Continuing his remarkable recovery after losing five minutes 40 seconds at the end of Leg one, Petter Solberg delivered another commanding performance in his new Subaru Impreza WRC2004 today to make up another place on the leaderboard and finish...
Continuing his remarkable recovery after losing five minutes 40 seconds at the end of Leg one, Petter Solberg delivered another commanding performance in his new Subaru Impreza WRC2004 today to make up another place on the leaderboard and finish the rally fourth overall. The Norwegian won nine of the fifteen special stages, and regained nine of the twelve places he lost with the penalty on Friday. After a trouble free rally, Mikko Hirvonen finished fifth fastest in his Subaru Impreza WRC2004 to score his highest ever WRC finish and collect points for Subaru.
SS11: 0717 Ibarrilla - Mesa 1 (30.47km)
With a slender rally lead of 14.4 seconds Markko Martin couldn't
afford to relax and was immediately on the attack at the start of the
final day. Although he set the fastest time through the 30km section,
second placed Carlos Sainz was right behind him with a time just 0.2
seconds slower. Subaru's Petter Solberg was another man with a mission.
After a remarkable salvage effort on Leg two, that saw the Norwegian
move from 13th to fifth place overall, Solberg now had the fourth place
of team-mate Mikko Hirvonen in his sights. Petter's third fastest time
on the stage reduced the gap between the pair from 1 minute 0.9 seconds
to 49.9 seconds. The longest stage of the event presented crews with a
fast up hill sprint before a series of downhill bends and twisty,
undulating narrow section. After the finish, crews stopped for a refuel
before moving to the start of SS12.
Fastest Stage Time: Martin (Ford) 18:34.6
SS12: 0814 Alfaro - Nuevo Valle 1 (27.85km)
As the battle for first place intensified, this time it was
Carlos Sainz who was fastest and the Spaniard blasted through the test
to finish 2.8 seconds faster than event leader Martin. But it wasn't
enough to snatch the top spot and at the finish, 11.8 seconds remained
between the pair. Martin was second fastest, while Solberg negotiated
the windy hard packed gravel road that ran through the town of Nuevo
Valle de Moreno and village of Alisos to finish fourth fastest.
Conditions remained bright and clear for the competitors and there were
no leading retirements. After the finish, crews moved directly to the
start of SS13.
Fastest Stage Time: Sainz (Citroen) 16:18.7
SS13: 0857 Derramadero - Comanjilla (15.42km)
Tense moments for Citroen's remaining driver in the event's
closing stages. The Derramadero - Comanjilla test, the shortest of the
event, saw Carlos Sainz's hopes of taking overall second on his first
Mexican event all but disappear when he half-rolled his Xsara near to
the start. He was able to continue, but dropped more than a minute to
the leaders and fell to overall third. At the finish he lay 49.9 seconds
behind Duval, who was promoted to the coveted silver spot as a result of
the Spaniard's misfortune. Recording an average speed of 105kph, Petter
Solberg was back to his winning form and clinched his ninth stage win of
the event as he continued his charge to catch team-mate Hirvonen. At the
finish the gap between the Subaru duo had been reduced to 24.1 seconds,
with two stages still to run.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 8:46.2
SS14: 1118 Ibarrilla - Mesa 2 (30.47km)
A repeat of the longest stage of the rally saw Marcus Gronholm
top the time sheet for the first time in Mexico. As the tension mounted
on the penultimate test, Gronholm was on a charge. Having changed the
anti-roll bars and altered the diff settings on his Peugeot 307 in the
preceding service, the Finn was fastest by a margin of 14.2 seconds.
With the possibility of a Ford one-two finish, event leaders Martin and
Duval relaxed the pace a little, but for Solberg there was still work to
be done. The 30km Ibarilla-Mesa test gave Petter the opportunity he
needed to catch his younger team-mate Mikko Hirvonen and move into
fourth place overall by a margin of 0.1 seconds.
Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 18:04.9
SS15: Alfaro - Nuevo Valle 2 (27.85km)
Martin was fourth quickest to win the event by a margin of 42.5
seconds. The event marked his first WRC win of 2004, the third of his
entire WRC career (he won in Finland and Greece in 2003), and promoted
him to the lead of the 2004 Drivers' Championship, which he shares with
Sebastien Loeb on 20 points. His Ford team-mate Duval was sixth fastest
to take overall second and achieve his highest ever WRC finish. Sainz
was third for the same position overall, while Solberg and Hirvonen
brought their Subarus home in fourth and fifth place respectively.
Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 16:00.2
Petter Solberg - (4th)
To lose 5 minutes 40 seconds on Friday, but still finish in fourth place is a pretty incredible result I think and I'm very happy. We know where we could have been if it wasn't for that penalty, but that's just how it is sometimes. I'm feeling very positive about the way the new car felt to drive. It's even better than I had expected, a real improvement, and I think the number of stage wins has proved how good it is. I've really enjoyed this new event, the stages were fantastic and apart from the incident on Friday I've had really good fun here in Mexico.
Mikko Hirvonen - (5th)
Yes, I'm really happy with the result. I think I could have got better had I been pushing but that's not what this one was all about for me. I've learnt quite a lot about the new car and the Pirelli's on gravel. I've made a few changes along the way which I think will be of real benefit in the future. I'm particularly pleased that I made no real driving mistakes over the past few days. I think I still have lots to learn on the slow and twisty sections, but sometimes they went very well so I know I can do it. I'm just going to be working on my consistency now.
David Lapworth , Team Principal
Of course, we're here to win so we can't be completely satisfied with the result, but it's been a fantastic performance from Petter and an impressive debut for the new car. Nine wins out of fifteen stages speaks for itself and gives us a positive outlook ahead of the next round in New Zealand. I'm very pleased with Mikko's performance too. He's achieved everything we've asked of him, gained a lot of valuable experience of the car and the tyres and has done a very professional job.
News from Pirelli
Fiore Brivio , Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
It was a perfect rally with perfect tyre choices throughout the three days. In the morning Petter used the Pirelli KM2 tyre and in the afternoon the K2, while Mikko used the Pirelli K2 tyre all day. Today was much hotter than the preceding two days of the rally and this was felt to be the best tyre choice under the circumstances.
Rally New Zealand: 15-18 April 2004
Round four of the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship starts in just over three weeks time when teams travel across the globe for the Rally New Zealand, the second gravel rally of the year. Comprising a total of 395.50 competitive kilometres and 23 stages based around the city of Auckland, the event starts on Thursday 15 April and concludes on Sunday 18 April. Rally Headquarters will be based at the Sky City complex in Auckland.