WRC

Rally Deutschland: Leg two summary

Leg two comprised 177.66 competitive kilometres and nine stages. Six of those were run on the bumpy, rough concrete tracks of the Baumholder military ranges, two on the smooth roads of Saarland and one was a Super Special Rain fell...

Leg two comprised 177.66 competitive kilometres and nine stages. Six of those were run on the bumpy, rough concrete tracks of the Baumholder military ranges, two on the smooth roads of Saarland and one was a Super Special

Rain fell intermittently throughout the day. Air temperatures started at 12C this morning, rising to 19C by mid-afternoon. Stages were mostly damp with some muddy sections

Championship leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) took no risks and set two fastest times to end the day 54.7sec clear of Duval. Team-mate Carlos Sainz could not hold off Duval's charge after spinning on the final test and lies 5.7sec behind the Belgian in third. It was a good day for Cedric Robert and Freddy Loix (both Peugeot). Robert posted his first fastest time on a world rally to climb from ninth to fifth while Loix won two stages to move up from 13th to sixth, finally getting the better of Toni Gardemeister (Skoda) after a daylong battle. All today's major retirements were the result of accidents. Roman Kresta (Skoda) and Gilles Panizzi (Mitsubishi) crashed on the opening stage and Petter Solberg rolled heavily on the fourth. Panizzi and Solberg's co-driver, Phil Mills, were both taken to hospital for checks but were quickly released with just bruising.

The final leg is the shortest of the three and is based entirely on closed public roads in the Saarland region. Drivers leave Bostalsee at 06.32 and tackle two identical loops of three stages before a repeat of the super special stage through the streets of St Wendel to end the action. The seven stages cover 98.38km and drivers then head to Trier for the formal finish ceremony at 15.30.

Citroen

At the end of an action-packed leg, with nightmarish weather conditions, Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena are still leading the Rallye Deutschland tonight. Still lying second before the super special stage of st Wendel, Carlos Sainz lost one position for just a few seconds after a thrilling fight with the performing Francois Duval.

Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: As the unpredictable showers continued throughout the day, bringing copious, almost malicious, amounts of rain, the rally occasionally looked more like a regatta or a water-ski competition ! "The first time through Bosenberg [SS9] was one of the worst moments I have ever had," Sebastien Loeb commented. "Even with rain tyres, anything could have happened-- Throughout the rest of the day, I tried to stay within the narrow security margin, particularly when, for special stages 13 to 15, we chose dry tyres, with soft rubber, which had been deeply cut. The choice was logical, but the weather sometimes made it look wrong. We set the best time in SS14, second- fastest in SS15, half an hour and five kilometres further on -- I was wondering how we would do in 'Panzerplatte Lang 2'. After Petter [Solberg] went off in the morning, neither Carlos nor I went through it for the first time. We set the best time." Definitely a case of managing things well--

Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: "It was a very difficult day," Carlos explained. "A problem occurred during refuelling before SS9, which meant I had not got the planned quantity of fuel onboard. In order to use less fuel, I did not use the fresh air system in SS10 or 11-- During the next three special stages, my tyres were slightly less cut than the ones Seb had. In the rain and the mud, it was very tricky, and it was even worse when we discovered 'Panzerplatte Lang' was covered in mud from the first time through -- which we had not done. Really, after a leg like this one, you can only be happy to still be in the rally. Even more as we will still have to fight tomorrow."

Subaru

After an eventful day in Germany, Mikko Hirvonen holds overnight ninth position after an encouraging effort at the wheel of his Impreza WRC2004. Moving up two places on the overall leaderboard, the young Finn now leads the Subaru challenge following the retirement of team-mate Petter Solberg. After a promising start to Rallye Deutschland, the reigning World Champion was the latest casualty of the unpredictable weather conditions when his car left the road and collided with one of the unforgiving concrete kerbstones. He had been in fourth place overall.

Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: Just after the start of SS12, we went over a crest and the car went a little off the road and into the concrete block. It rolled a number of times and then went into more concrete. It was a big shock, but the main thing is that Phil seems to be ok. The team have been really supportive, but the car is not at all nice. It's been very difficult conditions here, but then it has been the same for everyone. "At the moment I am not feeling so good and for sure it was no fun, but I'm not stressed. In the championship there is a long way to go. We'll be back again in Japan, where we'll be putting on a good show on the gravel - so just watch us go, as we will be going for the win.

Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: After a difficult morning, the afternoon was much better. This morning I had little feeling on the wet, but this afternoon we made a better tyre choice and, as the stages were drier than those earlier, we set some good times. I'm also growing in confidence on the wet - but it's been a pretty steep learning curve as I hadn't driven the car on tarmac in the wet before this event. The car has been strong and I've learnt quite a lot today, which makes me happy. The plan for tomorrow is to keep the speed and try to catch those up in front.

Ford

BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Francois Duval and Stephane Prevot were fastest through today's treacherous second leg of the Rallye Deutschland to climb to second position. The Belgian duo were outstanding in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car despite awful weather conditions and grabbed second place from Carlos Sainz on the final speed test. Team-mates Markko Martin and Michael Park lie fourth on this 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship in a similar Focus RS, after a day marked by torrential rain which swamped the roads and caused several leading drivers to crash out.

