Times tumble as confidence climbs on second day in Germany On the second and toughest day of competition on Rallye Deutschland, both Subaru World Rally Team crews improved their stage times considerably between the morning and afternoon loops...
Times tumble as confidence climbs on second day in Germany
On the second and toughest day of competition on Rallye Deutschland, both Subaru World Rally Team crews improved their stage times considerably between the morning and afternoon loops as their confidence in the car grew, when almost all those ahead went slower second time round.
After a steady start that saw Solberg and Atkinson move to fifth and sixth positions respectively when Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala went off in SS9, both drivers used the extra seat time to good effect in the afternoon. They restarted after the midday service with their confidence in the Impreza WRC2008 bolstered.
"What we have seen today is the effect of testing restrictions" said David Richards, Subaru World Rally Team Principal. "Petter and Chris were obviously cautious in their approach this morning, having completed only two days' tarmac testing each before this event. However with this morning's stages and yesterday's competition under their belts, they both appeared to be much more comfortable with the new car on asphalt and this showed in the times this afternoon. It clearly demonstrates that as a team we are making positive steps in the right direction."
Throughout the day both Solberg and Atkinson traded stage times on all eight speed tests with a very evenly matched pace. Aboard the number five Impreza, Solberg and Phil Mills became increasingly comfortable with the new car on tarmac. The pair had a solid day and their performance visibly stepped up a gear from morning to afternoon. Opting for Pirelli's hard compound tyre, they beat their previous times by as much as ten seconds on the repeat pass of the first stage of the afternoon. The pair capped off the day with the third fastest time on the Arena Panzerplatte stage, the most challenging of the rally.
"Today has really not been bad and I felt much more comfortable in the car" said Petter Solberg. "Sure there's still more to do before we're right on the pace, but I felt much easier in the car this afternoon. It was actually quite good fun, not bad at all. I think we're going in the right direction and it's getting better. Today can have surprises, like with Mikko's puncture on the last stage, so I'm pleased to have got through with no problems. The gaps are so big now though it's impossible to close on them unless something happens. So tomorrow we'll just drive to the speed of the car and no mistakes."
Similarly, Atkinson and Stephane Prevot would have been faster on every stage the second time through were it not for a front left puncture six kilometres from the finish of SS11, the first test after the midday service. Both cars adopted the soft compound Pirellis in the morning, replaced by hard compound variants from the first remote service in the town of Birkenfeld until the end of the day.
"Ok, we moved into sixth which is a good points-scoring position" said Chris Atkinson. "We haven't got on top of the tarmac setup yet though so we can't push as hard as we were able last year. We've sort of dropped to the middle of nowhere today as the gaps in front and behind are so big, so we're now trying to fine-tune and do some work on areas of the car to try and speed up development."
Today's stages were a mix of narrow, singletrack country roads that twisted and turned through Germany's Saarland region, and the notorious military roads of the Baumholder military base. There the Arena Panzerplatte stage was the longest of the rally at 30km and unbelievably twisty, the cracked and abrasive tracks doubling back on themselves countless times to pose a challenge for brakes, clutches and tyres.
Contrary to the early forecasts, the predicted chance of rain at the day's start was a mere ten per cent. Continuing yesterday's fortunes, the weather indeed remained dry and fine throughout with a high of 26 degrees Celsius. Much of the same is predicted for tomorrow, potentially setting up an all-dry Rallye Deutschland.
The final day in Germany is very nearly as long as the first day at 85 competitive kilometres over a further five stages. The stages are largely the same as last year, apart from a five kilometre addition to the opening Dhrontal test to the north east of the Trier service park. The event is brought to a conclusion with a four kilometre spectator stage which always draws thousands of avid fans. A series of laps around the narrow town centre streets creates an electric atmosphere that sees onlookers jostle for the best vantage point, be it hanging from a first storey window or half way up the region's famous Porta Nigra arch.