Capitalising on his talent in wet-weather conditions and the competitive performance of the Pirelli/Subaru combination, 555 Subaru driver Petter Solberg delivered an impressive performance at the wheel of his Impreza today. Setting a string of ...
Capitalising on his talent in wet-weather conditions and the competitive performance of the Pirelli/Subaru combination, 555 Subaru driver Petter Solberg delivered an impressive performance at the wheel of his Impreza today. Setting a string of consistently good times, the Norwegian moved up five places in the overall standings to finish the event in fifth position and collect four points in both the Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championships. He now lies just one point off the lead in the Drivers' contest with one round remaining. His team-mate Tommi Mäkinen also had a good day and moved up three places to finish in the points.
SS17 0743hrs Sant Bartomeu del Grau 1 (11.55km)
A change in the weather meant very different driving conditions for the crews as they made the first pass through the Sant Bartomeu del Grau speed test, a shortened version of Saturday's SS9. With standing water throughout the 11.55km, all the leading WRC crews opted to run on intermediate tyres, with many adding extra cuts. Running on hand-cut intermediate Pirelli tyres, 555 Subaru drivers Petter Solberg and Tommi Mäkinen set the pace from the outset. Delivering an impressive performance, which demonstrated their confidence in difficult conditions, the duo finished 14.3 seconds faster than the rest of the field, and clinched a Subaru 1-2. Claiming the win, Solberg moved up to ninth position overall, and at the finish lay just 9.2 seconds off seventh. Best of the rest was Sainz, who was third, while Gronholm was fourth. Once SS17 was complete, crews moved directly to the start of SS18.
SS18 0819hrs La Roca 1 (5.05km)
Although only 5km in length, the short blast through La Roca (SS5 run in reverse) was still enough for Solberg to continue to make up time. Capitalising on the conditions, the Norwegian finished third fastest to move up another place on the overall leaderboard, and into the points. His team-mate Mäkinen was second fastest, despite experiencing a power steering glitch, while Peugeot privateer, Roman Kresta took advantage of his early running position on the road to take the stage win - the second of his career. As the rain fell, conditions deteriorated for those further down the order and Sainz finished sixth fastest, while Loeb was seventh. There were problems for Markko Martin. Two days of competitive driving had taken it's toll on the Estonian's whiplash injuries sustained in his Corsica crash and he was struggling to keep his head up in the cockpit of his Focus. He finished thirteenth fastest. His team-mate Duval was twelfth, commenting that his tyres had been too hard.
SS19 0847hrs Viladrau 1 (35.18km)
As thousands of spectators braved the rain to watch the drivers' first pass through the rain sodden Viladrau test, all eyes were on the blue Subaru's of Tommi Mäkinen and Petter Solberg. Completing the stage over half a minute faster than the rest of the field, Mäkinen and his team-mate Solberg notched up another Subaru 1-2 and continued to climb up the leaderboard to end the test in seventh and sixth place respectively. Despite breaking a wheel rim 4km in and enduring a distracting vibration, Solberg still managed to finish 33.6 seconds faster than third-quickest Gronholm, and at the finish he lay just 4 seconds off overall fifth. No such luck for Burns. Struggling in the slippery conditions, the Peugeot driver slid on some mud 10km in, and went off the road. Sustaining damage to his 206's steering and suspension, the Brit was unable to continue bringing his event to an end. After the finish, crews returned to Vic for a scheduled service.
SS20 1110hrs Sant Bartomeu del Grau 2 (11.55km)
Continuing heavy rain prompted all the WRC crews to use intermediate tyres for the final loop of stages, with many adding additional cuts to enable them to slice though the standing water and grip the sealed surface underneath. Having altered the suspension-settings of his Focus in the preceding service, and running on a softer tyre compound to compensate for the torrential rain, Martin was fastest, with the Subaru's of Solberg and Mäkinen maintaining the pace to finish second and fourth quickest respectively. Duval was third to remain ahead of Solberg overall, but at the finish only 2.4 seconds separated the pair, with 40.23km left to run. Having complained that he'd struggled to find a good driving rhythm through the first loop of stages, Panizzi was back on the pace and was fifth fastest.
SS21 1146hrs La Roca 2 (5.05km)
As the tension mounted, Gronholm was fastest through the short penultimate test, with Duval second and Panizzi, third. The Finn's charge, in conjunction with a 10-second stall by Mäkinen on the start line, was enough to move the current World Champion back up to seventh overall. Not such a good stage for Ford's Markko Martin. Struck by a problem with his Focus' automatic gear change system at the start, the Estonian was forced to use a manual back-up system, and dropped five seconds. With the stage so short, time loss was kept to a minimum, but with a repeat of the epic Viladrau still to run before service, the Estonian had to hope his 22.9 advantage over Sainz was enough to protect his third position overall. After the finish, crews made the short 7.62km liaison journey to the start of the final test, SS22.
SS22 1214hrs Viladrau 2 (35.18km)
There was disaster for Citroen in the final pass through the long Viladrau test. Having comfortably held overall fourth position throughout the day, Citroen driver Carlos Sainz spun his Xsara in the final section, dropped almost a minute, and tumbled down the overall standings. Willed on by his home crowds, he reached the finish, but having fallen to seventh position overall, he had to settle for two Drivers' points, rather than five. Problems also for team-mate Loeb. Starting the test with a 31 second advantage, the Frenchman struggled in the rain soaked conditions and was eighth quickest, over 40 seconds off the pace. It wasn't enough to maintain the lead, and Gilles Panizzi was fastest to seize both the stage win, and overall victory. Loeb had to settle for second, while Martin was third.
David Lapworth, 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal: "A fantastic finish which, in the circumstances, could not have been better. After the disappointment of Petter's penalty on Friday, he has done a brilliant job and remains well in the frame for the title. It just shows that you can never give up. With our record in Wales, Petter has to be favourite now for the Drivers' Championship. Tommi has also put in a good performance today and moved up three places to finish in the points. His stage win on SS19 shows his competitive performance in the Impreza in difficult conditions, and that bodes well ahead of GB."
Petter Solberg: "I'm very, very happy with how things have turned out - and it's been a long time since I've been so happy to finish in fifth place! Today, the plan has come together perfectly; it's been incredible and has set up a fantastic finish in Wales. I'm now only one point behind in the Drivers' Championship, and will be trying very, very hard on the final round in GB. It won't be easy though, Sebastien is very good on gravel, Carlos is a clever guy and Richard will be hungry for success. It looks set to be a thriller, and that's what we're hoping for."
#@Tommi Mäkinen: "I'm happy to come to the finish and score some more points. But, even with our tyre advantage, the conditions today have been some of the worst that I've ever seen on tarmac. The last round of the Championship is going to be very interesting and I hope that we can help Petter to achieve the best result possible."
News from Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager: "Today, the weather conditions have been very wet, as was forecast, and both Tommi and Petter selected to use the Pirelli PZero RE tyre for wet weather and cut it heavily in order to further increase it's potential for water dispersal. We have been absolutely delighted with the performance of the tyres, and for Petter to move from overnight tenth position to fifth is amazing. We are now in a very strong Championship position, especially knowing that six of the last eight WRC GB Rally events have been won by the Subaru/Pirelli partnership."