Petter Solberg and the new Subaru Impreza WRC2005 lead Rally Mexico tonight after another dominating performance on the event's treacherous gravel stages. Taking another three stage wins, increasing his event total to six, the Norwegian topped ...
Petter Solberg and the new Subaru Impreza WRC2005 lead Rally Mexico tonight after another dominating performance on the event's treacherous gravel stages. Taking another three stage wins, increasing his event total to six, the Norwegian topped the leaderboard all day to end the Leg with a 29.6 second advantage overall. His team-mate Chris Atkinson delivered another remarkable performance aboard his Impreza WRC2005. Making his debut as a points-nominated driver for the Subaru team and competing for only the second time in a WRC car, Chris set a string of impressive times before an incident on SS9 sidelined him for the rest of the day. Chris will re-start the rally again tomorrow.
SS7: 0943 El Zauco - Mesa 1 (25.45km)
Starting at an altitude of 2,290 metres above sea level, the first stage of Leg two included a downhill sequence of hairpin bends, long, sweeping corners and a narrow technical section littered with large rocks. As the temperature rose to 23°C, Sebastien Loeb was fastest to take his first stage win of the rally. However, having lost three minutes on Leg one with a failed shock absorber, he remained behind the leaders in 14th position overall. Driving the new Subaru Impreza WRC2005, overnight leader Petter Solberg continued his charge and was second fastest, while Marcus Gronholm was third. Despite reporting insufficient grip, Francois Duval was fourth quickest to gain a place overall, but it was the progress of Subaru's newcomer Chris Atkinson that drew the most attention. Competing for the first time on gravel in a WRC car, the Australian delivered another promising performance and was fifth fastest. Earlier in the day there were nervous moments for Harri Rovanpera when his Lancer's engine dropped to three cylinders before the morning service. His mechanics changed the fuel line, ignition system and electronic control unit (ECU), but Rovanpera left service nine minutes late as a result and collected a 1 minute 30 second time penalty. On the stage, he was seventh fastest. Once it was complete, crews stopped for a refuel before moving to the start of SS8. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 16:43.5
SS8: 1106 Duarte - Otates 1 (24.23km)
The stage from Duarte presented crews with a sandier, softer road base than on the previous test and there was more loose gravel for the front-runners to contend with. Conversely, drivers running further down the order had to avoid a number of large rocks in the racing line that were being pulled out by those up ahead. Running first on the road, Loeb found he was 'sweeping' the stage clean for those following and finished 26 seconds off Gronholm's winning time. Continuing his measured drive aboard the new Impreza, Solberg was second fastest to maintain the overall lead, while Martin was third fastest, despite losing his brakes for the final 2km and snatched back overall third from Duval. Atkinson was fourth. Ford driver Roman Kresta collected suspension damage to the front-right corner of his Focus mid test and dropped over a minute to the leaders. He was able to complete the stage, but later retired from the Leg after attempting to make roadside repairs at the finish. He had been the leading Ford driver and in sixth place overall. His team-mate Dani Sola suffered a spin and stalled his engine, while Mitsubishi drivers, Gilles Panizzi and Rovanpera, running fifth and ninth on the road respectively, both damaged their sump guards on rocks. Once the stage was complete, crews drove a 17km road section to the start of SS9.Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 18:11.5
SS9: 1157 Derramadero - Chichimequillas 1 (23.56km)
After setting a string of remarkable times on his SWRT gravel debut there was disappointment for Chris Atkinson on SS9. The stage began well, but 5km from the start line a collision with one of the rocks that littered the stage broke his car's power-steering system. Chris continued without power-assistance for another 5kms, but was forced to retire from the Leg when his car's front-right wheel was torn off after it dropped into a hole on the apex of a right-hand corner. In a bittersweet stage for the team, Petter Solberg was fastest to take his fourth win of the event and consolidate his position at the top of the leaderboard. After cracking his Lancer's sump on the previous stage, Harri Rovanpera's Mitsubishi began losing oil from its engine, but was sixth fastest. Markko Martin was second fastest and Marcus Gronholm third. In another blow to the Ford team, Dani Sola suffered a front-right puncture on his Focus and dropped almost a minute as he lost all tread and fell to seventh position overall. His team-mate Gardemeister also contested the stage with no pressure in his rear-right tyre. Once the stage was complete, crews returned to Leon for a 30-minute service.Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 14:03.1
