Rally Australia: Subaru leg two summary

555 Subaru World Rally Team Summary Subaru's Norwegian hotshot Petter Solberg was in the thick of the action today, as he and fellow WRC youngster Sebastien Loeb tussled for the lead of the rally. The pair were inseparable for much of the Leg,...

555 Subaru World Rally Team Summary

Subaru's Norwegian hotshot Petter Solberg was in the thick of the action today, as he and fellow WRC youngster Sebastien Loeb tussled for the lead of the rally. The pair were inseparable for much of the Leg, each claiming four forest stage wins and pulling clear of the chasing pack. Loeb's advantage at the start of the day was a slender 3.9 sec, and tonight, 124 km later it is just 5.0 secs - roughly equivalent to a 50-metre head start going into tomorrow's final 117km. Solberg maintains he still has plenty in reserve for the final day, and is keenly anticipating the rain that's forecast tonight. Starting the Leg in fourth place, Tommi Makinen was unlucky to lose some time after his car clipped a bank and collected suspension damage. But ahead of the final stages the Finn is also locked in a thrilling points battle, as he fights with Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae for fifth.

Stage Reports

SS11 0949hrs Beraking East (8.88km)
Fastest time: Solberg (Subaru) 5:09.6

The first test of day two took crews back to the forests of Western Australia, where Petter Solberg and Sebastien Loeb continued their duel for the lead of the rally. After saying yesterday that he was just warming up, Petter was quickest through the tree-lined SS11 to claw back more of Loeb's lead and reduce the overall gap to 2.7 sec. Sebastien was second-quickest, with World Championship leader Richard Burns third. Colin McRae was fifth, despite complaining of a continued braking problem that had affected his car for much of Leg 1.

SS12 1012hrs Helena East 1 (20.49km)
Fastest time: Solberg (Subaru) 11.38.2

Incredibly, after more than 173 stage kilometres, nothing separated Petter Solberg and Sebastien Loeb at all. Another stage win for the Norwegian on the 20km Helena section pulled him exactly level with Loeb on 1:40.44.2 to tie the overall lead of the rally. Richard Burns was next quickest, but the Englishman trailed the runaway leaders by 46 seconds in the overall standings, while Petter's Subaru team-mate Tommi Makinen held station in fourth.

SS13 1045hrs Helena West 1 (12.60km)
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 7:18.4

Nip and tuck in the top five again. Loeb and Solberg continued to blaze a trail of red-dust though the outback as they fought their own battle, while McRae, Burns, Makinen and Martin jostled for the next places. This time though a half-spin 2kms from the start cost Petter a couple of seconds, and his French adversary won the stage to pull 2.6 sec clear at the top. His brake problems seemingly remedied, McRae was the best of the rest, although his overall seventh position overall was unaffected. A gear selection glitch for Makinen's Subaru cost him a little time, but Tommi still managed fourth fastest, to remain fourth overall.

SS14 1103hrs Helena South 1 (17.31km)
Fastest time: Solberg (Subaru) 8:55.2

The relentless pace of the lead pair continued. This time Solberg was quickest, but his winning margin of 0.5 sec wasn't enough to overturn Loeb's overall lead, which now stood at 2.1 sec. Burns was third fastest though the stage to keep himself comfortably in third on the leader-board. While Makinen, still troubled with the gear selector problem, put in a brilliant drive to hold fourth. After the stage, crews headed back to Jarrahdale for a 20-minute service.

SS15 1412hrs Beraking West (9.42km)
Fastest time: Solberg (Subaru) 4:38.7

Fresh from Jarrahdale, crews embarked on the first of four stages run without a service halt. Once again, Loeb and Solberg set the pace, with Solberg taking the win this time. Loeb however wasn't far behind, and although the gap on the leaderboard fell to 1.1 sec, Loeb still held the top spot. Markko Martin was third fastest over the high-speed forest tracks, and this was enough for him to move into fourth overall, ahead of Makinen who dropped to fifth.

SS16 1435hrs Helena East 2 (20.49km)
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 11:23.8

In perfect rallying conditions, and more than a minute clear of the rest of the competition, Loeb and Solberg continued to trade stage wins. Loeb had the edge on this occasion and extended his lead to 2.7 sec. His time through the repeated Helena East stage was almost 15 seconds quicker than the morning when it was run as SS13. Elsewhere in the top-10, Colin McRae replaced his Citroen team-mate Carlos Sainz in sixth, when the Spaniard missed a junction and had to turn around after mishearing a pace note. Problems too for Tommi Makinen, when he slid wide on a slow corner and hit a bank, knocking the right-rear suspension of his Impreza out of alignment. The Finn was able to continue, but his speed suffered.

