After a difficult event for the Subaru team, Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen ended today's final Leg of Rally Catalunya in fifth and eighth place respectively. Both drivers claimed points in the Manufacturers' and Drivers' Championships, and...
After a difficult event for the Subaru team, Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen ended today's final Leg of Rally Catalunya in fifth and eighth place respectively. Both drivers claimed points in the Manufacturers' and Drivers' Championships, and both their Subaru Impreza WRC's ran without any mechanical problems all weekend. With the 2004 Championship titles wrapped up on the previous rally in Corsica, both Mikko and Petter used this weekend as an opportunity to test tyres and car set-ups for future events.
SS15: 0731 Sant Boi de Lluçanès 1 (12.85km)
As overnight rain ceased and conditions began to dry in the
mountains, tyre choice was once again a gamble as drivers set out to
contest 53 competitive kilometres of varying conditions before the next
service. Running on tyres more suited to wet conditions, ex-Formula one
driver Stephane Sarrazin was fastest through the rain soaked 12km smooth
asphalt stage from Saint Boi, while Marcus Gronholm, on intermediate
tyres in his Peugeot, was just 0.3 seconds behind for second. Markko
Martin, Carlos Sainz and Petter Solberg all opted to use soft compound
slick tyres for the loop and were third, fourth and fifth fastest
respectively. Mikko Hirvonen was eleventh fastest after encountering
visibility problems during the stage, his screen misted up badly due to
a fault with its electrical heating system. After the stage was
complete, crews drove a 35km liaison section to the start of SS16.
Fastest Stage Time: Sarrazin (Subaru) 8:49.5
SS16: 0819 La Roca 1 (5.05km)
At 7°C, ambient temperatures were just one degree higher for the
second stage of the day, the short sprint from La Roca. But, as the
smooth asphalt road surface began to dry, it was the drivers on slick
tyres that had the advantage. Negotiating the fast 2.5km climb, followed
by a twisty downhill section to the finish, Sainz and event leader
Martin set exactly the same time to tie for the win. Mitsubishi's Daniel
Sola was third fastest, while Hirvonen set a competitive sixth fastest
time, 2.4 seconds off the winning pace. There was no change to the
overall top ten and, after the finish, crews moved to the start of SS17.
Fastest Stage Time: Sainz (Citroen) & Martin (Ford) 3:09.0
SS17: 0847 Viladrau 1 (35.18km)
The longest stage of the day, the 35km test from Viladrau
provided the best opportunity for the chasing Xsara of Carlos Sainz to
catch Marcus Gronholm in the battle for overall second. Starting the
stage with an 11.9 second deficit, the Spaniard was second quickest, and
finished just 0.4 seconds off Martin's winning time. But it wasn't
enough, and Gronholm finished the stage just 2.7 seconds further back to
maintain his position by an advantage of 9.2 seconds. A good run for
Skoda's Toni Gardemeister saw the Finn finish fourth fastest in his
Fabia, while Gigi Galli was fifth. His team-mate Daniel Sola went off
the road 14km from the finish, but was able to continue. Taking crews
once more round the famous motorway bridge hairpin, the stage was the
last of the morning's loop before crews returned to Vic for a 20-minute
Fastest Stage Time: Martin (Ford) 22:23.7
SS18: Sant Boi de Lluçanès 1 (12.85km)
Although conditions were drier for the repeated Sant Boi test,
some damp patches remained and there was slippery mud on the corners
which had been dragged onto the driving line during the morning's pass.
With most drivers opting to run on soft compound slick tyres with extra
grooves cut into the tread, the battle for overall second continued to
rage between Gronholm and Sainz. This time it was the Finn who was
fastest, but Sainz maintained the pressure and was just 2.3 seconds
slower for second fastest. Subaru team-mates Solberg and Hirvonen were
third and fourth fastest respectively, which was enough to move Mikko up
to eighth overall and into the points, while event leader Martin was
fifth. Mitsubishi's Galli collected a ten second time penalty for a jump
start, but remained in seventh position overall. Once the stage was
complete, cars moved to the start of the penultimate stage, SS19.
Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 8:51.6
SS19: 1208 La Roca 2 (5.05km)
Less than three seconds separated the top eleven times set on
the repeated sprint test from La Roca. In the continuing battle for
overall second, Gronholm was fastest and set an average speed of
97.64kph to take his fifth win of the event. His rival Sainz was fifth
fastest, but with just 1.4 seconds between their times, the stage bought
little change to the positions overall. Hirvonen was eighth fastest and
Solberg tenth. After the finish, crews moved to the start of the final
Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 3:06.2
SS20: 1236 Viladrau 2 (35.18km)
Martin held his nerve through the final stage, the repeated
Viladrau test, to finish fifth fastest and claim the fifth WRC victory
of his career. Defending his overall second position throughout the
final 35km, Gronholm was fastest to secure the runner-up position, while
the chasing Sainz delighted his home crowds by crossing the line to take
the final podium spot. Solberg and Hirvonen were third and fifth fastest
through the test to finish in the points in overall fifth and eighth
respectively. There were nervous moments for Sola after the finish when
his Mitsubishi suffered a small engine fire and he and his co-driver
Xavier Amigo had to push it into service. He was able to complete the
event, but collected a ten second penalty for leaving the final service
one minute late.
Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 22:31.0
It's been a difficult weekend. We got back in one piece, with some points and gathered some useful data, that's the main thing, but of course I know that we have the potential to do so much better. Now though it's time to re-focus on the next event. We won Australia before, we've dominated the last few gravel rallies and I'm hungry for another rally win.
Like Petter I have found this event quite frustrating at times, but I went as fast as I could go in the conditions and for sure I've learned a lot about the car and tyres on these particular roads. My target throughout the whole weekend was to get as close to Petter's pace as possible and things certainly improved as I got more experience.
Team Principal, David Lapworth
With the Championship decided on the previous round, our focus has naturally switched to next year. The plan coming here was to gain as much data as possible for our 2005 development programme. The drivers have done a very professional job and helped us to gather a lot of information. Australia however will be a different story. There's no doubt we want to end the season on a high.
News from Pirelli
, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
It was a difficult rally because of the extremely variable climatic conditions and also because of the problems in finding the right combination of car set-up and tyres. Nonetheless, Petter has come away with valuable points, which will be important in the run up to our return to gravel for the final rally in Australia, where we will all be doing our best to hold onto second place in the Drivers' World Championship.
Telstra Rally Australia: 12-14 November 2004
Next week teams will cross the globe to Australia for the sixteenth and final round of the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship. Beginning on Thursday 11 November with a blast around a Super Special, the rally will start for proper on Friday 12 November at 0700hrs when cars leave parc ferme. Based around the Western Australia capital city of Perth, crews will contest 388.25 competitive kilometres and 25 gravel stages over three days. The event will conclude when the winning car crosses the finish ramp in Perth at 1600hrs on Sunday 14 November.