Rally Mexico: Subaru leg two summary

Petter Solberg and the new Subaru Impreza WRC2004 dominated the action on today's second Leg of Corona Rally Mexico. Solberg was fastest on each of the day's six stages, to close the gap on the leader by more than 1min 31sec and move up the ...

Petter Solberg and the new Subaru Impreza WRC2004 dominated the action on today's second Leg of Corona Rally Mexico. Solberg was fastest on each of the day's six stages, to close the gap on the leader by more than 1min 31sec and move up the leaderboard from 13th to fifth place. His Subaru team-mate Mikko Hirvonen also moved up the points table and ended the day in overnight fourth. With five more stages remaining, both Subaru drivers are well poised ahead of tomorrow's final Leg.

Stage Reports

SS5: 0855 Duarte - Nvo Valle 1 (25.58km)

Undeterred by the dramatic events of the previous evening, when a time control rule infringement relegated him from the lead of the rally to 13th overall, Subaru driver Petter Solberg blazed through the first test of the day to emphasise his winning pace on the stages with the new Impreza WRC2004. Even though his performance would have no impact on the top-ten, (he moved from 13th to 11th) Petter set the fastest time and took his third stage win of the event. Markko Martin was second fastest through the test, while the new event leader Sebastien Loeb was third. The test's small river crossing and series of tight and twisty sections caused no problems, but Marcus Gronholm got off to a difficult start when his car suffered a power steering problem, which cost him well over a minute. Gianluigi Galli also suffered problems due to damaged suspension on his Mitsubishi Lancer and completed the test more than 40 minutes slower than the winning pace. He later retired on the road section to the start of SS6.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 18:30.3

SS6: 0943 Derramadero - Chichimequillas 1 (23.56km)

Another stage win for Subaru and Petter Solberg, this time by a margin of 5.1 seconds. The Norwegian's charge saw him move another place up the leaderboard to cross the finish in tenth position overall. Ford's Francois Duval was second fastest and team-mate Martin third. Gronholm continued to be dogged by his power steering problem and lost a further 1 minute 27 seconds, while Panizzi was off the pace in his Mitsubishi and finished 1 minute 15 seconds behind the leader. Problems too for event leader Loeb. The Frenchman damaged his sump on a rock near the finish and began losing oil pressure. He completed the test fourth fastest, but despite strenuous efforts to stem the resultant oil leak at the finish, his attempts proved futile and he retired on the road section leading to SS7. His misfortunate promoted Markko Martin to event leader. After the finish, the remaining crews stopped for a supplementary refuel before moving to the start of SS7.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 13:51.8

SS7: 1059 El Gigante - El Zauco 1 (28.03km)

Running through the Sierra de Lobos mountains, the stage at El Gigante peaks 2,600 metres above sea level. Presenting crews with a softer packed road surface than yesterday, the stage took competitors on a slow ascent on narrow, technical roads before opening onto more flowing roads with views across spectacular plains. Solberg continued his dominating performance and set another cracking pace in his Subaru for his third consecutive win of the day. At the finish he lay in fifth position overall, having moved an astonishing eight places up the leaderboard. Mikko Hirvonen had a lucky escape when he was forced to take evasive action to avoid a large boulder flicked out into the middle of the road by one of the cars ahead of him. He tried to squeeze his car to the right of the rock, but it hit the rear wheel on his side of the car and damaged the rear suspension, knocking the wheel badly out of alignment. Mikko pressed on with the damaged car for the remaining 24km and remarkably finished fifth fastest to move up to fourth position overall. Gronholm lost a further 2 minutes 30 seconds with his power steering problem, while his team-mate and fellow-Finn Harri Rovanpera dropped 16 minutes due to broken suspension.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 19:22.8

SS8: 1357 Duarte - Nvo Valle 2 (25.58km)

The drama at the top of the leaderboard continued when the Citroen team made a clerical error and nominated the same tyres that Sainz had used for the morning stages for the afternoon stages too. New tyre regulations obliged him to tackle the remaining three stages on the same tyres rather than the new ones that he had intended to use. With less traction than his rivals, he started losing time from the outset and finished the stage sixth fastest. Solberg was again quickest to notch up his sixth win of the event, while a rejuvenated Gronholm was second. Event leader Markko Martin had a difficult stage when the anti-lag system on his car broke, his engine developed an oil leak, and he reported smoke in the cockpit. But, despite these problems, the Estonian brought the car over the finish line with the third fastest time. The repeated test brought no change to the overall top ten, but Francois Duval moved to within striking distance of Sainz in overall second, as the Spaniard battled to maintain the pace on his worn tyres. After the finish, crews moved directly to the start of SS9.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 18:32