Markko Martin / Michael Park: The 28-year-old Estonian then set two fastest and one second quickest time to climb to fourth. With large time gaps both in front and behind, he took no risks on the afternoon stages to consolidate his position, adding another second fastest time in front of huge crowds in the St Wendel street test. He described the conditions this morning as 'incredible'. "Water was running down the roads and the car was aquaplaning," he said. "Apart from one occasion when I hit mud and slid into a field, I stayed on the road but I was lucky. In those conditions it's easy to make a mistake and today has been all about surviving. We must nominate our tyres so early that conditions can change and the rules banning gravel crews meant we had no idea what conditions were like. Tyre choice was a gamble and I'm glad that today is over. It has been so difficult."

Francios Duval / Stefan Prevot: "Conditions have been difficult all day, similar to those at home in Belgium," said Duval. "They were OK for me because I'm used to them but we had a couple of lucky escapes this afternoon. First I hit a mound of grass and damaged the rear left of the car. The bodywork was rubbing on the tyre but we were able to pull it clear. Then I slid off the road and hit some trees, again with the rear left of the car. "Tomorrow's stages are really nice to drive and again they are similar to those in Belgium. I have been driving at maximum pace for the last two days and will do the same again. I have to try to keep Carlos behind me. I have a better road position now because I will start the stages after him so it should be an exciting day," he added.

Peugeot

Peugeot drivers Cedric Robert and Freddy Loix have bravely fought back to finish the second day of the Rallye Deutschland in fifth and sixth places respectively, after suffering a number of setbacks on the opening leg yesterday.

Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: Marcus Gronholm was unfortunately forced to retire on the first corner of the opening stage yesterday, after going off on some standing water.

Cedric Robert: Cedric started off by driving cautiously, as he wanted to guarantee a strong points-scoring finish. He had two spins on SS10 but set competitive times and grew in confidence as the day progressed. "Today has been an extremely fine balancing act between going as fast as I can and making sure of a good finish," he said. "Baumholder contains some very difficult stages and I certainly had a couple of moments. But now I have total confidence in the 307WRC and I'm able to set times comparable to the very top drivers. It's been a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

Freddy Loix / Sven Smeets: Freddy was determined to move up the leaderboard after a troubled start to the rally and he underlined his intention by setting fastest time on today's opening stage. Freddy drove rapidly yet reliably through the challenging conditions of the afternoon to set another fastest time and continue his charge towards the top. He said: "Today has been excellent: we've set some good times, the car has been perfect and we've not made any mistakes. It's not been easy, as I haven't tested the 307WRC much in these sorts of difficult conditions. But I couldn't ask for more from today and I hope to make up some more time tomorrow "

Mitsubishi

The second leg of Rallye Deutschland, the 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, has been full of drama with treacherous weather conditions adding to what is already an immense test of driving skill. The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of Gilles and Herve Panizzi were one of the many crews forced into retirement, the French pair escaping injury after an accident in the opening stage of the leg.

Gilles Panizzi / Herve Panizzi: "I cannot remember exactly how it all happened but it was raining incredibly heavily in the stage", said Gilles back in service this afternoon. "I was on the brakes and maybe we went a little too close to the side of the road and onto some wet grass. At that point we became passengers; the car was uncontrollable on such a surface. We hit a small tree which then spun us 200/300 meters downhill through a field until we hit another tree and stopped. The impact was very heavy on my side, but the car stood up to it well, the seat didn't move and we have both walked away from it just sore and bruised. It was bad luck for us, but on the positive side we showed the Tarmac potential of the car and demonstrated that we are moving in the right direction".

Dani Solà: Dani Solà and Xavier Amigo - who set a blisteringly quick pace in the first stage of the rally - also walked away from a similar accident that saw them hit a tree yesterday, damaging the car to the extent it was not possible to re-start under SUPERally regulations this morning.

Skoda

Toni Gardemeister enjoyed a solid and competitive drive today despite heavy rain and strong winds that made the 171.42kms of the Baumholder military area treacherous and saw several big accidents among the leading crews. He set top six times on six of today's first eight stages. Roman Kresta retired from seventh position after he slid off the road 7.5kms after the start of today's first stage and suffered minor damage to the suspension. With almost 80kms of stages to go before he could reach service it was not possible for him to continue but he has the chance to restart tomorrow's final leg under the new SupeRally system.

Toni Gardemeister / Paavo Lukander: "It was very, very wet on the first two stages today but we had the same tyres as Armin and they were perfect. There is a good balance in the car and I have a lot of confidence in it. It's difficult to say how hard we are driving. You need clean lines when there is so much mud on the road. It feels really slow but then you are surprised how good the times are."

Armin Schwarz / Manfred Hiemer: "This morning the conditions were really bad but the car felt fine and we had the perfect tyre choice. I was convinced that we could get into the top 10 but soon after the start of Panzerplatte we lost the turbo and there was no power any more. I thought we might not be able to continue but I am glad we did as getting the Fabia's first stage win was a good reward for everyone's effort."

Roman Kresta: "The weather this morning was incredible! There was some fog and the road was so wet and muddy by the time I started the stage. It was a right hand bend and I just spun off the road. A part of the suspension was damaged so it was impossible to finish the stage and three more to service."

-fia/wrc-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team