Rally Catalunya: Subaru leg one summary

The Subaru World Rally Team had an eventful first Leg of the 2005 Rally Catalunya. Chris Atkinson completed Leg one without major incident to finish the day in 15th overall, however his team-mates Stéphane Sarrazin and Petter Solberg retired from...

The Subaru World Rally Team had an eventful first Leg of the 2005 Rally Catalunya. Chris Atkinson completed Leg one without major incident to finish the day in 15th overall, however his team-mates Stéphane Sarrazin and Petter Solberg retired from the Leg. Stéphane was battling for a points-scoring position, finishing four of the six stages in the top ten, however his rally came to a premature end when he ran wide in the final stage and left the road badly damaging his Impreza WRC2005. Both Stéphane and co-driver Denis Giraudet were uninjured but the car was too badly damaged to continue the rally. Petter Solberg had a strong start but damaged his steering when he hit a bank in the third stage and retired from the Leg. He will restart tomorrow under Superally regulations.

Stage Reports

SS1 0828hrs Querol 1 (25.43km)

After a ceremonial start on the promenade of host city, Salou, on Thursday evening, the 2005 Rally Catalunya started in earnest at the 25km Querol stage that was last used at World Championship level in 1995. The first 14km of the pass was run on a narrow, fast road that started to climb 7km from the start to join a wider, twistier section. Early morning rain made the smooth asphalt extremely slippery and many crews encountered problems in the damp conditions, including Marcus Gronholm who went off the road approximately one kilometre from the start and caused minor damage to the rear-right of his Peugeot. Gronholm's team-mate Nicolas Bernardi also briefly left the road as did Subaru's Stéphane Sarrazin who spun one kilometre into the stage and lost one minute to stage winner Sébastien Loeb. World Champion Loeb was 10secs quicker than Gronholm and team-mate François Duval, who also briefly left the road at the start. Ford's Roman Kresta was fourth, with Petter Solberg fifth fastest despite picking up a front-left puncture 4km from the end of the stage when he hit a rock.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 14:02.8

SS2 0916hrs El Montmell 1 (24.14km)

The second stage of the rally was run on the very narrow, fast El Montmell pass to the north east of Salou. Like SS1 the road was last used in 1995 when it was run in the opposite direction. Loeb took his second stage win of the day, seven seconds quicker than Duval, whose time moved him to second overall. Kresta was fourth fastest to leapfrog Gronholm into third on the leaderboard after the Finn lost nearly 20secs to Loeb through the damp pass. Toni Gardemeister edged ahead of Solberg in the standings with the sixth fastest time, while Sarrazin finished seventh quickest to move into 13th. Subaru's youngest driver, Chris Atkinson, struggled with a combination of the tricky conditions and tyre choice in this only his third sealed surface event. After the end of the stage, crews returned to Salou for a 30 minute service.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 12:40.7

SS3 1157hrs Vilaplana 1 (28.33km)

The 28km Vilaplana stage brought disappointment for the Subaru World Rally Team as Petter Solberg braked late, hitting a bank at a left-hand corner three kilometres from the end of the stage, damaging the front and rear-right of his Subaru Impreza WRC2005. The Norwegian finished the test but the steering was too badly damaged to continue and he retired from the Leg. Spaniard Dani Sola took the first WRC stage win of his career, just over six seconds faster than Loeb, who finished second to extend his lead over Duval to 30secs. Sola's win elevated him to seventh overall, just three seconds from sixth-placed Gigi Galli. Marcus Gronholm moved into third ahead of Kresta as the Czech finished the stage nearly 12secs slower than the Finn. Citroen privateer Xavier Pons recorded the third fastest time with Galli fourth, while Subaru's Stéphane Sarrazin continued to move up the leaderboard after losing time in the first test of the day, graduating to tenth overall with the eighth fastest stage time.
Fastest Stage Time: Sola (Ford) 16:47.4

SS4 1332hrs Pratdip (28.35km)

For the last stage before service, crews headed to the hills to the west of Salou for the highly technical Pratdip test. The longest of the rally, the stage was also the only competitive section to be run just once and featured lots of fast, blind crests. Loeb won his third stage of the event, five seconds faster than Gronholm. The 28km stage produced several changes in the overall classification as Gronholm's time moved him into second place, three seconds ahead of Duval, while Gardemeister climbed to fourth as team-mate Roman Kresta fell down the order. The Czech had elected for softer wet settings that did not suit the drying conditions and dropped to sixth, 24secs behind fifth-placed Galli. Sarrazin moved up two places into the final points scoring position, but Skoda's Alexandre Bengué picked up a minute penalty for arriving in the time control prior to SS4 one minute early. The Frenchman dropped down to 15th.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 17:18.0

SS5 1638hrs Querol 2 (25.43km)

The first stage after service was a repeat of the Querol pass to the north east of the PortAventura service area. Drivers reported that a combination of light rain and the loose gravel and rocks thrown onto the road in the earlier run had made the stage extremely slippery in places. Loeb was once again fastest, one and a half seconds quicker than Duval in the sister Citroen Xsara WRC. Duval's time was enough to edge him ahead of Marcus Gronholm into second overall after the Finn recorded a time nearly 15secs slower than Loeb. Gronholm reported he had been cautious through the stage due to the damp road conditions. Kresta was third fastest, just ahead of Ford team-mate Toni Gardemeister, who set an identical time to Mikko Hirvonen. Dani Sola snatched eighth position by just over two seconds from Stéphane Sarrazin while Bernardi reported brake problems towards the end of the stage. Subaru rising star, Chris Atkinson, was happier with a better tyre choice and set some promising split times against the rally leaders in his first Rally of Spain.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 13:52.2

