Taking full advantage of the FIA's re-start system, Petter Solberg joined the remaining WRC competitors this morning to tackle Leg two of Rally Finland. Although still not feeling his best, thanks to a dose of flu, the Norwegian dominated...
Taking full advantage of the FIA's re-start system, Petter Solberg joined the remaining WRC competitors this morning to tackle Leg two of Rally Finland. Although still not feeling his best, thanks to a dose of flu, the Norwegian dominated the action and was fastest on five of the day's seven forest stages. Solberg's most impressive performance came on the formidable Ouninpohja stage, when he smashed the previous record by seven seconds. On the advice of the Subaru team doctor, Petter later withdrew from the Leg before the evening super special so he could recuperate ahead of the third and final day. With his own Impreza WRC repaired during the day, Mikko will also re-join the rally with Petter tomorrow.
SS11: 0706 Vaheri (24.15km)
Overnight leader Marcus Gronholm continued his winning form on the first stage of the day to snatch the fastest time and extend his advantage over second placed Sebastien Lindholm to 19.1 seconds. Lindholm was second fastest and Petter Solberg, who had re-joined the Rally under the WRC re-start system, was third. Although ineligible to score Championship points, the Norwegian was keen to get more experience of the specialist stages, as well as experiment with different settings on his car. Still suffering with 'flu like symptoms, Solberg said he felt a lot better than he had on Leg one. Ford's Markko Martin was fourth fastest, while Carlos Sainz was fifth to move up to fourth overall. The works Mitsubishis driven by Gilles Panizzi and Kristian Sohlberg and Skoda's of Armin Schwarz and Toni Gardemeister all completed the test, but continued to lose time to the leaders. After the finish, crews moved directly to the start of SS12.
Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 12:04.5
SS12: 0819 Ouninpohja 1 (33.24km)
with its blind crests, stomach-churning jumps, hidden corners and undulating gravel roads, Ouninpohja is regarded as one of the most demanding and difficult stages in the entire Championship. Recording an average speed of 128.7kph, Subaru's Petter Solberg charged across the huge jumps that can launch a car more than 50 metres through the air, and expertly judged each crest, blind corner and adverse camber to power his Subaru Impreza WRC2004 home for the stage win. Gronholm was second fastest and Martin third. The stage proved a disaster for Gronholm's cousin and team-mate Sebastian Lindholm. Having been in second position overall, the Finn slid wide on a 90 degree right-hand corner and hit a rock as he slid into a ditch. The impact knocked a wheel off his Peugeot and pitched the car into a series of rolls and retirement. His misfortune promoted Martin to second overall and Sainz, who had struggled with set-up problems on his Xsara throughout leg one, to third. After the finish, crews returned to Jyvaskyla for the second service of the day.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 15:29.8
SS13: 1143 Urria (10.00km)
Despite being only 10km long, the smooth gravel stage from Urria includes one of the toughest jumps in the Championship. Lying 6.1km from the start, and preceded by long, fast crests and huge, sweeping corners, it demands the ultimate in precision driving. In 2003 Pykalisto landed so heavily after the jump that his Peugeot's rear window and spoiler broke in the impact. Fortunately, this year it proved no problem for the leading drivers and Subaru's Petter Solberg was once again fastest in his Impreza WRC2004 to take his second stage win of the event. 2003 Rally Finland winner Markko Martin was second fastest and Loeb, who reported that his car felt easier to drive following some set-up changes, was third. After the finish, crews stopped for a refuel before moving to the start of SS14.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 4:42.3
SS14: 1306 Ouninpohia 2 (33.24km)
