The Subaru World Rally Team worked hard to optimise asphalt set-up during the first Leg of Rally Catalunya. The Impreza WRC2006s of Petter Solberg and Stephane Sarrazin ran faultlessly throughout the day and the duo finished all stages within the...
The Subaru World Rally Team worked hard to optimise asphalt set-up during the first Leg of Rally Catalunya. The Impreza WRC2006s of Petter Solberg and Stephane Sarrazin ran faultlessly throughout the day and the duo finished all stages within the top ten to go into Leg two in fourth and seventh respectively. Chris Atkinson continued to impress as he matched the pace of his experienced team-mates however he lost time through SS4 when he slid wide and damaged the suspension. The Australian finished the Leg in eighth.
SS1: 0805 Querol 1 (25.43km)
Rally Catalunya 2006 started with the 25km Querol stage in the hills
north east of Salou. In cool bright conditions Ford driver Marcus
Gronholm took the stage win six seconds quicker than Sebastien Loeb. The
twisty stage proved extremely tough on cars with some crews reporting
fading brakes, including Subaru driver Petter Solberg who lost around
seven seconds through the pass. The Norwegian also picked up a puncture
although the Pirelli anti-deflation mousse worked well and he lost no
additional time. Petter was seventh fastest, just ahead of team-mates
Chris Atkinson and Stephane Sarrazin. The rally was brief for WRC
privateer Gareth MacHale who left the road close to the start of the
stage, causing extensive damage to his Ford Focus and resulting in his
retirement from the Leg.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 13:36.7
SS2: 0853 el Montmell 1 (24.14km)
The second speed test of the day was run through the el Montmell hills on
smooth asphalt roads that generated very low grip levels. Marcus Gronholm
took his second stage win of the day extending his lead over Loeb to
seven seconds. Reigning JWRC champion Dani Sordo came through the stage
only three seconds slower than Gronholm to move to just over a second
from third-placed Hirvonen. Petter Solberg secured the fifth fastest time
to move up into sixth overall, one second from Pons in fifth place.
Running a conservative, softer set-up, Stephane Sarrazin maintained ninth
position. The stage was later stopped when two cars went off the road at
the same position. The rally community was subsequently saddened to hear
that Citroen C2 co-driver, Jorg Bastuck, died as a result of injuries
sustained when he was struck by the second car.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 12:35.6
SS3: 1233 Querol 2 (25.43km)
Marcus Gronholm and Sebastien Loeb continued their monopoly of the top of
the leaderboard as crews repeated the morning's pair of stages. The Finn
again held the advantage over the reigning world champion and extended
his lead to 11secs. Dani Sordo edged closer to third-placed Hirvonen with
the third fastest stage time and narrowed the gap to a slim 0.3ecs.
Subaru trio Sarrazin, Solberg and Atkinson finished within three seconds
of each other to maintain their ninth, sixth and eleventh positions
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 13:44.4
SS4: 1321 el Montmell 2 (24.14km)
Loeb broke Gronholm's run of stage wins on the repeat of the 24km el
Montmell section, narrowing the Finn's lead to 9.3 seconds. After
closing the gap through the previous two stages, Sordo was third fastest
to move ahead of Hirvonen. The slippery surface proved challenging, with
Jari-Matti Latvala sliding wide off the road and damaging his radiator.
Upon rejoining he was forced to stop again, this time in the middle of
the road, causing Gilles Panizzi, the next driver, to lose 2min 43secs as
he helped the Ford privateer off the racing line. Chris Atkinson too slid
wide at a corner 3km from the start, resulting in damage to the left-rear
suspension. There was further incident for the Australian when just 2km
further on the windscreen broke after cutting a sixth-gear corner and
impacting the sump-guard heavily. Chris returned to make repairs at the
scheduled service halt.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 12:31.8
SS5: 1631 Colldejou (26.51km)
The Colldejou penultimate stage of the Leg proved disappointing for the
works Ford team as both Gronholm and Hirvonen's cars developed turbo
boost problems. Gronholm dropped almost one and a half minutes through
the stage while Hirvonen lost over three minutes. Their respective delays
elevated Loeb, Sordo and Pons into the top three positions and Subaru's
Petter Solberg to fourth. Sarrazin secured his highest stage finish of
the day with the sixth fastest time in his Impreza WRC2006 and climbed to
eighth overall. Sarrazin's team-mate Atkinson also moved up the
leaderboard as he leapfrogged Duval. He finished the stage in ninth
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 15:42.1
SS6: 1724 Riudecanyes (11.60km)
Unable to fix their turbo boost problems on the road section between
stages, Gronholm and Hirvonen continued to lose further time through SS6.
Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb consolidated his lead with his third stage
win of the day through the very short, twisty speed test. Austrian driver
Manfred Stohl secured his best finish of the day in sixth on the section,
despite recovering from a testing accident in the week preceding the
rally. Solberg was fourth quickest to end the Leg in fourth overall,
while team-mates Sarrazin and Atkinson finished the day seventh and
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 7:45.3
SWRT SPORTING DIRECTOR, LUIS MOYA: "We have seen an improvement in both the car and the tyres, however still we are not close enough on asphalt. Both Petter and Stephane have worked hard to fine tune their set up in order to best suit their style and road conditions. We were pleased with Chris' earlier pace, keeping in touch with Petter and Stephane, who both have much more asphalt experience. He was then caught out by gravel on the road damaging his rear suspension, however that is a feature of this rally, so he must learn from that experience. Tomorrow we will be pushing hard to move further up the leaderboard and know we must keep working hard to build on today's performance.
Regardless of our own team situation, the Leg's competition has been overshadowed by the death of a fellow competitor earlier today. We were deeply saddened to hear that Jorg Bastuck died of his injuries from the accident on SS2 and our thoughts and sympathies go out to his friends and family at this time."
PETTER SOLBERG: Today has been just okay. I am quite happy with the car as it is much quicker than last year. We still have a lot of work to do and tonight we'll make more changes and then just see what happens. We know that we need to keep going like crazy tomorrow.
STEPHANE SARRAZIN: We have improved the balance of the car throughout the day and I am optimistic ahead of tomorrow. It is difficult to fight at the top at the moment, however you only need look to today to see how things can change. Tonight we'll look at the data and then see what more we can do to improve the grip. We'll push and push to try and move up.
CHRIS ATKINSON: It has been encouraging for us today. We're very happy with the times and that we have been able to trade them with guys far more experienced on asphalt. It's just our second time here and sixth on asphalt in total, so we're pleased. Sure we had a couple of problems, however we're already looking forward to tomorrow which holds some tricky stages in store.
NEWS FROM PIRELLI
MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER I am very happy with the new tyre compound today. It shows that the testing we have done is working well. Both Petter and Stephane have set good stage times and their consistency has been rewarded with fourth and seventh overall respectively. Chris has also impressed by matching the pace of his more experienced team-mates. We look forward to seeing the compound's performance tomorrow.
Leg two will comprise 111.36 competitive kilometres over two identical loops of three stages to the north of Salou. The route will include the classic Vilaplana stage and a new stage between the towns of Margalef and La Palma d'Ebre.