Starters Ninety-three of the orginal 97 starters began leg two The route A further nine narrow tree-lined gravel stages were completed, including two visits to the famous Ouninpohja, totalling a competitive 186.1km. Starting from Jyvaskyla,...
Ninety-three of the orginal 97 starters began leg two
A further nine narrow tree-lined gravel stages were completed, including two visits to the famous Ouninpohja, totalling a competitive 186.1km. Starting from Jyvaskyla, the route took crews south west towards the town of Orivesi, 100km from the service park.
Today's weather was dry and sunny. It started at a temperature of 12 degrees Celsius, climbing to a high of 24 degrees Celsius by mid-afternoon.
Manfred Stohl; Petter Solberg; Juho Hanninen; Dani Sordo
The Subaru pairing of Chris Atkinson / Stephane Prevot are in fourth place at the end of today's second, and longest, leg of Rally Finland. Atkinson had a trouble-free run and was one of the five fastest drivers on each of the leg's nine stages. Despite contesting the rally only three times before, the Australian traded times with far more experienced drivers, and even beat the current World Champion on the fearsome 33km Ouninpohja stage. The Subaru of Xevi Pons / Xevi Amigo holds sixth overall, with the Spaniard increasing in confidence with every kilometre. The team's lead crew of Petter Solberg / Phil Mills continued to struggle with handling difficulties and their car was eventually withdrawn after SS15.
SS12: 0717HRS KAIPOLANVUORI (13.46KM)
Crews collected their cars from the overnight Parc Ferme from 0600hrs and
drove straight to a 10-minute service. The first test of leg two
was Kaipolanvuori, based near the town of Jamsa, 60km south west of
Jyvaskyla. Another new route, it is one of the narrowest and fastest of
the rally - 5th and 6th gear most of the way. And with the bright morning
sun hanging low in the sky, it was made even trickier. Xevi Pons, running
fifth on the road, was the first of the Subaru World Rally Team to drive
the stage, and was happy with his performance. Petter Solberg was 11th on
the road and showed a good pace to set the fourth fastest time, just
ahead of Chris Atkinson who was fifth. "Yesterday was a mixed day for
me, but today it's much better, we have less oversteer so I feel more
confident with the handling," said Petter.
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 6m 53.4s
SS13: 0830HRS JUUPAJOKI (22.14KM)
The furthest stage from the service park in leg two, Juupajoki mixes
narrow forest tracks with a flat-out motorway-like section mid-way
through. Running 12th on the road, Atkinson recorded the fourth fastest
time, only one second behind World Champion Sebastien Loeb. Petter
Solberg was the sixth fastest driver, while Xevi Pons put in another good
performance to record the 10th fastest time and move closer to the man
ahead of him on the leader board, Urmo Aava.
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 11m 19.3s
SS14: 0914HRS OUNINPOHJA 1 (33.01KM)
The final challenge of the morning loop was Ouninpohja, one of the
fastest and most famous stages in the WRC calendar. After average
speeds crept above the WRC maximum in 2004, organisers split the stage
into two shorter sections. But for 2007 it was back in its full-length
format, with three new chicanes designed to bring the speeds down. On
easily the most challenging stage of the rally, Chris Atkinson delivered
his best performance so far, beating Loeb outright to set the third
fastest time. Pons too seemed to revel in the conditions. On his first
attempt at the stage in a Subaru the Spaniard was seventh fastest, to
leap into eighth place overall and a potential championship
points-scoring position. Petter Solberg did not have such a good time and
reported difficulties with the handling of his car which felt similar to
the ones he had experienced early on leg one. The Norwegian dropped 1m
50s to the leaders and slipped to seventh place overall.
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 15m 35.3s
SS15: 1215HRS LEUSTU (21.27KM)
After a 30-minute service crews headed back into the forests south of
Jyvaskyla and the 21km Leustu stage. Seemingly right at home in the
classic Finnish conditions Chris Atkinson drove tactically, taking few
risks to protect his fourth place overall but driving fast enough to keep
the pressure on Loeb. Pons also had an eye on the overall leader board
and his ninth-fastest time, and the retirement of Dani Sordo, moved him
up to sixth overall. But even after a thorough service before the stage,
Petter was still off the pace in his Impreza and, in the circumstances,
the Subaru team withdrew him from the leg. SWRT managing director said:
"We haven't been able to identify the problem Petter is experiencing
with the car, and with 96 stage kilometres until the next service, there
is little point in him continuing at this speed. The only sensible thing
to do now is to retire the car from the leg and bring it back to service
so we can begin a thorough analysis."
