The second Leg of Rally Finland turned out to be a frustrating one for the Subaru team, as lead driver Petter Solberg crashed out of fourth place and two mechanical problems dropped Chris Atkinson from sixth to 21st. The day started well for ...
The second Leg of Rally Finland turned out to be a frustrating one for the Subaru team, as lead driver Petter Solberg crashed out of fourth place and two mechanical problems dropped Chris Atkinson from sixth to 21st.
The day started well for Solberg, who set the third fastest time on the opening test, but a crash on the next brought his event to a sudden and premature end. Once Atkinson’s problems dropped him out of contention for a podium finish, his focus switched to building experience and testing ahead of forthcoming gravel events. Despite this, by the end of the Leg he had climbed back up to 13th overall.
SS10: 0706hrs Vaheri (19.91km)
In contrast to the gloomy weather seen at the start of the rally, crews left the Jyväskylä service area in dry and sunny conditions at the beginning of day two.
The road surface was damp because of early morning dew as the first cars tackled the stage with the top 15 driving in reverse order.
Running 14th on the road, rally leader Marcus Gronholm was quickest, with Sebastien Loeb second and Petter Solberg third.
After a good start to the rally, sixth placed Chris Atkinson had a setback at the pre-stage 10-minute service when technicians noticed a gear selection problem with the fresh gearbox they had fitted at the end of the previous day.
Atkinson collected thirty seconds of penalty time for leaving service three minutes late and, as they had been unable to fix the system, he soon had shifting problems on the stage too, and had to pull over several times to let other cars pass.
Managing to select third gear only, he crossed the line almost seven minutes slower than Gronholm, with the likelihood of two more difficult stages before a return to the service area.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 9:47.6
SS11: 0820hrs Ouninpohja Lansi 1 (13.98km)
Regarded as one of the most demanding and difficult stages in the WRC, Ouninpohja was last run in its 33km original and classic form in 2004.
On that occasion Petter Solberg set a new stage record, smashing the previous one by six seconds.
But as average speeds approached 130kph, organisers acted to slow cars down and for 2005 the stage was shortened and split in two.
With blind crests, jumps, deceptive corners and an undulating gravel surface, the first section remains a particularly stern test.
This year, Ouninpohja brought Petter Solberg’s rally to a violent and dramatic end when his car drifted wide over a crest 700 metres from the start and slammed into a bank at 120kph.
The impact spun the car around and launched it into a series of rolls.
Solberg and co-driver Phil Mills were shaken but uninjured in the crash, however their Impreza was too badly damaged to continue.
Elsewhere, the combination of a shattered windscreen and the early morning sunshine gave Mikko Hirvonen visibility problems, while Xavier Pons was another driver in trouble - the Spaniard rolled his Citroen and retired from the Leg.
Atkinson completed the stage using only third gear and dropped a further 2min 45sec to the leaders.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 6:33.0
SS12: 0843hrs Ouninpohja Ita 1 (16.55km)
The second section of 'old' Ouninpohja was a fearsome challenge too and, like the stage before, there was more trouble at the top of the leader board.
Unusually it was Loeb who had problems; the result of cutting a corner 5km before the finish line and clipping a large rock on the apex.
The impact immediately burst his Xsara’s front-left tyre and the car arrived at the time control with shredded rubber flailing from its wheel.
Marcus Gronholm and a number of other drivers following Loeb through the stage also hit the same rock, but Loeb came off badly and dropped 32 seconds to Gronholm, who won the stage.
According to Loeb, his fight for the rally victory ended at this point.
Gigi Galli set the second fastest time, despite reporting some strange noises from his Peugeot, while Henning Solberg was third - probably helped by the fact that he had no front brakes.
Kosti Katajamaki was another driver to hit the 5km rock and come off badly; the young Finn crossed the finish line with heavy front end damage and a suspension upright poking through the bonnet.
Mikko Hirvonen drove cautiously through the section to avoid jarring his broken windscreen - he was fifth fastest, 22 seconds slower than Gronholm.
Still using third gear only, Atkinson brought his Subaru through the test in one piece but dropped another 2min 58sec to the leaders.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 7:51.7
SS13: 1144hrs Urria (10.00km)
Revitalised after a 30-minute check-up at the service area, crews headed back into the forests for another three stages.
The loop started with Urria, famous for a massive jump (the biggest of the rally) 5km from the start line, and a stretch later on with five smaller jumps in quick succession.
Gronholm set the quickest time, Loeb was next, 2.4 seconds adrift, while Hirvonen, with a new windscreen, was third.
Chris Atkinson’s car received a new gearbox during the service and with his car back up to full strength the Australian recorded the sixth fastest time.
