SÃ©bastien Loeb (Citroen) enjoyed a troublefree day and won six stages as he moved to the top of the leaderboard. Behind Hirvonen, Chris Atkinson (Subaru) shrugged aside yesterday's 50sec penalty to regain fourth, despite swiping a tree on stage...
Sébastien Loeb (Citroen) enjoyed a troublefree day and won six stages as he moved to the top of the leaderboard. Behind Hirvonen, Chris Atkinson (Subaru) shrugged aside yesterday's 50sec penalty to regain fourth, despite swiping a tree on stage 14. Manfred Stohl (Peugeot) admitted he preferred the dry conditions and he has a comfortable advantage over Dani Sordo (Citroen). Petter Solberg (Subaru) continued to suffer brake problems but the Norwegian climbed to seventh and is only 6.1sec behind Sordo. The only major retirement was Matthew Wilson who struggled through the morning with a broken turbocharger. He pulled over to let Atkinson pass in stage 14 but his car became beached in a ditch and it could not be extricated. He will restart the final day under SupeRally rules.
Kronos Total Citroen
Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Kronos Total Citroën WRT Xsara took the lead of the Rally Japan during the morning. Having ended the day with two runs through the Kita Aikoku spectator superspecial, Seb and Daniel now have a 25.6 second advantage over Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen. Dani Sordo and Marc Marti were grateful for the more consistent conditions of leg two, and enjoyed a trouble-free day to end up sixth.
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "There are about 100 competitive kilometres left, and having pushed hard from the start I'm going to keep pushing hard to the end. Marcus will probably do the same thing, so the battle continues ! »
Daniel Sordo/Marc Marti: «For a beginner, it's a lot easier to drive on roads that are more consistent. These stages are tricky enough as it is without the weather making life even more difficult - so I'm pleased. Today was much better. On the first loop of stages, our notes were not so good on the sections where we had done the recce in the heavy rain. I made quite a few corrections for the second loop, and with a slight change to the set-up at midday service, I felt a lot more confident. I think I could have gone quicker, but I prefer to err on the side of caution.»
After the second day of their Japan premiere the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team is still absolutely satisfied. Despite losing one place, their first performance in the land of the rising sun shows that they can keep up with their works opponents. Only the slippery road conditions trouble the OMV duo Stohl/Minor to some extent. Even Marcus Grönholm, who was part of the Peugeot works team last year and won this rally, confirms that these conditions are not exactly the forte of the Peugeot 307 WRC. But in 2005 there was no rainfall.
Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "We are very satisfied with fifth place after the second day at our first Rally Japan. It wouldn't make sense to ride a no-holds-barred attack on Atkinson in front of us. The works Subaru is very fast and Atkinson knows the Rally Japan like the back of his hand. But we'll have to watch out for Petter Solberg. He got faster and faster on Saturday afternoon. It is still a long way to fifth place on the finish ramp. We will have to give our best on Sunday."
BP-Ford World Rally Team ended today's second leg of Rally Japan on course for a double podium. With one day remaining Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen lie second in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car after winning five speed tests, while team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are third in another Focus RS.
Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "I'm not sure what I can do tomorrow but I will try hard to catch Seb. I need to ensure that I am as close as possible to him just in case he makes a mistake, so there's no way I'm giving up on this just yet."
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "When the roads were muddy and slippery then I took it easy because I didn't want to go off, but when conditions were drier it felt really good to let the car go and push harder."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford
After a superb debut on Rally Japan, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team driver Matthew Wilson experienced a low at the start of the second day of the eleventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship with turbo failure and his car becoming stranded at the side of the road on the day's fourth stage. Wilson suffered a loss of turbo boost pressure on the road section to Saturday's first stage. Despite Wilson and co-driver Michael Orr trying all they could to diagnose and rectify the problem, they were forced to drive the initial stages of the loop with their car suffering from this ill.
Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "There was nothing at all wrong with the car yesterday, but on the road section to the first stage we lost boost about 3 km before the stage start. We crawled through the stage then afterwards we tried everything we could to try to fix it. We started the second stage on time but had to drive through it slowly again. After that one we went through everything again and arrived late at the third stage. We'd made the decision that we had to get back to service, but as we were going so slow other cars were catching us. When Chris Atkinson caught us we pulled over into what looked like a nice big grass lay-by. Unfortunately there was a man-made drainage ditch covered by the grass, and it was about two foot deep. We had no power so couldn't drive the car out. There were a couple of photographers about but they weren't enough to help. When you look at the times today and how close it is between Petter and Luis we could have been in the points which is really disappointing."
Luis Perez Companc/José Maria Volta: "It was a very good day, I am very happy. Being second out on the stages is not so good as the track has not been cleaned by cars ahead, but I am learning the car more and more with every stage. I went off at one corner with some mud on it, it was a close call but I could get back on to the stage without a problem. We are correcting our notes a lot when we go through. I am getting more confident with the car and it's getting much better with every run through. It's good to be here with the car in one piece. The problem will be Cyprus when I have to go back to the old car."
Chris Atkinson continues to lead the Subaru World Rally Team's challenge after today's second Leg of competition on Rally Japan. The 26-year-old Queenslander put in a strong performance on each of the day's eleven stages and moved up the leaderboard from sixth to fourth place. After frustrations on Leg one, Petter Solberg's car's performance improved considerably and the Norwegian ended the day strongly by setting the second quickest time on the last two proper stages. Solberg holds seventh place overnight, ahead of the team's third driver, Toshihiro Arai, who lies eighth.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "We've been able to split Marcus and Sebastien which is very pleasing, but on the other hand it's been quite tough as we lost so much time previously. We've made quite a few changes to the car and it has improved a lot and we have been able to be competitive. Tomorrow I hope to catch Sordo, but I'm not thinking too much about that as I am driving for all the fans."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "It's been a good day. We made up a couple of spots and now we've got a bit of a gap over Stohl, which is exactly what we wanted to do. We had a few scratches this morning when we took a few chances, but this afternoon I took it pretty easy. We took a good choice of tyres that was a pretty safe option and tomorrow we'll judge the pace and drive accordingly."
Toshi Arai/Toni Sircombe: "I had a big moment today when I hit a very, very big rock and went off the road on SS16. We got back on the road and continued but after I found out that I hit a photographer, a friend of mine, Naoki Kobayashi. He was okay and even sent me a message to say good luck and continue! I hope to see him out on the stages again very soon!"