Rally Mexico: Subaru leg one summary

Petter Solberg started his campaign to win a second consecutive Rally Mexico in style as he led Leg one from start to finish. The Norwegian's Subaru Impreza WRC2006 ran faultlessly all day and powered him to the fastest time on four of the day's...

Petter Solberg started his campaign to win a second consecutive Rally Mexico in style as he led Leg one from start to finish. The Norwegian's Subaru Impreza WRC2006 ran faultlessly all day and powered him to the fastest time on four of the day's seven stages. Petter will start tomorrow's second Leg with a five second advantage over second-placed Mikko Hirvonen. Solberg's team-mate Chris Atkinson held fifth position throughout the morning's loop of stages, but accident damage on SS5 brought his day to a premature end.


SS1: 0937 Ibarrilla 1 (22.41km)

After a spectacular ceremonial start on Thursday evening, the competitive action of the third WRC event of the year started with the 22km Ibarrilla stage to the north of host city Leon. Subaru's Petter Solberg was the early pace setter and recorded the fastest time to take his first stage win of the year. The Norwegian took full advantage of his ninth-placed starting position to storm through the twisty, technical route over six seconds quicker than Ford's Mikko Hirvonen. Reigning drivers' world champion Loeb was a further six seconds slower than the young Finn, with Gronholm fourth. Solberg's team-mate Atkinson rounded off the top five in his second-ever Rally Mexico, while Petter's brother Henning Solberg was tenth fastest after reporting fading brakes through the stage.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 13:17.3

SS2: 1100 Guanajuato 1 (28.87km)

Petter Solberg posted his second consecutive stage win of Rally Mexico in his Subaru Impreza WRC2006 as crews climbed even higher into the mountains around Leon. The 28km Guanajuato speed test reached the highest point of the championship at over 2,700m, but also featured a steep downhill section from the midpoint to the finish. Henning Solberg continued to lose further time, finishing over one minute 20secs behind his brother. Petter's time extended his lead over Hirvonen to eight seconds, while Gronholm moved into third ahead of Loeb. The Frenchman's team-mate Xavier Pons stopped 12km into the stage with engine problems.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 16:56.4

SS3: 1151 El Cubilete 1 (21.61km)

Petter Solberg completed a hat-trick of stage wins as he raced through the quickest test of the rally. The Subaru driver's time further extended his lead over Finn Mikko Hirvonen and he returned to Leon for the first service of the day with a 10secs advantage. Hirvonen's team-mate Gronholm was third fastest, reporting the gravel surface was extremely slippery for the first crews on the road. Loeb, running second, reiterated Gronholm's words as he finished over six seconds slower than Solberg through the 21km test. Henning Solberg was back on the pace with fourth fastest time after his earlier brake problems, while Atkinson maintained fifth position overall as crews returned to Leon for a 30 minute service.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 12:06.8

SS4: 1428 Ibarrilla 2 (22.41km)

After service in Leon crews made their way back to the mountains for a repeat of the morning's stages. The re-run of the Ibarrilla gravel test provided plenty of action as Marcus Gronholm, winner of the Monte Carlo and Swedish rallies, ran wide 9km from the start. His Focus rolled onto its side and became stuck in a ditch and the Finn was unable to rejoin the road. Gronholm retired from the Leg with rear-left suspension damage but will restart Leg two. Gronholm's retirement elevated Loeb to third and Subaru's youngest driver, Chris Atkinson, to fourth. Even though 'flu-like symptoms made things uncomfortable for him in the car, Petter Solberg continued his winning form and set another fastest time. His advantage over Hirvonen stretched to 11.5secs
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 13:17.0

SS5: 1551 Guanajuato 2 (28.87km)

After setting a string of impressive times through the morning loop of stages, Chris Atkinson's Leg one charge came to a premature end soon after the front-right wheel of his car struck a rock in the road 6km from the start. His car failed to turn in correctly to the next corner, slid wide and rolled. Both Chris and co-driver Glenn Macneall were unhurt, but the car was too badly damaged for them to continue. Henning Solberg also had problems in the stage and stopped to change a wheel. He continued to the finish, albeit over three minutes slower than eventual stage winner Loeb. Rally leader Petter Solberg retained a lead of over 10secs over Hirvonen.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 16:33.9