Having lost so much time earlier, Atkinson was down in 20th place overall and switched his focus to testing ahead of the next gravel rallies.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 4:40.8
SS14: 1307hrs Ouninpohja Lansi 2 (13.98km)
In dry and bright conditions, crews tackled the first of the repeated Ouninpohja stages.
After Loeb’s time loss and Petter Solberg’s retirement, the top three drivers were all relatively secure in their overall positions and each said they were taking things a little steadier.
Nevertheless, Gronholm still went quickest, with Loeb and Hirvonen closely following the split times and keeping the overall gaps between them almost the same.
Loeb’s team-mate Daniel Sordo became another victim of Ouninpohja when his Xsara left the road straight after a jump.
Sordo and co-driver Marc Marti were uninjured but mechanical damage meant they retired from the Leg.
Also in trouble was 10th placed Jari-Matti Latvala, who dropped 10 minutes to the leaders after one of his rear tyres caught fire.
The Finn has to stop to put out the flames and fit the spare wheel.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 6:30.7
SS15: 1330hrs Ouninpohja Ita 2 (16.55km)
On the last stage before another 30-minute service halt Gronholm, Loeb and Hirvonen topped the stage sheets once again.
With little to gain and everything to lose, all three said they were sacrificing some speed and concentrating on getting a clean run.
Henning Solberg and Gigi Galli were next through, with Atkinson in the Subaru World Rally Team’s remaining Impreza WRC2006 taking the sixth spot.
The Australian moved up to thirteenth overall, but remained more than 15 minutes behind Gronholm.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 7:51.8
SS16: 1648hrs Moksi-Leustu (40.96km)
At 41km, the stage from Moksi was the longest of the event and included a complex variety of conditions including wide, narrow, technical and flat-out sections.
Numerous blind crests and jumps meant it was probably the busiest stage for co-drivers too.
There were no upsets for the lead drivers - the trio of Gronholm, Hirvonen and Loeb topped the stage times again - but Atkinson had another difficult time when his car’s power steering system broke 2km from the start.
He finished the stage 2min 41sec slower than Gronholm.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 20:25.6
SS17: 1804hrs Himos (12.97km)
Business as usual for Marcus Gronholm on the last stage of the day - the Finn winning his seventh of the Leg.
Henning Solberg finished the day with a flourish to set the second-quickest time, while Loeb and Hirvonen were third and fourth.
Galli was fifth, despite crossing the line with some front bodywork damage.
Atkinson was sixth, still without power-assisted steering, and moved up to 13th overall.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 7:09.1
Subaru World Rally Team Sporting Director, Luis Moya:
Today we had an early wake up call with both cars effectively being removed from the competition within the first two stages. Chris was first to suffer when a gear selection problem wasn’t able to be repaired before leaving service, costing him any chance of a competitive finish. Petter then suffered a dramatic accident just as he looked set to challenge for a podium position. Despite this, we know good progress has been made with the car development and, although Chris cannot achieve the result he deserved, tomorrow he will be able to test and learn from different setups.'
We were coming into a long left-hand corner, went over a crest with a little under-steer and then hit a rock face on the right-hand side. I thought it would be alright, but the car spun around and we ended up rolling. Phil and I are both okay, but the car was quite badly damaged. Despite this, I’m still feeling positive about everything we have done so far and know we have taken something good from this weekend. We have found some improvements and we tried something in the first stage today which was quite positive too, however we still need to work on the consistency. We have a test coming up for Rally Japan now and we have identified some more areas to work on. I’ve got a good feeling about the next rally and I’m definitely not giving up at all.'
Today we had a couple of technical problems that dropped us down the order. When we had a clear run we were encouraged to be competitive on stages we had never driven at speed before, and managed to move up the order. For tomorrow the focus is on testing and working with the team to continue to develop the car.'
News from Pirelli
Mario Isola, Pirelli Competizioni Rally Manager
Totally different weather conditions today in Finland but we are quite happy with the performance of the tyres, and the consistency during the 41 kms of today's very long stage. In the early morning the stages were damp and we decided to use a medium/soft PZERO KP, while in the afternoon it was very hot and completely dry, but also in this conditions our PZERO medium/hard compound were at the top level. Unfortunately the two Subarus were slowed by an accident and mechanical problems but the feeling of the drivers was good. In Group N we are leading and the fight between Anton Alen and Patrik Flodin is very exciting.'
The third and final Leg of Rally Finland starts from Jyväskylä at 0830hrs. Including four more timed tests and 60 competitive kilometres, Sunday’s route takes crews to two more classic gravel stages to the west of Rally HQ, which are repeated in the afternoon.