Rally Australia: Subaru leg one summary

555 Subaru World Rally Team Summary At the end of Leg 1, Petter Solberg holds second place overnight. The Norwegian has been locked in a thrilling battle for the lead with another young star of the sport, Sebastien Loeb. Going into Leg 2 the...

555 Subaru World Rally Team Summary

At the end of Leg 1, Petter Solberg holds second place overnight. The Norwegian has been locked in a thrilling battle for the lead with another young star of the sport, Sebastien Loeb. Going into Leg 2 the pair are separated by less than five seconds. Solberg's team-mate Tommi Makinen holds overnight fourth, and with more than 240 stage kilometres to go he's aiming for a strong finish on Sunday.

Stage Reports

SS1 (Thursday 4 September) 1838hrs Perth City Super 1 (2.45km)
Fastest time: Solberg (Subaru) 1:31.9

The opening test of Rally Australia was a night-time trip to the all-new Perth City Super Special Stage. Based at the Perth horse-trotting stadium at Gloucester Park, the custom-built track took two weeks to construct and is a close copy of the more familiar Langley Park stage, which will not be run this year. In front of more than 12,000 spectators, crews tackled the floodlit 2km sprint in head-to-head fashion, two at a time. Subaru's crowd-pleasing Petter Solberg, who was quickest on the first run through Langley Park in 2002, repeated the feat on the new track and took the early lead of the event. Solberg finished 0.3 seconds clear of second placed Carlos Sainz, while Markko Martin was third and Petter's teammate Tommi Makinen fourth.

SS2 0819hrs Murray North 1 (18.49km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 10:29.1

In damp conditions and with light rain falling, the rally proper got underway with an 18km blast along the forest tracks of the Murray stage. Defending World Champion Marcus Gronholm was quickest through the high-speed, tree-lined roads in his 206WRC, he finished 2.4 seconds clear of Solberg who was second (despite collecting a puncture) while Ford's Markko Martin was third. After two stages, things were still tight at the top, and while Gronholm moved ahead of Solberg to take the overall lead, less than 12 seconds split the top five.

SS3 0847hrs Murray South 1 (20.12km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 11:51.8

Seemingly unaffected by being one of the first cars through the loose gravel covered stage, Gronholm was fastest again, nine seconds clear of Citroen's Carlos Sainz who was next quickest - himself another of the drivers with an early road position. The intermittent rain seemed to have levelled the playing field somewhat, making conditions muddy and extremely slippery for all, but generally reducing the typical Rally Australia road cleaning effect, which tends to penalise the first few cars. Third-quickest through the stage was enough to keep Solberg second overall, while Richard Burns moved up to third.

The numerous road junctions on the 20km section caused a few problems, Makinen, Loeb and Martin all had to stop and re-join the route after taking wrong turns.

SS4 0945hrs Gobbys (5.20km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 2:29.6

A short dash through the red-earth roads near North Dandalup, brought 27-year-old Markko Martin the first Australian stage win of his career. In a close contest, less than ten seconds separated the top ten cars, but the best performances came from the rising stars of the WRC rather than the more experienced names. 28-year-old Solberg was second; 23-year-old Mikko Hirvonen third and 29-year-old Sebastien Loeb fourth.

SS5 1212hrs Stirling West (15.89km)
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 9:15.3

After a 20-minute service at Jarrahdale, crews embarked on the second group of three stages. By now, weather conditions had improved. The rain showers had stopped, and there were sunny periods. On only his second attempt at Rally Australia, Sebastien Loeb seemed to have quickly adjusted to the unique gravel conditions and set the fastest time through the high speed Stirling West stage. But it was a close thing. The Frenchman was hotly pursued by Subaru's Petter Solberg who stopped the clock just 0.5 seconds slower to collect the second-fastest time. Rally leader Gronholm was third, enough to maintain his overall position, although Solberg nibbled another couple of seconds off the Finn's leading margin to lie just 8.6 seconds adrift.

SS6 1244hrs Stirling Long (34.99km)
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 20:02.1

Having found his pace on the previous stage, Loeb continued his assault on the opposition and was fastest again through the marathon Stirling Long, which at 34km is the longest stage of the rally. The result, combined with a mistake from Petter Solberg who overshot a junction and lost 20 seconds, saw the Frenchman leapfrog Solberg into second overall. Gronholm was second fastest through the stage, and kept the lead overall.

SS7 1417hrs Turner Hill (7.00km)
Fastest time: Solberg (Subaru) 4:22.4

Responding to his mistake on the previous stage, Solberg powered his Subaru through the short and twisty Turner Hill section to record his second stage win of the rally. He nearly regained the place lost to Loeb, but instead held third overall, just 1.1 seconds adrift.

