Subaru World Rally Team summary 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...
Subaru World Rally Team summary
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.
SS11: 0726HRS EMINA (8.18KM)
Crews left the overnight parc ferme from 0600hrs on dry roads and under
clear blue skies. With the exception of the Obihiro Superspecial, all of
Saturday's stages were based in the countryside between 70 and
120km north-east of the host city. Ninth-placed Matthew Wilson
encountered a turbo boost problem on the 70km road section to SS11 and,
unable to fix it before the start, dropped 1min 50sec to the stage
winner, Marcus Gronholm. Wilson slipped down a place to tenth on the
leaderboard. Also on the move was Chris Atkinson - the Australian set the
fourth-fastest time and moved ahead of Dani Sordo into fifth overall. A
mid-stage spin and stall for Toshi Arai cost the Japanese driver 10
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 5:42.1
SS12: 0828HRS RIKUBETSU 3 (2.73KM)
The third pass though the short spectator stage at Rikubetsu brought more
problems for Wilson, who continued to struggle without turbo boost. The
19-year old Brit was 44 seconds slower than stage winner Gronholm and
dropped another place to 11th overall. Elsewhere in the top twenty, there
were no significant time gains or losses and no other position changes.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 2:07.4
SS13: 0853HRS NIUEO 1 (20.75KM)
The most significant mover on the Niueo stage was Chris Atkinson, who set
the fourth quickest time to close in on Manfred Stohl's fourth
place overall. Over the 20km section, the Australian closed the gap to
Stohl from 33sec to 9sec. At the top of the leaderboard it was still nip
and tuck between Loeb and Gronholm. On this occasion Loeb was quickest
and he narrowed Gronholm's overall lead to 6.7sec.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 12:10.6
SS14: 0925HRS SIPIRKAKIM 1 (22.43KM)
A spin close to the start line for Gronholm cost him more than 20 seconds
and allowed Loeb, who won the stage, to take the overall lead of the
rally. Gronholm dropped to second, 17.4sec behind. Chris Atkinson's
charge continued and he set the third quickest time, despite a brief
off-road excursion that cost his car its front wing and rear spoiler.
Stohl was fourth though the stage and held onto fourth overall, but his
advantage was down to 2.5sec. Still suffering with no turbo boost,
Wilson's miserable day continued when he pulled off the road to let
Atkinson's Subaru overtake. Unfortunately, this considerate action
led to retirement from the Leg when his car became stuck in a ditch.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 12:17.0
SS15: 1035HRS MENAN (16.25KM)
Loeb was quickest through the stage and had his overall lead extended
further when Gronholm went off the road near the start and dropped 10
seconds. Chris Atkinson was third quickest and moved ahead of Stohl into
fourth place overall. Petter Solberg reported a problem under braking and
finished the stage 33sec behind the leaders, dropping down to eighth
overall, behind team-mate Toshi Arai.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 10:17.3
SS16: 1448HRS RIKUBETSU 4 (2.73KM)
After a 30-minute service halt, crews returned to the short Rikubetsu
stage for a fourth and final pass. Gronholm was the quickest driver, with
Hirvonen second and Solberg third. Having been run already as SS2, SS6
and SS12 the road surface was badly rutted in places and large rocks had
been uncovered on the racing line. Toshi Arai was one of the drivers
affected by the difficult conditions and after hitting a large rock his
car bounced off the road and into some trees. Instinctively, Arai got his
car straight back on the road and completed the stage but he dropped back
below Solberg on the leaderboard.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 12:09.0
SS17: 1513HRS NIUEO 2 (20.75KM)
No problems for the leading drivers on the repeated Niueo stage. Loeb set
the fastest time, with Gronholm five seconds behind and Solberg in third
place. After the stage Toshi Arai learned that, unbeknown to him, his car
had also collided with a WRC photographer in the incident on SS16. The
man, a friend of Arai's, needed treatment for a leg injury but sent
a message to the Subaru driver telling him to continue and wishing him
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 11:35.9
SS18: 1545HRS SIPIRKAKIM 2 (22.43KM)
Gronholm collected his fourth stage win of the day, but less than two
seconds behind him over the 20km section was Subaru's Petter
Solberg. The second-quickest time was his best stage finish of the rally
so far. After losing more than two minutes during a frustrating Leg one,
Solberg had climbed back up the leaderboard from tenth to seventh and had
his sights on Dani Sordo's sixth place.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 12:09.0
SS19: 1655HRS MENAN SHORT (9.17KM)
Gronholm was quickest on the final ‘proper' stage of the Leg,
but again it was Solberg who was his closest rival. Over the short Menan
section the Norwegian narrowed the gap to Sordo to less than six seconds.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 5:33.5
SS20: 1845HRS OBIHIRO 3 (1.30KM)
The final two stages of Leg two were the third and fourth passes through
the Superspecial at Kita Aikoku. In front of thousands of fans, crews
tackled the stage in pairs as SS20 before switching lanes and repeating
the course as SS21.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 1:13.1
SS21: 1855HRS OBIHIRO 4 (1.30KM)
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 1:12.6
SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM MANAGING DIRECTOR, RICHARD TAYLOR:
"We've taken encouragement today in Chris' strong progress up the leaderboard to fourth position and the two second-quickest times that Petter has been able to set this afternoon. Toshi Arai has also driven well and continues to get experience of the Impreza World Rally Car. Of course we are still disappointed with the technical problems that the drivers have endured on the rally and we have much work to do to ensure our cars perform consistently well and enable us to be fully competitive."
"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."
"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."
"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!"
News from Pirelli
MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER
"We are happy today as the performance by Petter and Chris is good. Unfortunately much time was lost yesterday and we cannot get that all back today, however Petter was very fast, as the leading drivers were fighting, so we are happy."