At the end of a difficult first day of competition in Japan Chris Atkinson holds sixth place overall and leads the three car Subaru World Rally Team entry. The day started well for Subaru, with Petter Solberg jostling for a top-three position, but...
At the end of a difficult first day of competition in Japan Chris Atkinson holds sixth place overall and leads the three car Subaru World Rally Team entry. The day started well for Subaru, with Petter Solberg jostling for a top-three position, but a brake problem on the fourth stage cost him almost two minutes and dropped him down to tenth overall. It was a similar story for Atkinson; he started well, but dropped down the order - in his case after collecting 50 seconds of penalty time for leaving service late. On his first outing in a WRC car since 2001, much of Toshi Arai's day was spent familiarising himself with the latest Impreza model. In front of his home crowd he set consistent top-ten times and holds seventh place overnight.
SS1: 0803HRS PAWSE KAMUY 1 (9.05KM)
Under clear skies, crews left service from 0630hrs to drive the 84km road
section to the first stage of the rally. After several days of wet
weather, conditions on the 9km Pawse Kamuy section were variable, with
the surface damp in some places and dry in others. The first crews
through reported a lot of loose gravel and the sweeping effect meant
those further down the order had a cleaner line to drive on. Marcus
Gronholm, running second on the road, was the pace-setter, with his
team-mate Mikko Hirvonen second. Subaru's Petter Solberg was third.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 4:38.2
SS2: 0851HRS RIKUBETSU 1 (2.73KM)
The second stage of the day was a sprint around the spectator-friendly
section at Rikubetsu. Based around a ski centre, and ending on a
rallycross circuit, the short 2km route included a watersplash, a
sequence of hairpin bends and a jump over the flying finish. The
top-three drivers were the same as SS1, with Gronholm quickest, Hirvonen
second and Solberg third.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 2:12.1
SS3: 0927HRS KANNA 1 (13.86KM)
The high-speed stage at Kanna brought several changes to the leaderboard.
Loeb went quickest and moved ahead of Hirvonen into second place overall,
while a top-three time from Subaru's Chris Atkinson moved him up
from seventh to fourth. Petter Solberg reported a brake problem and
finished the stage 26sec behind Loeb. He dropped to fifth place as a
result. Driving as part of the Subaru World Rally Team on his home event,
Japan's Toshi Arai was seventh-fastest.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 8:06.3
SS4: 0950HRS PURAY 1 (34.96KM)
The longest stage of the rally, the 35km test at Puray, enabled Gronholm
and Loeb to pull further ahead from the rest of the field. Gronholm was
quickest, with Loeb second, 5.4sec behind, and Hirvonen third - another
24sec back. Conditions were muddy and extremely slippery in places and
Hirvonen damaged the rear of his car when he slid into a concrete bridge
near the start line. Petter Solberg had a frustrating stage as he
struggled with his ongoing braking problem. He finished 1min 55sec behind
the leaders and dropped to eleventh overall.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 19:45.3
SS5: 1423HRS PAWSE KAMUY 2 (9.05KM)
After a 30-minute service halt, crews repeated the morning loop of
stages. Problems re-fitting a suspension component meant Chris Atkinson
left the service five minutes late and collected 50sec of penalty time.
On the stage, Gronholm was quickest, with Hirvonen second and Loeb and
Atkinson tying third place. Petter Solberg's braking problem was
traced to the pads and with fresh components fitted he set the
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 4:32.9
SS6: 1511HRS RIKUBETSU 2 (2.73KM)
The second pass through the short spectator stage at Rikubetsu brought
more close competition and less than five seconds separated the top ten
drivers. Gronholm was quickest with Loeb second and Hirvonen third. The
only change to the top ten was Petter Solberg, who set the
fourth-quickest time and moved ahead of Matthew Wilson into eighth place
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 2:07.9
SS7: 1547HRS KANNA 2 (13.86KM)
In a repeat of the morning's run of the stage, Loeb set the
quickest time and pulled back some of Gronholm's overall lead.
Mikko Hirvonen was third, Chris Atkinson fourth.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 7:52.2
SS8: 1610HRS PURAY 2 (34.96KM)
No problems for the lead cars on the final ‘proper' stage of
the day. Gronholm was quickest, to collect his sixth stage win of the
day, while Loeb, Hirvonen and Stohl were the best of the rest. After his
earlier penalty, another good stage result for Atkinson helped his
recovery and he moved back up to fifth place.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 19:06.7
SS9: 1845HRS OBIHIRO 1 (1.30KM)
Leg one finished with two circuits of the Superspecial stage constructed
alongside the service area in Obihiro. In front of thousands of cheering
spectators, crews tackled the floodlit stage in pairs as SS9 before
switching lanes for a repeat as SS10.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 1:14.2
SS10: 1855HRS OBIHIRO 2 (1.30KM)
On both stages Loeb was quickest with Gronholm second and Loeb's
Citroen team-mate Dani Sordo third. Sordo's performance was enough
to move him into fifth place, ahead of Chris Atkinson.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 1:15.0
SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM MANAGING DIRECTOR, RICHARD TAYLOR:
"Clearly today we are very disappointed for all the home Subaru fans. We have not achieved the performance that either of us expected. We came here aiming to fight for podium positions; however the problems we have encountered have made achieving this very difficult. Both Petter and Chris have set some very competitive times when they have h clear runs, and we have been pleased with Toshi Arai's impressive pace on his return to a World Rally Car. Now it is our job to ensure that in the remaining 220km we can help our drivers move as far up the leaderboard as possible."
"Today's been a challenging day in some quite difficult conditions. We had a couple of small problems which we'll fix and then get on with it again. The aim is to keep going, have a trouble-free day tomorrow, and try hard. I'm sure we can make up some positions."
"We are trying very hard and everybody is absolutely doing their best, but we still need to do more. We had some more problems this afternoon and we know why, so we'll look at the problem with the car and see what we can do for tomorrow. It's certainly tough, but then it's tough for the entire team and that's how it is at the moment."
"The first bit of today was not so bad but the second half I lost a lot of time and then had to slow right down in the Superspecial with a clutch problem. The first stages were quite good I think, so tomorrow I will try and drive at the same speed as I am still learning the car."
News from Pirelli
MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER
"Overall the day has been a difficult one for the team. But I think we did the right tyre choice in the morning with Petter, and he was able to show a good performance on the first and second stages, but then the later mechanical problems didn't give us the chance to show our full potential. I hope the Subaru's engineers can solve the problems tonight to enable us to show some good times in the next stages."
Leg two starts from the Obihiro park ferme at 0600hrs on Friday. Crews will tackle nine stages in the countryside north-east of the host city before returning for two more circuits of the spectator Superspecial stage.