Overnight leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) was fastest on the opening stage. However, he hit a rock near the finish of the stage and the impact cracked the oil sump, forcing him to retire on the liaison section to the next stage. Marcus...
Overnight leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) was fastest on the opening stage. However, he hit a rock near the finish of the stage and the impact cracked the oil sump, forcing him to retire on the liaison section to the next stage. Marcus Gr0x00f6nholm (Peugeot) posted three fastest times to hold second, ahead of fans' favourite Carlos Sainz (Citroen), who was happy the long stage was cancelled as he was struggling with brake problems. Ex-Formula 1 test driver Stephane Sarrazin is an excellent fourth on only his third WRC event, having moved ahead of Petter Solberg (Subaru) when the Norwegian spun near the start of stage 12. Dani Sola (Mitsubishi) lost time with a spin on the previous stage but holds sixth, ahead of team-mate Gigi Galli, whose decision to alter the anti-roll bar settings improved his car's handling.
Forty-six of the original 52 competitors left Lloret de Mar parc ferme at 0600hrs this morning. Three of those had re-started after retiring on Leg one
The longest of the event, Leg two comprised 162.88 competitive kilometres and two loops of four stages, separated by a 20-minute service. Stages were based in the mountains near to the service park in the town of Vic
Conditions remained dry all day, while temperatures ranged between 6 C and 13 C. Stages were dry, smooth asphalt
Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena were forced to retire while in the lead, after setting the fastest time in SS7, Les Llosses/Alpens. Carlos Sainz and Marc Marti picked up the torch for Citroen, and are currently lying in third position.
Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "I was on the normal trajectory, cutting the corner. A large rock, most probably moved by a previous car, came under the sump protection of my Xsara."
Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: Carlos Sainz and Marc Marti, the sole remaining defenders of the Double Chevron's colours, were on fine form this morning. Second-fastest in SS7 and 8, Carlos had closed up on Marcus Gr0x00f6nholm. The Citroen had the Finn within his sights, just 3.5 seconds ahead of him. After a reduction in the efficiency of the brakes of his car, Carlos bled the brakes himself during the RTFZ (Remote Tyre Fitting Zone) adjacent to the park. With SS10 cancelled (due to a massive influx of spectators), the brake problems were solved in the service park, and the fight with Marcus was able to restart, throughout the second loop, identical to the first. Initially, the gap between the two men widened slightly, but Carlos, setting the best time during the 33km 'Sant Julia 2' stage, brought it back to 11.4 seconds. Everything is therefore still possible for the "matador", who is ready to climb onto the podium for the 96th time in his career.
Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen ended Leg two of Rally Catalunya in fifth and ninth place respectively after a disappointing day on the Spanish asphalt stages. Although both cars ran faultlessly throughout the day, and the drivers pushed as hard as they could, they were unable to close the gap to the leaders. Making best use of the opportunity to test, both Petter and Mikko experimented with different tyres and car settings in the afternoon, and this work will continue on tomorrow's final Leg.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "Like yesterday, we've had a difficult day on the stages. The car has run reliably, but even though I'm giving it 100 per cent the times just aren't good enough. We've experimented with some different tyres and set-ups this afternoon, but there was no real improvement. There's not a lot more to say, I'll just keep doing my best tomorrow and we'll see where it gets us."
Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: "On today's dry roads it's been quite tough, but I've pushed as hard as I could. I've been cutting every corner, even if it's not in the notes, just to try and get some advantage. Hopefully there will be some more damp conditions tomorrow, which would make things a little easier. My objective for tomorrow is to keep focused, keep out of trouble and narrow the gap to Petter's times."
Markko M0x00e4rtin and Michael Park lead Spain's Rally Catalunya in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car after today's second leg. The BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers, lying second after the opening day, moved to the top of the leaderboard early this morning. They controlled the advantage over their rivals to end the longest leg of this three-day event with a 39.7sec lead.
Markko Martin / Michael Park: "There were some really big cuts in the corners and I'm not a big fan of those," he said. "It's possible to gain time by taking big cuts through the bends, but if the car hits something then that can be rally over. It was quite slippery in places. Some sections had a lot of grass on the road where previous cars had cut the corners and dragged it onto the driving line.
