After scoring a third consecutive WRC podium finish today, Petter Solberg maintains his lead of the 2005 FIA Drivers' Championship. Delivering a measured and strategic drive aboard his Subaru Impreza WRC2005, the Norwegian kept out of trouble to...
After scoring a third consecutive WRC podium finish today, Petter Solberg maintains his lead of the 2005 FIA Drivers' Championship. Delivering a measured and strategic drive aboard his Subaru Impreza WRC2005, the Norwegian kept out of trouble to ensure a solid points finish. His team-mate Chris Atkinson demonstrated strong potential over the weekend. Setting a string of competitive split times on only his third event in a WRC-class car, the 25-year-old more than achieved his development objectives. He finished in seventh place to claim FIA Championship points for both himself and the team.
SS17: 0903 Te Hutewai (11.15km)
The average speeds set by competitors on Leg three were slower than those of Legs one and two, due to the narrower and twistier nature of the day's stages. Located 160km south of the Leg three service park at Western Springs, the 11km Te Hutewai test featured a sequence of tight corners, interspersed with gravel straights. Despite light overnight rain, bright morning sunshine meant conditions in the stage were mainly dry and dusty. Setting an average speed of 84.4kph, Marcus Gronholm was fastest. Event leader Sebastien Loeb was second fastest to retain a comfortable overall advantage, while Subaru's Petter Solberg remained on course to fulfil his objective of a podium finish by finishing third. His team-mate Chris Atkinson was eighth. Skoda's Janne Tuohino struggled with a broken turbo and limped through the stage, losing more than nine minutes to the leaders. He later retired on the 2.37km road section to the start of SS18. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 7:55.6
SS18: 0926 Whaanga Coast 1 (29.76km)
Regarded as one of the most beautiful stages in the Championship, the stage that runs along Whaanga Coast was also one of the most difficult. After a 15km section of flowing gravel roads, the stage became very narrow and twisty and required the ultimate in precision driving. The tricky character of the second half of the route was reflected by the average speeds, which were the lowest of the event so far. Stage winner, Marcus Gronholm recorded 82.94kph through the 29km test. Sebastien Loeb was second fastest while Solberg was third. Atkinson continued to experiment with different set-ups on his Impreza WRC but was unhappy with the changes he'd made in the morning service and was seventh fastest. Mitsubishi's Harri Rovanpera lost a minute to the leaders due to an overheating engine. After the finish, crews moved to Raglan for a 10-minute remote tyre service. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 21:31.8
SS19: 1103 Te Papatapu (16.62km)
The fastest stage of the day, the 16.62km test from Te Papatapu, featured a 4km flowing section at the start, which then tightened and became very twisty. The road then opened and the final 8km was flat-out to the finish. Driving to maintain second position overall, Gronholm was fastest, while Solberg was second fastest and Peugeot's Markko Martin third. Having been unhappy with the set-up of his Peugeot 307 WRC for much of the event, the Estonian's late charge moved him to within striking distance of Toni Gardemeister's overall fifth. At the finish, 4.3 seconds separated the pair with 29.76km remaining. Contested in bright sunshine and temperatures of around 23°C, the penultimate stage brought no change to the overall top ten and, once complete, crews moved to the start of the final stage. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 10:51.3
SS20: 1136 Whaanga Coast 2 (29.76km)
Much of the loose gravel had been swept from the Whaanga Coast stage during the first pass, exposing a hard-packed surface for the repeat. In an incident similar to Leg two, Harri Rovanpera suffered heavy tyre wear on the asphalt-like stage and, as he struggled for grip, lost more than a minute to the leaders. The damage to his tyres was so serious that he was unable to complete the 168km road section back to service and retired. Looking to the leaders, Sebastien Loeb was fastest through the stage to win Rally New Zealand by 49.8 seconds. Gronholm crossed the line to take second, while Subaru's Solberg completed his trouble-free run to take the final podium position and claim six points in the Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championships to remain at the top the FIA Drivers' leaderboard. Markko Martin set another quick time and finished the test second fastest, 11.5 seconds ahead of Gardemeister, to take overall fifth. Chris Atkinson finished in seventh position overall and claimed his first ever FIA Championship points for the Subaru World Rally Team. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 20:44.7
I'm very happy actually. My plan for this rally was third or fourth place and we've come away with some good points and the lead of the championship. We knew it would be difficult right from the start. In fact we did okay but later on, on the hard and dry roads, we were far away. But that's how it is sometimes, I didn't want to lose those six points, so took it steady and went for the best possible finish. I'm feeling very positive about the championship now. For sure we have some work to do, but overall the feeling is good. I'm very happy with the new car and with 12 more rallies to go, things are looking very interesting.
It's good to get to the finish, but it would have been nice to get a better result. It's a bit of a shame that we lost some of the pace we had earlier in the rally. The plan was to build up the speed, but in fact we've ended up doing pretty much the opposite. We've certainly learned a lot about the set-up of the car though. Some things worked well, others not so well. The last two stages actually felt pretty good, I was much more comfortable with the handling, but at that point there was no reason to push too hard. Overall I'm pretty happy. We did some good times this weekend, and that's encouraging, the pace is there, but I need more time in the car to go fast all the time.
Team Principal, David Lapworth
For us, it's mission accomplished. We came here with a very clear strategy - to finish on the podium and Petter has done exactly that. He's kept out of trouble, there not a mark on the car, he hasn't taken any risks and has maintained his lead in the Championship. It's not easy for any of us not to drive for a win, but I think it was the right thing to do and now Petter goes into a run of events that suit him. Chris has had a very good weekend. His times on Friday underlined his potential and he's learned an enormous amount about the event, which will put him in a very strong position next year. That's exactly what he came here to do.
News from Pirelli
Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager, Fiore Brivio
Congratulations to Petter for a job well done under difficult circumstances. The greatest problem we faced on this rally was the unexpectedly warm weather. This was something that we could not have predicted with the rules requiring us to nominate tyres so far in advance, and so our tyres were sometimes too soft for the conditions. Despite this, Petter took a well-deserved podium place and maintains his Championship lead. Next up is our home rally in Sardinia and we are hoping for very good things from there.