SS9: 1445 Derramadero - Chichimequillas 2 (23.56km)

Still running on his worn tyres, Carlos Sainz was closer to the pace on the second repeated test and lost 5.9 seconds to the leaders throughout the 23.56km. But it wasn't enough to prevent Duval snatching overall second and at the finish, 0.1 seconds separated the pair in the Frenchman's favour. Solberg continued to lead the stage times and was again fastest for his fifth consecutive win. Gronholm was second fastest and Duval third. Event leader Martin was fifth to maintain the overall lead, while Hirvonen was sixth. Recording speeds of up to 200kph, crews descended through a series of hairpins to the village of La Estancia before completing a fast downhill stretch to the dam of Chichimequillas. After the finish, competitors stopped for a supplementary refuel before moving to the start of SS10.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 13:47.5

SS10: 1601 El Gigante - El Zauco 2 (28.03km)

Once again, Petter demonstrated his lightening quick pace in the new Impreza and repeated his earlier charge through the high-speed El Gigante stage, to slice 10.2 seconds off his previous time and take yet another win, this time by a margin of 8 seconds. Carlos Sainz was second fastest to snatch back second from Duval, while Martin was third to maintain the overall lead. Duval was fourth fastest and ended the day in overall third, 3.6 seconds behind his Spanish rival.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 19:12.6

Team Quotes

Petter Solberg

It's been a very, very good day. I haven't been going crazy and this was the speed I planned to be doing today anyway. Last night I was so fed up, I really didn't want to drive at all. But today after the first stage I thought well, maybe this isn't so bad after all. I'm trying to do my best, I'm happy with the car and my driving has felt good all day. I'm just hoping to do the same again tomorrow.

Mikko Hirvonen

On those last three stages, for me it was the wrong tyre choice. Petter drives more smoothly than I do and half way through SS9 I began to struggle. I had a small spin in SS10, but the car is in one piece and I've had no problems otherwise. The stages have been much better than they were yesterday and are drier with fewer stones and the car's running extremely well. For tomorrow, I'm going to try and find the speed again, we'll just have to see.

David Lapworth , Team Principal

After the disappointment of yesterday it's some consolation today to move back up the leaderboard even faster than we had expected. Better still, Petter's clean sweep of fastest stage times gives you some idea of what he can do with the new car. It's been a great performance and one that I think will answer those who questioned our tyre selections before the rally.

News from Pirelli

Fiore Brivio , Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager

In warmer conditions than the first Leg, the Pirelli PZero KM2 tyres have allowed Solberg to win every single special stage today, taking a minute and a half out of the rally leader. It's not often that a driver wins every single stage in one day and we're pleased to have played our part in this performance.

Team Talk

Altitude and Restrictors
Corona Rally Mexico includes the highest stages in the FIA WRC calendar. All the stages, except one (SS9), are more than 2,000 metres above sea level, with some climbing as high as 2,700 metres above sea level.

At such high altitudes, air becomes 'thinner'. At 2,700 metres above sea level, air density is approximately 25 per cent less than at sea level. This can affect the drivers from an athletic point of view, and also the cars from a technical point of view.

The amount of oxygen that the drivers will be carrying in their blood can fall from around 98 per cent saturation at sea level to approximately 88 per cent at the highest points of the event

To combat this, both Petter and Mikko have been following a training programme since January to improve their cardiovascular fitness by 10 per cent

All WRC cars are fitted with a restrictor in front of the turbo. This means that all the air going into the engine must go through the restrictor, which limits the horsepower (bhp) that the engines can develop.

The most air that can go through the 34mm diameter restrictor at any time is 10 cubic metres (217gms) per minute.

As the cars go higher, the density of the air going into the engine reduces meaning less oxygen is available. Although the volume of air is the same, the quantity of oxygen is less. This means that the cars burn less fuel and engines lose power. This affects all the WRC cars

Engines that would produce over 300bhp at sea level will typically produce 25 per cent less power on the highest sections of the Mexican stages.

Tomorrow's Leg

Sunday 14 March
The third and final leg of Corona Rally Mexico starts tomorrow at 0630hrs, when the remaining cars will leave Leon parc ferme for the first service of the day. Crews will then travel east of Leon to contest the final five stages (two of which are repeated), and a total of 132.06 competitive kilometres. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp at 1430hrs.


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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team