SS6 1726hrs El Montmell 2 (24.14km)

There was more misfortune for Subaru in the sixth speed test of Rally Catalunya as Stéphane Sarrazin ran wide at a long left-hand fifth gear bend 16km into the stage and slipped off the side of the stage. The car bounced off the road and was too badly damaged to continue. Both Stéphane and co-driver Denis Giraudet escaped unhurt. Subsequently the car's hot exhaust ignited some dry grass and bushes and the car was quickly engulfed. Loeb recorded his fifth stage win of the day ahead of Citroen privateer Xavier Pons, who moved into ninth position following Sarrazin's retirement. Duval was third quickest to extend his advantage over Gronholm to just under 20secs in the standings. After picking up a penalty earlier in the day, Bengué was fourth fastest ahead of the Ford trio Gardemeister, Sola and Kresta. Subaru's Chris Atkinson was increasing in confidence and moved two further places up the overall leaderboard to fifteenth before returning to the final service of the day at the PortAventura service park in Salou.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 12:36.5

Team Quotes

Subaru World Rally Technical Director, David Lapworth
Today has been quite difficult. On the one hand the car has performed well and we have continued to show some impressive pace. On the other hand the changeable weather has made for some difficult tyre choices for the team. Both Petter and Stéphane had unfortunate accidents, however we all acknowledge when pushing hard that mistakes are possible and the main thing is that the crews are both fine. It has been a real challenge for Chris today with such limited experience having to drive in these conditions. By the end of the day he is already achieving the pace target we agreed before the rally. Petter will be back tomorrow and we're going to take the opportunity to do some testing and try some ideas in real rally conditions.

Petter Solberg
I was coming up to a left-hand corner just over a crest about 3km from the end of the stage, but I braked a little late and went off the road. The car hit a bank on the right hand side, which broke a link bolt to the track control arm on the front right corner. We didn't have any steering and it was impossible to go on any further. We're going to get it fixed now and will be back again.

Stéphane Sarrazin
I started to spin at the end of a long fifth gear corner on stage six. I thought I had caught it, but then the car went off so quickly I think it may have clipped something. The car bounced at the rear and landed off the road damaged and unable to continue. About fifteen minutes later the gorse caught fire, probably from the hot exhaust and then very quickly the whole car went up. It's really disappointing as my performance was increasing, I had good pace and the car felt easy. My confidence was growing and now I'm just sorry I'm stopped and we won't be going any further.

Chris Atkinson
Today hasn't been so bad. It's good to be here at the end of the day! After some poor tyre calls this morning this afternoon wasn't so bad and for tomorrow the plan is to try and keep building experience. On gravel I know what the car is going to do, but on tarmac I do not yet have that knowledge and confidence to push as hard, as I know I am here to learn.

News From Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli Tyres Motorsport Director
The decisive elements of today have been the uncertain weather as the amount of damp, and therefore grip, has been almost impossible to predict. Those who have made the right tyre choice have pulled out an advantage but it's been possible to lose a lot of time through incorrect tyre choices. It's a pity that Petter wasn't able to complete the Leg as he was setting some promising times but today's events have shown just how much things can change. We look forward to a luckier day tomorrow.

Team Talk

The paired Tour de Corse and Rally Catalunya events represented a unique challenge for all WRC teams and crews. With just one day between the finish of Corsica and the start of the Spanish event's recce, a highly complex logistical operation was needed to prepare the Subaru service area and three cars in time. Here's a timeline of the team movements over three of the busiest days of the 2005 calendar.

Sunday 23 October, 1340hrs
After the last service of the Tour de Corse the whole team (50 people) started to strip the Subaru service park. Three groups dismantled the structures covering the cars, management and hospitality areas and packed up tables, chairs and groundsheets.

The three Subaru Impreza WRC2005 cars are released from parc fermé. Two are loaded into one articulated lorry and the other put on a trailer for towing behind the third team truck.

The entire service area is now completely dismantled and packed into the three team trucks, which check in for the ferry crossing from Ajaccio port, Corsica, to Toulon, France. At midnight the trucks start loading onto the ferry ready for departure. Twelve personnel from catering, logistics and the recce crew accompany the three trucks and two small vans.

Monday 24 October, 0515hrs
The rest of the Subaru World Rally Team leave the team hotel in Corsica ready for a short 45 minute flight to Marseille.

The ferry docks in Toulon and unloading begins. Two further drivers have flown in from the UK to meet the trucks, which head for Spain.

Those flying to Marseille arrive at the airport and transfer by coach to Salou, a 690km trip through the south of France down to the Spanish costas.

The three trucks arrive at the service park where they are parked in the allocated Subaru slot and washed down. Earlier in the afternoon the two vans arrived in Salou, shortly before the coach with the remaining members of the Subaru World Rally Team.

Tuesday 25 October, 0630hrs
Eight logistics staff arrived at the Salou service park to start setting up the awnings for the cars and the catering and management areas. At 1000hrs the team engineers and technicians arrive to start re-preparing the cars. Five people work on each car, changing the differentials, turbo, throttle and uprights and updating the liveries to those for Rally Catalunya. Three further technicians check the engine, gearbox and electrics.

The cars are finished and test-driven for a systems check.

Wednesday 26 October, 0830hrs
The cars are thoroughly checked before sealing on Wednesday afternoon.

Tomorrow's Leg

Cars leave Salou parc fermé from 0730hrs for a 10 minute service before six stages and 135 competitive kilometres. The Leg, run to the north and west of the host town, features two passes through the El Lloar - La Figuera stage that was last used in 2002 and two runs on the Capafonts speed test, which is Leg one's Vilaplana stage, run backwards.


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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team