SS17 1508hrs Helena West 2 (12.60km)
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 7:10.6

Another close run thing, and another win for Loeb. Solberg was 0.3 sec back in second while the third-fastest drive came from Markko Martin - a further 6.3 sec back. Colin McRae closed the gap on fifth overall Tommi Makinen, who was hampered by the suspension damage sustained on the previous stage, while Sainz closed the gap on McRae from five to three seconds.

SS18 1526hrs Helena South 1 (17.31km)
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 8.46.6

The final proper stage of the day brought another stage win for Loeb, and meant that Sebastien and Peter shared four wins apiece. Over the day the pair had seemed inseparable and after 10 forest stages, Loeb had increased his winning margin over Solberg by just 1.5 seconds. Colin McRae was in full flight on SS18 and finished third fastest. The performance was enough to take fifth place from Makinen on the final stage before Subaru technicians could fix his car's suspension.

SS19 1940hrs Perth City Super 3 (2.45km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 1:31.7

        @!SS20 1950hrs Perth City Super 4 (2.45km)

Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 1:31.8

The final two blasts around the Super Special Stage at Gloucester Park brought no major upsets to the leading WRC competitors. In perfect dry conditions, and in front of a capacity crowd, Solberg and Loeb maintained their close rivalry. Petter just bettered Sebastien's time on both runs, although the overall order remained unchanged.

Team Quotes

David Lapworth, 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal: "It's been a fascinating game of cat and mouse. Petter and Sebastien have traded times all day and the gap has never varied by more than a couple of seconds. Tommi is locked in a battle for fifth and there is an equally tight chase between Colin, Tommi and Carlos. We are expecting the weather to change and become quite unpredictable so it will be nail-biting stuff tomorrow."

Petter Solberg: "I'm very happy with today, it's really been perfect and we're in a good position going into a very big day tomorrow. We're on the hunt, and I think that puts more pressure on Sebastien than me. We've not been on the limit today and tomorrow we can go to the extra level. I have nothing to worry about at all with the car and the tyres, I had extra in Finland and I have extra ready for tomorrow. I will never give up, I need points, and a lot of them."

Tommi Makinen: "It was going very well until a hairpin left on SS16. We were doing only about 40kph when we hit the sandbank and damaged the right-rear suspension. You can't drive at 100% with a damaged car, and we must have lost at least 10 seconds on each of the remaining stages. It's a shame we're now sixth and not fourth, but we hope the weather predictions for tomorrow are right. It's a long day tomorrow, I like those stages and will try to gain it back."

News from Pirelli

Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager: "This morning's cooler temperatures called for a softer compound of tyre which both Tommi and Petter selected. Later in the day Petter moved to a slightly harder tyre as the temperature increased. Stage conditions today were similar to yesterday however with tomorrow's forecast of rain, Leg three will certainly be interesting."

Rally Talk -- Rally Australia Super Special facts

* Rally Australia was first held in 1988 as a round of the Asia Pacific Championship. The event gained FIA WRC status in 1989 and was included until 1993. The rotation system saw the 1994 event count for the FIA 2-litre cup, while full WRC status returned in 1993. It has been voted Rally of the Year by WRC teams three times, in 1995, 1999 and 2000

* Introduced in 1991, Rally Australia's Langley Park Super Special stage was the first city-based stage in the world where two cars competed at once

* This year the Super Special Stage moved to the Perth horse-trotting stadium at Gloucester Park. The change in the date of the rally from summer to spring meant there was a chance the riverside Langley Park might flood

* Gloucester Park is the eighth different Super Special location used by this rally. Previously, the head-to-head circuit has been constructed in Freemantle (twice), Whiteman Park in the north of the city, Curtin University, Burswood Casino, Victoria Quay and the Northbridge and Narrows areas of Perth.

* The specially constructed track at Gloucester Park is built on a crushed-rock base, is 2.45 long and took two weeks to construct. The rally complex can accommodate 10,000 standing spectators (compared to Langley Park's 2,000) and features temporary stands and hospitality suites to seat a further 5,000

* The leading WRC competitors are expected to hit a top speed of 150kph along the finish straight at Gloucester Park

* More than 500,000 of Australia's 19.5 million population tuned in to watch live TV coverage of the event last year. Organisers estimate that 40,000 spectators, teams, officials and media will attend the rally this year. More than 2,000 are involved in running the event alone

Tomorrow's Leg

The final leg of Rally Australia starts tomorrow from Perth City Parc Ferme. The first car will leave at 0700hrs and head to the central service at Jarrahdale, before travelling 50km southeast to the legendary Bannister stages, based in the Sotico pine plantations. Competitors will contest four more stages and a total of 117 competitive kilometres. Included tomorrow are the famous Bunnings jumps where last year the Subaru Impreza WRC's jumped two metres off the ground and flew 50 metres through the air. The first stage is due to start at 0906hrs.

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Richard Burns , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Markko Martin
Teams Citroën World Rally Team