Rally Deutschland: Subaru leg one summary

Despite the changeable conditions dominating the action in northern Germany today, current World Champion Petter Solberg delivered a consistent performance in his Subaru Impreza WRC2004 to end the day well positioned in fourth place overall.

Despite the changeable conditions dominating the action in northern Germany today, current World Champion Petter Solberg delivered a consistent performance in his Subaru Impreza WRC2004 to end the day well positioned in fourth place overall. After gaining valuable experience in his Subaru Impreza in difficult conditions, his team-mate Mikko Hirvonen ended the day in eleventh position. With more than 200 competitive kilometres remaining and tricky weather conditions forecast once again for tomorrow, Petter and Mikko remain committed to achieving the best result possible over the next two days.

Stage Reports

SS1: 0953 Ruwertal 1 (17.84km)

Intermittent rain showers made conditions unpredictable on the first pass through the narrow 17.84km vineyard stage from Ruwertal. Running on soft compound tyres, which were more suited to the damp road surface, Citroen and Mitsubishi cars took the top three fastest times. Carlos Sainz was quickest, with Sebastien Loeb second and Daniel Sola third. Running on medium compound tyres to benefit from the drier conditions expected on the following stages, Subaru's Petter Solberg was fourth fastest in the rain soaked conditions and Mikko Hirvonen tenth. Markko Martin was eleventh. There was disaster for Marcus Gronholm. Following his win in Finland earlier this month, the Peugeot driver aquaplaned off the road after hitting standing water on one of the first corners of the event, knocked a wheel off his 307 and retired. His misfortune left Cedric Robert as Peugeot's remaining nominated driver. After the finish, crews moved to the start of SS2.
Fastest Stage Time:Sainz (Citroen) 10:51.7

SS2: 1033 Dhrontal 1 (21.04km)

Including a new 8km main road section at the start, SS2 took crews uphill through a vineyard on a route that included more than twenty tight hairpins. As the rain showers continued, Ford's Francois Duval capitalised on his medium-hard tyres with extra cuts that suited the variable conditions and was fastest. Loeb was second and Sainz third. Solberg was fourth fastest and Hirvonen ninth. The second stage bought the second manufacturer retirement, this time for Mitsubishi driver Daniel Sola. Contesting only his second WRC rally for his team, the Spaniard, (who had been third fastest in the previous test), left the stage in his Lancer 200 metres in, collided with a tree and retired from the event. After the finish, crews completed the short 10.36km liaison distance to the start of SS3.
Fastest Stage Time: Duval (Ford) 11:57.7

SS3: 1116 Moselwein 1 (18.18km)

Described by Subaru co-driver Phil Mills as a 'classic vineyard stage', the first pass through the test from Moselwein took crews uphill through a vineyard for 15km via a series of ninety-degree junctions. A popular stage with spectators and photographers alike, its backdrop is the picturesque Mosel River. As conditions remained changeable, Duval was fastest to take his second consecutive stage win, while Loeb, who was still suffering with a shoulder injury after a shunt during testing, was second fastest and Martin third. Competing in his home event, Skoda driver Armin Schwarz delighted his fans by finishing fourth fastest, while Solberg was seventh. There were no leading retirements and after the finish, crews stopped for a refuel before moving to the start of SS4.
Fastest Stage Time: Duval (Ford) 10:42.3

SS4: 1229 Peterberg 1 (10.45km)

Recording an average speed of 104.91kph, Loeb was fastest through the open, smooth Peterberg test in the Saarland region. Duval was second fastest and Subaru's Petter Solberg third. With some damp patches remaining, following early morning rain showers, conditions in the stage were slippery. This was aggravated when many of the leading cars cut corners and pulled mud and gravel onto the roads for those cars following. After the stage was complete, crews returned to Bostalsee for a scheduled service.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 5:58.6

SS5: 1450 Ruwertal 2 (17.84km)

There were problems for Ford's Francois Duval on the second pass through the narrow vineyard stage from Ruwertal. Suffering a gear selection problem in his Ford Focus, the Belgian was forced to change gear manually and was also unable to use the handbrake, as it only operates when the automatic system is functioning. At the finish, he had dropped 14.2 seconds to the leaders, while his team-mate Martin lost 14 seconds due to a spin on the last corner. Looking to the leaders, Citroen's Loeb was fastest, with Sainz second and Skoda driver Roman Kresta third. Petter Solberg was fourth quickest. As conditions began to brighten and the predicted afternoon showers did not fall, the road surface continued to dry. After the finish, crews moved to the start of SS6.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 10:15.1

SS6: 1530 Dhrontal 2 (21.04km)

Continuing his impressive run, Loeb snatched this third consecutive win on the repeated Dhrontal test, to set the highest average speed of the day (108.55kph) and extend his overall lead to 20.1 seconds. Sainz was second fastest and Duval third. Negotiating the series of tight, tricky uphill hairpins, Freddy Loix was fourth fastest in his 307, while Petter Solberg was fifth and Hirvonen, suffering with a poor tyre choice, eleventh. Cedric Robert, the remaining nominated Peugeot driver, dropped 48.4 seconds to the leaders and managed only fifteenth fastest after suffering a spin. There were no retirements and, after the finish, crews moved to the start of SS7.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 11:37.8

