Starters 79 of the original 84 crews left the service park this morning for leg two. Route Today's leg took crews through six stages and 118 competitive kilometres of narrow asphalt roads between the towns of Enniskillen and Omagh. Just as...
79 of the original 84 crews left the service park this morning for leg two.
Today's leg took crews through six stages and 118 competitive kilometres of narrow asphalt roads between the towns of Enniskillen and Omagh. Just as tricky as leg one, rain made the afternoon's second passes especially challenging. In a change to the original schedule, the 27.76km Sloughan Glen section (SS11/14) was shortened by 6.81km.
The day started dry and cold, but rain showers set in by 0900hrs. By 1000hrs, heavy rain fell until midday, and returned during SS15. The temperature ranged from seven to eleven degrees Celsius.
McNulty (Subaru); Nesbitt (Subaru)
Subaru World Rally Team summary
After a solid and consistent performance on today's second leg of Rally Ireland, the Subaru World Rally Team pairing of Petter Solberg and Phil Mills consolidated their fifth place overall and narrowed the gap to fourth. The team's other crew of Chris Atkinson and Stephane Prevot were fastest on stage 14 and set a string of top five stage times.
Today's six stages were just as treacherous, if not more so, than those of leg one. Heavy rain mid-morning cleaned the narrow routes but made the surface even greasier. The rain stopped before the afternoon loop, but drivers were still faced with standing water in the final three stages.
Petter started the day on heavily cut slicks, and despite the rain and driving to a pace with which he felt comfortable he steadily closed on fourth-placed Hirvonen (Ford). He posted the third fastest stage time on SS12 and SS15 and was second quickest on the day's final stage. The gap to Hirvonen was 30.3 seconds at the end of leg one, but by the end of the second day this had been halved.
Having slipped down the overall standings after an accident on leg one, Chris was the 17th car through the stages today, and had to contend with dirtier roads than those at the head of the field. With his chances of a strong finish wiped out on leg one, Chris's focus was on testing and data acquisition -- although he still managed to finish in the top five on four of the day's stages. His outright stage win on SS14 demonstrated the pace of which he is capable on these unpredictable surfaces.
Subaru World Rally Team Managing Director, Richard Taylor: "This has been a better day for the team with five top-three stage times including a stage win for Chris this afternoon. Overall we have clearly not shown the level of pace we would have liked this weekend, however both Petter and Chris are in Manufacturer points-scoring positions as we head into the final day."
CAR NUMBER 7
Petter Solberg: "There was no specific plan for today; I just concentrated on my driving and on my car - that's it. But even though I'm not pushing hard, things are not going so badly. The car is definitely getting better, but as a lot of the guys at the top have backed off it's difficult to gauge the extent of the improvements. I just want to be cautious, you know, finish the rally and get a good result. We need the manufacturers' points for Subaru too. It's important to keep in front of Stobart because I'm going to stay with my brother over Christmas and if they beat me I'll never hear the end of it."
CAR NUMBER 8
Chris Atkinson: "It's been quite a positive day. The engineers made some set-up changes for the afternoon which gave me more front-end grip and a more solid feeling in general -- especially through the bumpier sections. That gave me the confidence to drive safely but still fast - and that was quick enough to get a stage win. Obviously most of the other guys have backed off a bit, but at least it's something for the team and our supporters. It's basically the same plan for tomorrow. We're out there to gather information for the engineers and to put on a good show for the fans."
Sunday's final leg is the shortest of the event, with only four stages that stretch 60km. After the morning's loop of three stages to the east of the service park, there is a remote regroup before the spectacular final stage, Mullaghmore, which runs along a cliff edge overlooking Donegal Bay.