Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg finished Rally Australia in second place today after an excellent performance on the red gravel roads around Perth. Solberg's Impreza WRC2006 ran perfectly over the final 103 kilometres and enabled him...
Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg finished Rally Australia in second place today after an excellent performance on the red gravel roads around Perth. Solberg's Impreza WRC2006 ran perfectly over the final 103 kilometres and enabled him to win three of the day's stages -and a total of six throughout the rally. After a small mistake on Leg one cost Chris Atkinson the rally lead and 25-minutes of penalty time, his focus switched to learning the stages and testing for the next WRC round in New Zealand. Nevertheless, another consistent and reliable run from Atkinson moved him up seven more places today and he finished inside the top ten. Overall the weekend was an encouraging one for Subaru, with both factory Imprezas showing an increased level of competitiveness after a relatively disappointing season so far.
SS21: 0703 ATKINS 1 (4.42KM)
In dry but overcast conditions, Petter Solberg was quickest through the
forest sprint at Atkins; one of the shortest stages of the rally. But
with the Fords of Gronholm and Hirvonen right behind, Solberg was only
able to narrow Hirvonen's overall lead to 31.1sec. Gronholm was
second fastest; doing all he could to keep his championship title hopes
alive but needing problems for the front runners to stand a chance.
Hirvonen was third and reported that the road was still damp and slippery
in places after overnight rain.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 3:06.1
SS22: 0733 HELENA NORTH 1 (29.93KM)
Matching each others progress using split-times relayed to their cars,
there was little to separate Hirvonen and Solberg through the 29km Helena
North section. Hirvonen won the stage, but with Solberg just 0.8sec back,
the Finn's lead remained at around 30sec. The slightly damp and
slippery surface caused problems for a few competitors, notably Ford
privateer Luis Perez-Companc, who went off the road several times,
felling some small trees in the process. Chris Atkinson, following
Perez-Companc through the stage, had a shock when he found a tree across
the road, straight after a blind crest, 7km from the start. He swerved to
miss it, but the rear of his car was damaged as it glanced off another
tree by the roadside. As the damage was largely cosmetic, Atkinson
pressed on and completed the section in the seventh fastest time.
Fastest Time: Hirvonen (Ford) 17:06.0
SS23: 0814 HELENA SOUTH 1 (17.31KM)
On the last stage before the midpoint service, it was Solberg's
time to have a scare, when his car hit a big rock in the middle of the
road. His Impreza hit the rock hard enough to bounce it off the road, but
the impact caused no mechanical damage. The Norwegian went on to record
the third fastest time, five seconds slower than stage winner, Hirvonen.
Fastest: Hirvonen (Ford) 8:57.8
SS24: 1103 ATKINS 2 (4.42KM)
Solberg kept pushing though the first of the final loop of stages; his
winning time was 5sec quicker than the best recorded on Atkins when it
was run earlier in the day but, with a 36sec gap to the leader, the
Norwegian said at the finish that he would be satisfied to end the rally
in second place. Twenty-six year old Hirvonen set the third fastest time
and remained on course to achieve his first ever WRC rally win. Gronholm,
now up to fifth, set the second fastest time, but had no chance of making
up further places without problems for those ahead.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 3:01.3
SS25: 1133 HELENA NORTH 2 (29.93KM)
With the end almost in sight, Solberg, Hirvonen and Gronholm were evenly
matched through the long, repeated Helena North stage. Solberg took the
win, his third of the day, with Hirvonen and Gronholm next fastest,
separated by just 0.2sec. Chris Atkinson was fourth fastest with Manfred
Stohl rounding-off the top five.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 16:59.1
SS26: 1214 HELENA SOUTH 2 (17.31KM)
No dramas for the top ten as they tackled the last ever Perth-based stage
of Rally Australia. Mikko Hirvonen brought his Focus WRC across the line
in the fastest time to take his maiden WRC victory. Petter Solberg
finished second, his best result since April's Rally Argentina,
while Manfred Stohl took the last podium place. Marcus Gronholm finished
fifth, but it wasn't enough to prevent Sebastien Loeb from securing
the 2006 World Championship for drivers, regardless of the results on the
two remaining rallies.
Fastest Time: Hirvonen (Ford) 8:55.9
SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM MANAGING DIRECTOR, RICHARD TAYLOR:
"It's been quite some weekend! We've had both drivers leading during the rally; we won nine stages and then came home with second overall. This is a big milestone for the Subaru team as there have been a lot of difficult events in the past few months. You cannot turn a car's performance around overnight and there has been a great deal of hard work to get us this far. We're not at the top of the podium yet and so we still have much more work to do."
"I am very, very happy to get second place. It's been a really tough season and the team has been working so hard for this, day and night. We're still going to keep pushing on the car, as there's still more to do, but today I am really pleased for all the team and mechanics as it's a big boost for everyone."
"It's not the result we wanted, but we had the pace we wanted and we haven't had that speed for a long time. To be leading the rally on Friday was good and sure, we made a small mistake, but it's encouraging to have that speed. I don't think we would have held onto the lead but we would have been on the podium. So while the result is disappointing, we're encouraged and keep on learning about the car."
News from Pirelli
MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER
"Throughout the weekend both Subaru drivers have used the Pirelli KP tread pattern tyre. The tyres performed very well throughout the event, despite some very hot and slippery conditions. It is very good to see Petter back on the podium and we look forward to seeing more success."
The Next Event
The next, and penultimate round of the 2006 World Rally Championship is Rally New Zealand, which starts in three weeks' time from a new base in the city of Hamilton. A classic drivers' rally, the stunning gravel roads in New Zealand are like rollercoasters that carve through the lush green countryside of the North Island. Subaru has enjoyed considerable success on the event, with Petter Solberg claiming a momentous victory there in 2004. Leg one begins on Friday 17 November.