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 10m 12.6s
SS16: 1324HRS OUNINPOHJA 2 (33.01KM)
With Solberg out, it was up to Atkinson and Pons to fly the flag for
Subaru and get the best possible result on Sunday. On the repeat run of
the longest stage of the rally, Atkinson put in another measured drive to
consolidate fourth. "I'm in no position to relax just yet," said
Chris, "but I guess I'm driving at 99 per cent rather than the 110 per
cent I was giving it earlier." Xevi Pons brought his Impreza across the
line in the sixth fastest time -- his best finish of the rally so far.
"I'm pleased with my performance on that stage," said Pons. "It's a
very tricky piece of road for me and I had a puncture for the second half
too, so I'm very happy!"
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 15m 19.8s
SS17: 1510HRS EHIKKI 1 (14.88KM)
After a 15-minute remote service in Jamsa, 60km from Jyvaskyla, stage 17
kicked off the final loop of leg two. Chris Atkinson recorded a solid
fifth fastest time to remain firmly in fourth overall. Aware that there
were still 104 competitive kilometres to run to the finish of leg three,
Chris was by no means letting-up and was firmly maintaining his pace.
Xevi Pons finished with ninth fastest time, growing ever more confident
with each stage.
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 6m 52.2s
SS18: 1623HRS HIMOS (18.56KM)
In the shade of the Finnish forest's canopy, Himos is a dark stage even
in the sunny conditions in which the section was run. Chris Atkinson was
fifth fastest, while Xevi Pons completed the 18.5km in the seventh
fastest time, and extended his advantage over Mitsubishi driver Urmo Aava
by nine seconds.
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 10m 09.8s
SS19: 1719HRS EHIKKI 2 (14.88KM)
For the penultimate stage of leg two, the drivers returned to the 15km
section known as Ehikki. Chris Atkinson and Stephane Prevot were fifth
fastest with Xevi Pons and Xavier Amigo equal seventh. Despite Henning
Solberg closing the gap to Chris slightly, Atkinson's advantage sat at
one minute and 17 seconds ahead of the final stage.
Fastest time: Hirvonen (Ford) 6m 47.4s
SS20: 1754HRS SURKEE (14.89KM)
Following a string of stages in which Xevi Pons increased his advantage
over Aava in their leg-long battle for overall position, during the final
stage of the day Xevi's gap was reduced slightly but not sufficiently to
lose position. In his first rally with the Subaru World Rally Team, the
Spaniard was sixth at the end of leg two. Chris Atkinson's stage time
was good enough for fourth, rounding off an encouraging day for him.
Fastest time: Hirvonen (Ford) 8m 13.6s
Subaru World Rally Team managing director, Richard Taylor
"Chris has driven very well today; he made no mistakes and has done an excellent job of consolidating his fourth place. Xevi has also had a positive day -- especially as this was only his second competitive day in the car. Both drivers are well positioned ahead of tomorrow's final leg, and I hope we'll get two cars in the top-six. For Petter it was a different story. Since withdrawing him from the leg we have looked over the car and decided he will not rejoin the rally tomorrow. There is no chance for him to score any drivers' points now, and the decision will also safeguard his car's engine which we must use in Germany. Safety was also a major consideration. It is in Petter's nature to push as hard as possible, but we are not prepared for him to do that in a car in which we have less than 100 per cent confidence. We believe this is the most responsible course of action. Tonight Petter's car will leave for our UK headquarters so we can carry out a more detailed analysis in its present state."
CAR NUMBER 8
Chris Atkinson: "We've consolidated fourth for today so there was no need to take any big risks towards the end. Here of course you need 100 per cent concentration as there is no room for error, especially with the many tree-lined stages, but we were maybe pushing at 95 per cent in the last stage to make sure we got through."
CAR NUMBER 17
Xevi Pons: "It's a very difficult rally here in Finland for us to start with, so I am pleased to be in sixth after today. The fact that it is my first rally with the Subaru World Team makes it better for us and I hope from here we can continue with our speed. The battle with Aava today has been close, and I hope good for the fans."
CAR NUMBER 7
Petter Solberg: "If you look at the big picture then withdrawing from the rally was really the only option we had. We still had nearly 100km left to run after SS15 and the car really wasn't working at speed. If it helps us get to the bottom of why my car wasn't working properly, then it will have been worth doing. I'm very sorry to my supporters who were on the stages waiting. But trust me; it wouldn't have been much fun to watch today."
Following a gruelling twenty stages in two days, Sunday's leg three is relatively sedate with only three stages totalling a competitive 40.75km. Nevertheless, each of these is appropriately spectacular. Valkola is incredibly bumpy and fantastic for spectators, Lankamaa demands utmost respect as it can catch drivers out very easily, and Ruuhimaki is a classic that has been used every year since the 1970s.