SS7: 1613 Moselwein 2 (18.18km)

Presenting drivers with a series of tight hairpin junctions connected by long, fast straights, the Moselwein stage can make it be difficult for drivers to find a steady rhythm. For Duval, the problem was exacerbated further as he struggled to contest the stage without his Ford's handbrake. At the finish, he had dropped a further 24.2 seconds to the leaders, having managed to finish only fourteenth fastest. Loeb was again fastest and, shaving a second off Duval's winning time on the previous pass through, took his fourth win of the event. Team-mate Sainz was second fastest, with Loeb third and Solberg fourth. The Subaru star's consistent performance meant he ended the stage in fourth position overall, 17.6 seconds off overall third. After the finish, crews stopped for a refuel before completing the 56.38km liaison road to the start of the day's final test, SS8
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 10:41.3

SS8: 1726 Peterberg 2 (10.45km)

The final test of the day was a second pass through the 10km Peterberg stage. Repeating his earlier performance, Loeb was quickest and beat his earlier time by 4.2 seconds. Subaru's Solberg showed his winning form by finishing second fastest, while Markko Martin and Carlos Sainz set the same time for joint third. Mikko Hirvonen was ninth, while Loix suffered with clutch and gearbox problems in his Peugeot and finished seventeenth. Ahead of tomorrow's second leg, Loeb holds the overnight lead with Sainz 26.5 seconds behind in second and Duval another 32 seconds further back in third. Subaru driver Petter Solberg lies in overall fourth, 12.4 seconds behind Duval.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 5:55.4

Team Quotes

Petter Solberg
There were no dramas today and everything was as I had hoped, except for the tyre choices. We didn't have the best morning and there were some difficult conditions for everyone. We'd hoped for a little more rain this afternoon and maybe, if we'd chosen a harder tyre compound, we would have been fighting for some top times. But, I'm driving well, the car feels good on the asphalt and I'm pleased with its performance. We'll continue to fine-tune the settings tomorrow and hope to set some good times.

Mikko Hirvonen
I felt a bit more confident on the dry stages this afternoon, but we lost some time with our tyre choices. I didn't have such a good feeling in the car this morning in the wet, but this afternoon I was able to push more. Looking at our times on the longer stages today we were not so far behind Petter at the mid-way split, however we suffered as a result of the tyre choice later in the stages. But, it's good experience for me and I'm looking forward to getting back out on the stages tomorrow.

Team Principal, David Lapworth
I'm happy with the way the day has gone. The plan was to stay out of trouble and put ourselves in a position to capitalise on the changeable weather and misfortunes of others. Petter has driven consistently well all day and, with tricky weather forecast for tomorrow, I'm satisfied with our position at this stage of the event. Mikko's had a challenging day, but has got some useful experience of the car in difficult conditions. We'll be looking for him to build a bit more confidence on asphalt over the next couple of days.

News from Pirelli

Fiore Brivio , Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
We're extremely pleased with Petter's performance despite the changeable wet and dry conditions. He made some excellent tyre choices to find the best possible compromise. With the general uncertainly about the weather conditions anything could still happen between now and Sunday and we're confident that Petter should be able to take a well deserved podium finish.

Technical Talk

Tyres on asphalt and gravel

Tyres designed for gravel have an open tread pattern that dig through loose surfaces to find the hard road underneath and obtain good grip. Driving styles on gravel roads are more aggressive so that the tyres spin and cut through to the solid surface

Tyres designed for asphalt are quite different. On tarmac the target is to get as much rubber in contact with the roads as possible, so tyres have the least amount of tread permissible. As there is no loose gravel to shift, the highest grip is achieved when the tyre is not spinning or breaking traction

On gravel a tyre acts as suspension as well, by absorbing bumps and impacts from the road surface. To do that the tyre has a deep sidewall and strong construction that can flex and cushion sharp impacts. Because a gravel tyre is taller than an asphalt tyre, it is mounted on a smaller wheel. But both gravel and asphalt tyres and wheels have the same total outside diameter of 650mm

On tarmac the bumps are much smaller so the tyre construction is biased towards stiffness rather than springiness. This gives the driver confidence by making a car's handling feel very direct. In order to achieve this, tarmac tyres have a low profile sidewall and an 18inch wheel

Selecting a tyre compound is all about finding a compromise between grip and endurance. In simple terms, soft compounds give high grip, but wear out quickly and get unstable as they heat up. Hard compounds offer less grip but are more stable and last longer

The difference between soft and hard compounds becomes more exaggerated in wet conditions. Hard compounds heat up less and so offer less grip. Softer compounds are more predictable in wet conditions, but rain always makes tyre choice tricky


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About this article
Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team