Ouninpohja is renowned for its unforgiving nature and, as cars made the second pass through the demanding test, once again it lived up to its reputation. The first high profile casualty was Mitsubishi driver, Kristian Sohlberg. Skidding off the road 10km in, the Finn slid his Lancer into a ditch, damaged its suspension and rear wheel on a rock and was unable to continue. He had been in eighth position overall. Next to suffer was Ford driver Francois Duval. Landing heavily after one of the infamous jumps 5km in, the Belgian flattened the exhaust of his Focus, stifling its engine power. Forced to run at a reduced pace for the remaining 27km, the young driver managed only thirteenth fastest and dropped 1 minute 12 seconds to the leaders. Solberg was once again quickest and shaved 11.3 seconds off his previous time to take his third consecutive stage win. Solberg's sensational time of 15:18.5 also earned him a place in the history books as it smashed the previous stage record of 15:25.1 set by Colin McRae in a Citroen. Sainz was second fastest and Martin third. Having admitted that he'd backed off a little during the morning's stages, Ford driver Janne Tuohino was back on the pace for the fourth fastest time. Gronholm's was fifth fastest after his Peugeot lost fourth gear and his top speed was limited to 150kph. After the finish, crews stopped for another refuel before moving to the start of SS15.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 15:18.5
SS15: 1414 Ehikki (11.34km)
Demonstrating the lightening quick pace of the Subaru Impreza WRC2004, Petter Solberg was fastest through the short Ehikki test to take his fourth stage win in a row. Martin was second fastest and Sainz third. Gronholm continued to compete with no fourth gear in his Peugeot 307, but the Finn only lost 5.7 seconds and ended the stage with a 31.1 second advantage overall. Following his incident on the previous stage, Francois Duval continued to lose time and dropped a further 30 seconds to the leaders. He remained in seventh position overall. Despite the stage featuring a series of long sixth-gear sweeping corners that included difficult jumps halfway through, there were no leading retirements and, after the finish, crews returned to Jyvaskyla for a service.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 5:21.7
SS16: 1720 Moksi - Leutsu (40.96km)
The longest stage of the event, Moksi-Leutsu includes long crests, big jumps, hairpin turns and wide, sweeping roads. Having had a new gearbox fitted to his Peugeot in the preceding service, Marcus Gronholm was back on the attack and was fastest through the loose gravel stage to take his seventh win of the event. At the finish he had increased his overall advantage to 34.6 seconds. Solberg was second quickest and Martin was third. Loeb was fifth fastest, which was enough to snatch overall fourth from Tuohino. After the finish, crews moved to the start of SS17.
Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 20:30.2
SS17: 1832 Himos (12.81km)
A narrow, twisty stage, the test from Himos is one of the slowest of the event. Even still, the average speed set by stage winner Petter Solberg was 108.15kph, compared to 56.9kph set on Kourdali, the slowest stage in Cyprus. Gronholm was second fastest and Martin third. A very tricky stage, which concludes in a ski centre on roads underneath the resort's lifts, Himos provided the top ten drivers with a chance to consolidate their positions. Event leader Gronholm extended his overall lead by 1.7 seconds, while Martin maintained overall second and Sainz, overall third. Loeb also began to pull away from Ford driver Tuohino, who lay in overall fifth, and eked out another 3.5 second advantage. After the finish, crews moved to the start of the final test of the day, SS18.
Fastest Stage Time:Solberg (Subaru) 7:06.4
SS18: SSS Killeri 2 (2.06km)
The second and final run through the head-to-head Super Special at the horse-trotting track brought more close racing from the WRC crews. Sole remaining Peugeot works driver Marcus Gronholm was third fastest to end the day overnight leader. He will start tomorrow, 35.1 seconds ahead of second placed Markko Martin, with Carlos Sainz a further 49.5 seconds back in third.
Fastest Stage Time: Martin (Ford) 1:19.1
It's good fun to drive on these roads, you really can't beat the feeling. Okay, I'm not quite in top physical form, but it's always good to get more experience and play a bit with the set-up. I'm certainly keen to get back out on the stages again tomorrow, but my nose is blocked and I'm feeling pretty exhausted, so right now I'm just looking forward to getting to my bed.
Team Principal, David Lapworth
Issued: 7 August 2004Faced with some difficult circumstances, it's hard to fault Petter's performance out on the stages today. The pace he showed on Ouninpohja was remarkable, and he's clearly happy with the set-up he has for these difficult conditions. Petter would have loved to have completed the Leg, but with no points at stake we felt it best to finish the day early and give him the opportunity to recuperate before tomorrow's final day.