Subaru World Rally Team summary Subaru's Chris Atkinson finished Rally Japan in fourth place today after an excellent performance on the final Leg of the competition. Atkinson, who was third on the rally in 2005, set a ...
Subaru World Rally Team summary
Subaru's Chris Atkinson finished Rally Japan in fourth place today after an excellent performance on the final Leg of the competition. Atkinson, who was third on the rally in 2005, set a string of top-five times on the day's six stages and was the Subaru World Rally Team's highest-placed finisher. Bringing his Subaru Impreza WRC2006 home in sixth place, Toshi Arai was the best-placed Japanese driver, while a frustrated Petter Solberg finished eighth.
SS22: 0719HRS RERA KAMUY (8.76KM)
Leg three began with the eight kilometre Rera Kamuy stage; last used on
the rally in 2004. The combination of recent rain and early morning dew
made some sections very slippery and a second-gear junction two
kilometres from the start in particular caught out several drivers.
Matthew Wilson overshot the corner and lost around 40sec, while Luis
Perez Companc, in an identical Ford Focus WRC, went off at same point and
got his car stuck for five minutes. Petter Solberg reported brake
problems but still set the fourth fastest time and moved ahead of Dani
Sordo into sixth place overall. Stage winner Marcus Gronholm was four
seconds quicker that Sebastien Loeb and narrowed the Frenchman's
rally lead by four seconds to 21.1sec.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 5:07.2
SS23: 0744HRS PANKE NIKORPET 1 (17.04KM)
Solberg stopped on the road section before SS23 to try and fix his
brakes. The work meant he checked-in two minutes late to the start
control and received a 20 second penalty. Despite his best repair efforts
the situation was no better and he completed the test 1min 16sec slower
than the quickest driver, Sebastien Loeb. Solberg dropped down the
overall order to tie seventh with his Subaru team-mate Toshi Arai.
Special stage 23 also proved difficult for Peugeot driver Manfred Stohl
who completed it with a damaged gearbox. Chris Atkinson gave the Subaru
team some encouragement when he set another fourth-quickest time in his
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 9:36.8
SS24: 0820HRS PENKE 1 (24.88KM)
The final stage before the mid-point service was the longest of the
morning and gave crews the best opportunity to make up time on their
competitors. The battle for the lead between Loeb and Gronholm was the
fiercest in the top ten, and over the 24km section Gronholm took another
five seconds out of the Frenchman's lead. Hirvonen set the
third-quickest time, with Chris Atkinson and Toshi Arai rounding off the
top five. Solberg's ongoing problems cost him another 3min 55sec to
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 14:44.3
SS25: 1143HRS PANKE NIKORPET 2 (17.04KM)
The stage that brought Petter Solberg's rally to an end in 2005 was
the setting for more drama this year too, as Gronholm and Loeb battled
furiously for the rally win. Loeb, aiming for a record-breaking 27th WRC
victory, could not match the Finn's pace over the 17km stage and
lost another 6.9sec of his overall lead. With one proper stage to go
before the Superspecial, the difference between the pair was a slender
8.8sec. Hirvonen was third fastest, with Atkinson fourth and Solberg, his
brakes fixed in service, rounding off the top five. Elsewhere, ninth
placed Gareth Machale retired after his Ford Focus WRC went off the road
and hit a concrete bridge.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 9:13.4
SS26: 1219HRS PENKE 2 (24.88KM)
With tensions rising and the end almost in sight, Loeb and Gronholm threw
everything they had at the repeated 24km Penke stage. But as both drivers
left the line they were unaware of an incident 19km ahead where Luis
Perez Companc's Focus WRC had stopped on the stage. The stricken car,
which almost completely blocked the road, caused problems for the crews
following. Dani Sordo was particularly affected and lost a place on the
overall leaderboard as a result. Gronholm reached the finish line in the
quickest time, but Loeb was only 3.4sec behind and retained a 5.4sec
advantage as he drove to the short final stage. .
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 14:21.5
SS27: 1409HRS OBIHIRO 5 (1.30KM)
Thousands of spectators filled the grandstands to watch the nail-biting
final stage of the rally. Hirvonen set the fastest time over the 1.3km
head-to-head course but the most crucial contest was the final pairing of
Gronholm and Loeb. In a thrilling finale, Loeb set the second quickest
time, 0.2sec ahead of Gronholm, to collect his 27th WRC victory and
become the most successful driver in the history of the World Rally
Championship. Gronholm finished the rally 5.6sec behind in second place
with Hirvonen third and Subaru's Chris Atkinson fourth.
Fastest Time: Hirvonen (Ford) 1:11.0
SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM MANAGING DIRECTOR, RICHARD TAYLOR:
"We came to Japan with the target of achieving a podium and we have missed that, so clearly we are not satisfied. However all our drivers put in strong performances with Chris missing the podium by just one place and Toshi did a very good job in his return to the team. Petter was unfortunate to suffer most from the car problems but was very competitive when the car ran well. We have to keep working very hard to resolve the technical issues that have prevented us achieving our objectives. >From here the team will redouble the effort back at the factory and in Japan to ensure that we can again consistently compete at the top of the leaderboard and win events."
"It's been a tough weekend for everyone, to get to the finish and give the fans something. Today we had a clean run with no major problems as all I had to do was cruise through the day and take a bit more time off Manfred. The result is the best we could have hoped for coming into the rally. For sure we are driving better than ever and certainly more consistently, getting mostly top five stage times."
"Generally not so bad throughout the rally. Yes, we had a few problems but I am pleased to get as good a finish as this as I had to learn the World Rally Car and now feel that I know it quite well. I also got used to the car speed and it felt quite comfortable. I wanted to thank Subaru for this opportunity and hope maybe that we can do it again."
"We watched the battle at the top of the rally and I wish I was involved. I can't wait to get back into those fights again, but for now we have some problems and we need to work together as a team to find the solutions. It's difficult not just for me, but everyone. There's a lot of hard work from all of us to be done and I hope that at the next event we can be getting a bit closer."
News from Pirelli
MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER
"I hope the Subaru's staff can solve quickly the mechanical problems of the car to achieve a good reliability. We will continue to work and to develop our product to provide Subaru the best performing tyre we can. Now we have to concentrate for Cyprus and rest of the season."
The Next Event
Round 12 of the WRC is Rally Cyprus, the slowest and most twisty gravel rally of the entire World Championship. This year the event has a different look to it. A move later in the calendar than its usual mid-summer spot should lead to lower temperatures and an increased risk of rain, which could lend the rally an unusual complexion. The rally is based in the holiday resort of Limassol and starts from the sea-front on Friday 22nd September.