The Subaru World Rally Team focussed on development during Leg two of Rally Catalunya. Chris Atkinson continued to move up the overall classification as his experience on asphalt increased and achieved his best stage finish on a sealed-surface...
The Subaru World Rally Team focussed on development during Leg two of Rally Catalunya. Chris Atkinson continued to move up the overall classification as his experience on asphalt increased and achieved his best stage finish on a sealed-surface event with seventh in the third stage of the day. The Australian finished the Leg in 9th position. Petter Solberg rejoined under Superally regulations following his accident in Leg one and concentrated on accumulating valuable asphalt data by testing new settings on his Impreza WRC2005. The Norwegian nevertheless set competitive times, including fourth quickest in SS10. Team-mate Stephane Sarrazin did not restart the rally after his car was badly damaged in the final stage of Leg one.
SS7 0838hrs El Lloar - La Figuera 1 (20.01km)
The second Leg of Rally Catalunya started with the 20km classic pass from El Lloar to La Figuera, west of host-city Salou. The stage used to be part of an undulating, longer competitive test however was shortened and widened for the 2005 event. Subaru's Chris Atkinson started first on the road, which gave him a slight advantage on the clean road. He recorded a competitive time, although the advantage of this position was negated when the stage was cancelled after only four crews had completed the speed test. Too many spectators were present in the stage and, on safety grounds, the pass was cancelled. All remaining crews drove the route at a slower speed and were awarded a nominal time of 11:39.0. Atkinson's time was upheld, as were the times set by Bengue, Kopecky and Rovanpera, who had finished the stage before its cancellation.
Fastest Stage Time: Nominal time awarded for Loeb, Duval, Gardemeister, Gronholm, Galli, Kresta, Hirvonen, Sola, Pons, Bernardi, Warmbold, Schwarz, Solberg 11:39.0
SS8 1018hrs Capafonts 1 (27.54km)
The second test of Leg two took place through the Capafonts pass, which was Leg one's Vilaplana stage run in the opposite direction. Mitsubishi's Gigi Galli took his first stage win since Rally Japan and moved into fourth overall ahead of Toni Gardemeister, however after crossing the flying finish the Italian hit a wall causing extensive damage to his Mitsubishi Lancer and retired from the rally. Francois Duval was second fastest and, despite reporting brake problems on the long downhill section at the end of the stage, Nicolas Bernardi secured the third fastest time. Chris Atkinson finished the test in eighth position, just 13secs slower than asphalt expert Galli, to move two further places up the leaderboard to 13th. Subaru team-mate Petter Solberg, who had re-started under Superally regulations and was testing new set-up ideas, finished the first competitive stage of Leg two with the 14th quickest time. After this stage crews returned to Salou for a 30 minute service.
Fastest Stage Time: Galli (Mitsubishi) 16:56.8
SS9 1246hrs Colldejou 1 (28.48km)
The Colldejou special stage was a repeat of the Pratdip stage from Leg one, although navigated in the opposite direction. Subaru's young charger Chris Atkinson achieved his best-ever stage finish on asphalt as he recorded the seventh fastest time, just under 12secs slower than stage winner Loeb. Atkinson's starting position of first on the road was crucial as heavy rain started after the Australian had come through the pass. The road was soon very damp and crews coming further down the order were slowed in the mid-section. Ford's Dani Sola spun on the increasingly slippery surface, coming to a stop off the road and, not being able to rejoin, retired from the Leg. Francois Duval was second with Gronholm third, just quicker than the closely-matched Bernardi, Gardemeister and Solberg. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 17:27.5
SS10 1332hrs Riudecanyes 1 (11.27km)
The Riudecanyes stage at 11km was the shortest test of the event. The start of the stage was run on very old, bumpy asphalt that ran downhill with lots of hairpin bends until the last five kilometres, when the road levelled alongside a lake. Citroen team-mates Loeb and Duval once more monopolised the top two positions with Ford privateer Mikko Hirvonen third, only half a second faster than fourth-placed Solberg. The Ford crews of Gardemeister and Kresta both encountered problems as Gardemeister spun seven kilometres into the stage after his brakes failed, and lost over 12mins before he could rejoin the road. Kresta likewise, spun and stalled, dropping 20secs in the incident and falling to sixth behind Hirvonen and Pons. Gardemeister's delay benefited Atkinson, as he moved into the overall top ten. After the end of the stage crews returned to Salou for a 30 minute service.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 7:37.6
SS11 1548hrs El Lloar - La Figuera 2 (20.01km)
The 20km El Lloar - La Figuera stage was the first test for crews following the third service of the Leg. This was the first competitive run through the stage after the earlier morning pass was cancelled due to the high number of spectators. World Champion Loeb was once again fastest to extend his lead over Duval to just under one minute. Toni Gardemeister started his fight back up the order with the third fastest time, however the Finn picked up a 10secs penalty for arriving late at the time control for the service following SS10. Subaru's Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson both enjoyed clean runs through the stage with the eighth and eleventh quickest times respectively.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 11:22.5
SS12 1716hrs Capafonts 2 (27.54km)
Leg two of the 2005 Rally Catalunya concluded with a repeat of the 27km Capafonts stage in the hills to the north of Salou. Loeb's run of stage wins was finally broken by Finnish pilot Mikko Hirvonen, who finished the pass three seconds quicker than Spaniard Xavier Pons. Hirvonen's time moved him to within half a minute of Marcus Gronholm in third overall, as the Peugeot driver finished the stage 35secs off the pace after his 307 ran with high water temperature and developed a leak during the stage. Gronholm later stopped on the road section back to service and retired from the Leg. Hirvonen never did inherit Gronhom's third position after checking out of the Leg's final service two minutes late incurring a 20secs penalty. Petter Solberg, continuing to test new car settings under competitive conditions, was seventh. Loeb, although fifth fastest, retained the lead of the rally from Duval by 58secs. Chris Atkinson finished the Leg in 9th position overall having extended his advantage over Rovanpera to more than one minute.
Fastest Stage Time: Hirvonen (Ford) 16:43.5
Subaru World Rally Team Technical Director, David Lapworth
After yesterday's events, today has seen the team quietly get on with a lot of hard work. Chris has put a good deal of thought into where he could make some steps in performance and, while still driving comfortably, is picking up his pace all the time. We've been impressed with his attitude and encouraged by some very good split and stage times. Petter's focus today has been completely different. He has been trying as many new set-up ideas as possible under rally conditions. This is all the more important as it is only another four months before we are back competing again in Spain on these same stages.
Today has been a good day with the end much better than the start! We've been trying lots of different things to try to improve the car and I think that we've found a few small areas that we can work on. I'm very happy with the way that the car drives now, although there's more to try tomorrow in the suspension and diffs, so we'll keep pressing on.
Today was probably our best day on tarmac. Sometimes it can be frustrating that we are not challenging the top of the leaderboard, however we have to be realistic given our limited tarmac experience. Tomorrow's a short day, so we'll probably only make some minor setup changes and try not to make any mistakes. The car is working well and I'm getting into a good rhythm and feeling comfortable with the car on tarmac. We've improved a lot today from yesterday and we're going to try and carry that forward again tomorrow.
News From Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
After some bad luck for Subaru yesterday we basically spent today testing. Petter was working mostly on car set-up with the latest evolution of our RX tyre. We were able to help Chris Atkinson improve his general knowledge of the P Zero range on only his third rally on asphalt. This information will be extremely useful to him in future and it is easy to see his potential already.