th in their Focus RS, won five speed tests to climb to seventh. They remain on course for a fifth place finish, their target after losing 11 minutes in yesterday's crash.
Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "I'm closing on fifth, which is where we calculated we could climb to after the accident. Tomorrow I will continue to drive at my own speed and hope to get there. I don't think I can get any higher so anything more would be a bonus. It's not so good to be so far behind but it was my mistake and I must pay the penalty.
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "I've had a fantastic day with no problems and I really enjoyed it. I've proved that I can drive fast enough to challenge for victory. I've watched Petter Solberg's split times and driven accordingly. It's nice to be able to defend a lead and I've proved something to myself under pressure. I'm still not really thinking about actually winning. I'm just trying to maintain a good speed and keep Petter behind us.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford men Matthew Wilson and Luis Perez Companc turned in fault-free drives through some of the most demanding conditions this year's World Rally Championship will provide.
Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "This morning was so hard! The conditions were terrible - probably the worst gravel I've ever seen. Because I was first on the road, there were no braking marks, nothing. I took a cut in the tyre to try and move some of the gravel aside, but, really, it made no difference. We dropped 30 seconds on the first stage this morning with two overshoots. That's what happens when you touch the brakes and the car goes faster sliding on top of the ball bearings! On the second run through, it was better. By then, though, we were starting to get some ruts and they can take your confidence away as well. I did enjoy the jumps at Bunnings, though. They were really quite daunting - you sweep downhill and then there's an enormous kick at the top, which throws you into the air. I was a bit cautious on the first attempt, but went a bit harder the second time around and we certainly seemed to fly a fair way! The car was running absolutely perfect this morning."
Luis Perez Companc/Jose-Maria Volta: "Today has been very good. I really like the stages, they seem to suit me more. With the trouble we had yesterday, we couldn't do much on the leaderboard, so instead we were getting ourselves ready for New Zealand; today's roads are nearly the same as some of those on the next round. We haven't had any problems with the car at all. Really, we're just driving in the middle of the road. Everything has been getting better and better for me all day. There has been good grip around this afternoon, which is why I have been able to push harder."
Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg holds second place overall at the end of the second day of competition on Rally Australia. Solberg's Impreza WRC2006 ran faultlessly throughout the Leg and enabled him to set a string of top-three times, as well as the stage win on the longest test of the day. With six more timed stages remaining, the Norwegian looks on course to equal his best result of the season so far. Solberg's team-mate Chris Atkinson restarted after retiring from the lead earlier in the event. Although out of contention for the result he had hoped for, the 26-year-old Australian made the most of the opportunity to test his Impreza before the next WRC round in New Zealand.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: 'It's been very close today and I've really enjoyed the fight. This afternoon was not as damp as we hoped, so I think I lost some time there with the tyre choice. Of course I really want to win, but I think Mikko wants to win too! It's a long day tomorrow and the stages are a bit more difficult so it will be very interesting to see what happens.'
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: 'After the time loss yesterday there was nothing to be gained in being a hero today. I didn't have the same confidence in the car as yesterday, so I've not been taking big risks and have wanted to look after the car for New Zealand.'