SS10: 1510 El Zauco - Mesa 2 (25.45km)
An earlier impact with a large rock bought Francois Duval's Leg two to an abrupt end before the start of SS10. Undetected engine damage meant the Frenchman could not complete the 33km road section from service and he retired, leaving Loeb as the remaining works Citroen driver. Becoming increasingly comfortable with the set-up of his new Impreza WRC2005, Petter Solberg was again fastest through the repeated test and set an average speed of 92.96kph to extend his overall lead to 23.6 seconds. Loeb was second quickest, and moved up to eighth overall, while Gronholm was third. Once the stage was complete, crews stopped for a refuel before moving to the start of SS11. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 16:28.5
SS11: 1633 Duarte - Otetes 2 (24.23km)
Petter Solberg and the new Subaru Impreza WRC2005 continued to set the winning pace on the penultimate test and the Norwegian was again fastest to take his fifth win of the event. Completing the repeated 24km from Duarte 2.1 seconds slower, Gronholm was second fastest, while Loeb was a further 9.5 seconds back for third. Peaking at an altitude of 2,543km above sea level, the stage presented crews with a soft, sandy road base that was very slippery and littered with a number of large rocks. Ford's bad luck continued when Dani Sola went off the road 4km from the start, causing substantial damage to his Focus. Both Sola and co-driver Xavier Amigo were unhurt in the incident but were unable to continue, leaving Gardemeister as the sole remaining nominated driver for the Ford team. Once the stage was complete, crews moved directly to the start of SS12. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 18:00.0
SS12: 1724 Derramadero - Chichimequillas 1 (23.56km)
Sebastien Loeb was fastest on the final stage of the day to take a second stage win and move up the overall leaderboard to seventh place. Solberg was second fastest, while his closest rival Marcus Gronholm, who was still suffering with brake problems in his Peugeot, was fourth. At the finish, 29.6 seconds separated the pair overall, with 62.65 competitive kilometres remaining. Peugeot driver Martin was third fastest to maintain the same position overall, while Rovanpera was fifth. There were no leading retirements, although Gardemeister lost around 20 seconds with a rear suspension problem. After the finish, crews completed the 29km road section back to Leon for an end-of-day 45-minute service. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 13:49.9
It's been very good today; it's fun out there! The new car is getting better and better and the feeling is already starting to get really good. I know there's more to come, but we're getting nearer all the time. Today I've been concentrating on keeping at a safe pace, watching the split times and not taking much risk. I'm happy with the lead I've got, but still so many things can have an influence on the final result that I'm not thinking about that yet. Tomorrow I'll try to control the pace with the split times, not take any risks and try to keep that first place - it's very important for the Championship, me and for Mr Kuze.
Obviously it's disappointing not to get a result when things have looked so good, but I'm learning a lot and learning pretty fast. It's all good experience for me - even driving with no power steering will help me in the future. Overall, the car felt much better today and the changes we made last night were a good step forward. Tomorrow, I'm hoping we can fine-tune it even more.
Team Principal, David Lapworth
Petter's really getting into his stride now. He's continued working on the car set-up with Pierre (Genon, chief rally engineer) and is really happy with the progress. His confidence shows in the way that he adjusts his pace to the conditions and reacts to the speed of his rivals. The carnage on the stages just goes to show how treacherous things have been out there today, but the new car has run well all day. Petter seems on top form so we're just looking for a clean and trouble free run tomorrow. Chris impressed us with his pace again today and having reviewed the circumstances surrounding his incident it seems that a combination of factors were to blame rather than simply over enthusiasm on his part.
News from Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager:
Despite the softer conditions today Petter was able to extend his lead using the Pirelli P Zero KP2 tyre, which helped him to win three stages in the very hot and tough conditions. The tyre proved to be both efficient and versatile and we'll be doing everything we can to help Petter secure another win with us tomorrow.
Sunday 13 March 2005
The third and final Leg of Rally Mexico starts at 0830hrs, when the first car will leave Leon parc ferme. Crews will contest just two more stages, making a total of 62.65 competitive kilometres. The event will conclude when the winning car crosses the finish ramp back in Leon at 1230hrs.