"I'm not really attacking, just driving safely to keep ahead of those behind us and I would have adopted a different pace if Loeb was still in the rally. I've managed to keep the same time gap all day. I wanted to finish the leg with a minimum 35 second gap and I've done that. It has been dry all leg which made tyre selection easier. Sunshine would be good tomorrow. I don't want mixed conditions because then there is the risk of making a mistake with tyre choice," added M0x00e4rtin
Francios Duval / Stephane Prevot: Retired
Peugeot driver Marcus Gronholm has ended day two of Spain's Catalunya Rally with a chance of victory. The two-time World Champion is currently in second place, and plans to challenge for his first asphalt win tomorrow. Marcus was on scintillating form to post his first fastest time of the event on SS9, although he suffered from a slight lack of confidence on the preceding stage. In the afternoon he steered clear of trouble to maximise his chances of victory on the final leg of the rally. His Peugeot 307 WRC was entirely reliable throughout the event and he set three fastest stage times in total.
Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: The Finn said: "We've been trying little adjustments to the car all day and I think we are making some progress now. Today's conditions have been generally easier as the weather was drier, but there was a lot of loose gravel on the road caused by earlier cars cutting the corners. I am still not completely happy as sometimes the balance of the car is not quite correct, but we are definitely heading in the right direction. Realistically it will be very difficult to catch the car in front without something dramatic happening, but you never know in rallying. I have to keep the pressure on and maybe he will make a mistake."
Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets: Retired
At the end of today's five stages on the Catalunya Rally 0x582boda Motorsport World Rally Team's Toni Gardemeister is tenth overall with team mate Armin Schwarz 11th. A planned sixth stage was cancelled as the surface was considered unsafe after a farmer spread mud on the road. On the second of today's stages, Armin set third fastest time and when the stage was run later in the day Toni was fifth fastest, confirming the asphalt potential of the Fabia WRC that was shown earlier this year when Armin took a stage win in Germany. Jan Kopecky did not restart this morning as the damage sustained by the car when he hit rocks on last night's final stage was too severe to be repaired safely for the young Czech Champion to compete under SupeRally rules.
Armin Schwarz / Manfred Hiemer: "The Santa Eulalia stage (SS8/12) was new for everyone so our third fastest time was a real indication of what is possible. It was a fast and flowing stage that suited the handling of the Fabia WRC and so I was really pleased when I saw our time was so good. The problem today has been on the second runs where there is a lot of dirt being dragged onto the stages."
Toni Gardemeister / Paavo Lukander: "I was quite happy with the car today. I took softer tyres than Armin which were quite stable. I pushed hard on SS12 and set a good time there which gave me a lot of confidence to attack the rest of the stages."
Jan Kopecky / Filip Schovanek:
Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04 driver "Dani" Sol0x00e0 leads the team's assault after the second leg of Rally Catalunya - Rally de Espa0x00f1a and holds sixth position. However, the Catalan and team-mate "Gigi" Galli have been evenly matched throughout the day and the Italian is hot on his heels in seventh, having climbed from an overnight ninth. Gilles Panizzi has spent the day testing various settings and is 12th going into the final leg. Dani Sol0x00e0 and Xavier Amigo have consistently set times within the top seven and have been pushing hard throughout the leg. But for a half spin in stage 11, which cost him 25 seconds, the Spaniard could well have moved into fifth position in his first outing on home territory in a world rally car. Overnight, the Lancer WRC04 crew is just 12 seconds adrift of reigning World Champion Petter Solberg.
Gilles Panizzi / Herve Panizzi: After losing time with a poor tire choice yesterday afternoon, Gilles and Herve Panizzi have spent the day testing different set-ups on the Lancer WRC04 and, although they too have moved up the leaderboard, the French crew admitted their set-up was too stiff for the conditions this morning and still not right this afternoon.
Dani Sol0x00e0 / Xavier Amigo: "I drove a bit more aggressively today and we are now very close to Petter and fifth position", said Dani. "I am very happy with our day, although it was disappointing to lose the time in stage 11; there was a lot of gravel on the inside of a slow corner and we had a half spun. The car has been perfect all day and we won't be changing anything for tomorrow".