SS8 1643hrs Murray North 2 (18.49km)
Fastest time: Solberg / Loeb (Subaru / Citroen) 10.14.4

After another 20-minute service halt at Jarradale, crews faced a repeat of the Murray North and Murray South stages. Battling for second place, and separated by the slimmest of margins Loeb and Solberg went flat out from the start. Finishing a full 15 seconds quicker than the morning's winning time, incredibly, the pair shared the stage win with identical times over the 18km section. But although the gap between the pair remained the same, the place they were fighting for didn't. Shortly before the finish line, Marcus Gronholm's Peugeot drifted wide and left the stage. The car came to rest away from the gravel stage and the Finn was unable to re-gain the road. Although he later managed to get underway again, he lost around 15 minutes and any realistic chance of a good result. Enjoying slightly better luck was Carlos Sainz, who crashed after being temporarily blinded by the sun. The Spaniard's Citroen was pitched into the air and rolled completely before landing back on its wheels undamaged, allowing him to continue.

SS9 1711hrs Murray South 2 (20.12km)
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 11:30.0

The final proper stage of the day took crews back for a repeat of the Murray South Stage. Once again Loeb and Solberg tussled for position at the top, but on this occasion Loeb had the edge and eased four seconds in front of the Subaru driver. Tommi Makinen dropped time with a power steering problem, but still held on to fourth overall. But the end of SS9 proved to be the end of the rally for 27th placed Marcus Gronholm. Reasoning he had little chance of a points finish after losing more than 16 minutes, the Finn decided to retire in service before the Super Special.

        @!SS10 2032hrs Perth City Super 2 (2.45km)

Fastest time: Duval (Ford) 1:33.5

In the Solberg vs. Loeb duel, Solberg took the honours at the spectator stage. In a closely fought battle, the Norwegian nudged ahead of Loeb to take victory by 0.1 second. Francois Duval took the stage win, with team-mate Markko Martin second. Elsewhere there were no upsets or changes to the top ten, and after the stage crews returned their cars to the overnight Parc Ferme.

Team Quotes

David Lapworth, 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal: "Petter's got off to a very good start today, he set a consistently fast pace and is nicely poised to fight with Sebastien tomorrow. Tommi too has put in a good solid drive. He's kept in touch with the leaders and is well placed for a good podium finish. The tricky conditions we've experienced have seemed to suit our car and team today and we're feeling positive ahead of tomorrow's second Leg."

Petter Solberg: "It's too bad what happened to Marcus. Sebastien has been very impressive and quick, and it will be a very good fight for the next two days. But don't forget, this is only Friday, it's just a warm up, we're not taking big risks. But we're in a good fighting position and we'll push a bit more tomorrow."

Tommi Makinen: "On the last stage (SS9) 3kms from the start the power steering felt very stiff and we lost a little time, but overall things are okay. For now, we have a serious plan to catch Richard. We still have two more days to go and I'm aiming to finish on the podium."

News from Pirelli

Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager: "We're continuing to use the new construction of gravel tyre which proved itself so well in Finland. Since that event we have done over 500kms of extra testing and have been running triple shifts within our motorsport factory in preparation for Australia. Both Tommi and Petter have chosen the KM pattern for all stages today, using the softer compound in the morning due to the cold and damp stages. We have been delighted with the way in which the Subaru Pirelli package has worked again."

Team Talk -- Tool Talk!

With 555 SWRT technicians able to complete a full damper change in five minutes and a gearbox change in nine, they're among the best in the world. But, they couldn't do it without their trusty Snap-on tools, so we took a look inside a 555 Subaru World Rally Team tool kit to find out just what they use--

* Each technician has his/her own hand tool kit which is named, and all their tools are individually numbered

* Each kit includes 100 items and is worth more than $3,500 US (excluding the case)

* Each technician works with matching sets of tools, apart from the gearbox, electrical and engine technicians who require extra, specific items

* According to Tommi Makinen's crew, the tools that are used most are the 19mm impact socket, which is used to remove the wheels during service; the flush pliers, which are used for cutting tie wraps that secure the wiring loom and anything loose in the car; and the 17mm/14mm combination ring spanner, which is used for attaching or removing the components that make up the car's main suspension

* The 17mm socket is also vital. Used with the nut gun, the socket is required for suspension changes, gearbox changes, upright changes, traction control arm changes, lateral link changes, sump guard changes, and for changing the front bumper -- so it's pretty important!

* The largest and most expensive item in the toolbox is the torque wrench, which is used to ensure that all the nuts and bolts on the car are set to the correct torque setting (16/ft). The least expensive is the scriber, which is used for marking metal

* The most unusual object is the telescopic mirror. Looking more like something owned by a dentist, the extending instrument is used to check for any damage in awkward sections of the car

* Each tool box includes 4 different ratchets, 24 different sockets and 25 different size spanners

* With the exception of the torque wrench, all the team's hand tools are made and supplied by Snap-On, and have a lifetime guarantee

Tomorrow's Leg

Leg two starts tomorrow from Perth City Parc Ferme. The first car will leave at 0730hrs for the first service at Jarrahdale, before travelling 50km northeast for the first stage of the day. Competitors will contest ten stages, including a further two passes around the Perth Super Special, and a total of 124.00 competitive kilometres. The first stage is due to start at 0949hrs.


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About this article
Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team