SS6: 1642 El Cubilete 2 (21.61km)

The fast El Cubilete stage finished after a tight left hairpin in front of the famous angel monument in the town of Cubilete. As the mid-afternoon ground temperature soared to more than 46C, conditions on the rocky road were particularly tough on tyres. Sebastien Loeb held the advantage in the difficult conditions and won the stage from Mikko Hirvonen and Manfred Stohl, who came in third quickest. Petter Solberg found the conditions very tough but his fourth fastest time was enough to keep him the lead of the rally with a 3.6secs cushion over second-placed Hirvonen.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 11:45.4

SS7: 1917 Nextel Superspecial 1 (4.42km)

Rally Mexico's first-ever Superspecial was run on part of the Puebla motor racing circuit on the outskirts of Leon. A classic spectator stage, it featured watersplashes, hairpins and jumps that thrilled the crowds of fans. Manfred Stohl posted his first stage win of the event, just over one second quicker than Henning Solberg and Loeb. Henning's brother and rally leader Petter Solberg finished a successful day with the fifth fastest time to extend his lead over Hirvonen back to just under five seconds going into Leg two. Loeb ended the day in third place overall, just over nine seconds adrift of Hirvonen, while Stohl and Sordo rounded off the top five.
Fastest Time: Stohl (Peugeot) 3:21.6


SWRT SPORTING DIRECTOR, LUIS MOYA: "Overall it's been a good day. We've used the advantage of our position on the first loop of stages and Petter is leading the rally again. I believe that the WRC season really starts here because this is the rally that shows the pace the cars will have on gravel for the rest of the season. After a poor start to the season, Petter is highly motivated and he's been setting very good times the whole day. We always expected that this would be a close rally and there's every reason to think it'll stay this close until the last stage on Sunday. Chris's target for this rally was to finish in the top five. His performance on the first four stages today showed that was more than possible but a mistake on SS5 threw his chances away. We hope he will be able to restart tomorrow. His target now is to try and get some points."

PETTER SOLBERG: "I'm very happy to be leading the rally tonight. The car has run perfectly and we're on target for the result we came here for. It's been quite a tough day though. The starting position gave me an advantage on the morning loop of stages and we were able to make the most of it, but we struggled to match that pace on the stages in the afternoon. The ground temperature during the last two was more than 40 degrees and even with our hardest tyres we had to work very hard to keep the speed. Tomorrow I think the first loop of stages will be okay, so I'll do all I can to make up more time, but like today I reckon the second time through will be hard work. In general though the feeling is good but after what happened in Australia and Japan I'm not making any predictions. I'm taking one day at a time. I'll do my best and we'll have to wait and see what result that gets us."

CHRIS ATKINSON: "It's very disappointing to retire from the Leg, especially as things had been going according to plan up to that point. The rock we hit was in the middle of the road. It looks like it broke the wheel rim, which badly affected the handling around the next corner. I could feel we had a problem as soon as I tried to brake, then we slid wide, into a ditch and rolled. The rally isn't over yet though. We have to pick ourselves up and concentrate on getting the best points finish we can."


MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER: "I am very happy about of the outcome of today. The new tyre compound Petter tested in Sardinia just before this event is an improvement and at the moment everything is going in the right direction. Of course we are disappointed for Chris, but he showed in the morning's stages that he can go very quickly on this event. We're crossing our fingers for Petter. As others have shown, it's a hard rally, but we've every confidence in a good performance tomorrow."


Rally Mexico's second Leg will comprise seven stages and 148.92 competitive kilometres run in the mountains to the east of host city Leon. Crews leave parc ferme from 0900hrs for a 10 minute service before negotiating two loops of three stages and finishing with a second run through the Nextel Superspecial.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Manfred Stohl , Mikko Hirvonen , Henning Solberg , Xavier Pons , Chris Atkinson
Teams Citroën World Rally Team