Rally New Zealand: Subaru leg two summary

Petter Solberg delivered a sparkling performance in his Subaru Impreza WRC2004 today to retain the overall lead of Rally New Zealand and pull further ahead of the second placed car. The 29-year-old Norwegian collected another stage win, his fifth...

Petter Solberg delivered a sparkling performance in his Subaru Impreza WRC2004 today to retain the overall lead of Rally New Zealand and pull further ahead of the second placed car. The 29-year-old Norwegian collected another stage win, his fifth of the rally and will start tomorrow's final Leg with a 19.5 second advantage over his rivals. Petter's Subaru team-mate Mikko Hirvonen also enjoyed a trouble free day. The young Finnish driver collected more valuable experience of the rally and his car, and in eighth place overall is on course to collect Championship points tomorrow.

Stage Reports

SS10: 1123 Parahi 1 (25.18km)

Although the day started bright and sunny, overnight rain meant there were plenty of damp patches in shaded areas on the first stage of Leg two. Resuming their battle for the lead, it was pacesetters Marcus Gronholm, Markko Martin and event leader Petter Solberg that were the drivers to watch. Completing the 25km test first, second and third quickest respectively, the trio were in a class of their own and more than nine seconds faster than the rest of the field. At the finish, it was Subaru's Solberg who remained in the top spot, having extended his lead over Harri Rovanpera from five to 14.8 seconds. The test's mixture of narrow and blind crests brought no problems for any of the leading WRC crews, although Sainz remained unhappy with the set up of his new Citroen Xsara WRC2004 and lost a further 24.6 seconds to the leaders. After the finish, crews completed a 23km road section to the start of SS11.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 12:57.2

SS11: 1216 Batley 1 (16.97km)

New Zealand is renowned as a drivers' rally, and SS11 presented them with a 16km roller coaster ride of a stage on which to prove their skill. With plenty of sweeping high-speed sections and flat-out blind crests, the 16.97km test from the town of Batley is a stern test of skill, nerve and accurate pace-notes. As the cambered gravel road surface continued to dry in the midday sun, Marcus Gronholm, Markko Martin and Subaru driver Petter Solberg were again fastest and repeated their earlier performance to take the top three times. But this time Sebastien Loeb was only 0.8 seconds behind. Lying second in the overall standings, Peugeot driver Harri Rovanpera was fifth fastest but, with team-mate Gronholm on a surge, at the finish just 3.6 seconds separated the pair in second and third overall. Sainz continued to struggle in his Xsara and finished 17.6 seconds off the winning pace. After the flying finish, cars made their way to the start of SS12.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 9:23.1

SS12: 1244 Waipu Gorge 1 (11.24km)

Problems for Gronholm on the first run through the scenic Waipu Gorge test. After stalling on the start line due to a launch control malfunction, the Finn's Peugeot then suffered a differential problem, which cost him eight seconds. Ford's Markko Martin was fastest, which was enough to move him up to third, while Solberg was second fastest to stay in front. Negotiating the 11.3km test, which presented drivers with a tricky mixture of dry gravel in exposed areas and muddy sections in the shaded forest areas, the current World Champion extended his overall lead to 23.9 seconds. There were no retirements, but Ford's Francois Duval lost time when he was held up by Ford privateer, Antony Warmbold. The German, who stopped three kilometres from the start line to investigate a throttle problem, rejoined the stage in front of Duval who lost over half a minute as he struggled to see though the clouds of dust thrown up by Warmbold's car. SS12 saw another good run from Subaru driver Mikko Hirvonen, whose confidence on the New Zealand roads was growing with every kilometre. Having made a some small differential changes to his Impreza WRC at the start of the day, the Finn was far happier with his speed and driving rhythm.
Fastest Time: Martin (Ford) 6:36.6

SS13: 1307 Brooks 1 (16.03km)

With temperatures rising to 24C, Martin was again fastest to notch up his second consecutive stage win and move up to second place overall. Solberg was second fastest and Loeb third. Struggling to find the challenging pace he demonstrated on Leg one, Rovanpera managed only eighth fastest and fell to fourth overall. In blazing sunshine, hundred of fans turned out to see their favourite rally drivers drive through the test, with most congregating around the famous railway bridge jump. After the finish, and four consecutive tests, crews returned to Paparoa for a 20-minute service before repeating the same four stages.
Fastest Time: Martin (Ford) 9:47.3

SS14: 1513 Parahi 2 (25.18km)

With his Peugeot's hydraulic problem repaired in service, a rejuvenated Marcus Gronholm was back on the attack. Reaching speeds of up to 200kph, the Finn was fastest by 4.5 seconds to clinch his third stage win of the day and move back up to second overall. Gronholm's gain was Martin's loss and despite setting the second fastest time, the Estonian dropped down to third. At the finish 0.8 seconds separated the pair, with Rovanpera lying a further 12.5 seconds behind. Petter Solberg was fourth fastest through the 25km stage and remained at the top of the leaderboard by a margin of 23.5 seconds. i>
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 12:41.2

SS15: 1606 Batley 2 (16.97km)

The repeated Batley stage bought no change to the overall top ten, but Gronholm continued to apply pressure on Solberg's lead. Taking his sixth stage win of the event, the Finn recorded an average speed of 111kph to slash 14.8 seconds from his previous Batley stage time and close the gap between himself and Solberg to 15.8 seconds. Martin was second fastest and Loeb third. Featuring an especially hard packed road surface the repeated stage cleared of loose gravel more than any other in the day and 'polished' with the passing of every car. The effect of this polishing was so pronounced that ninth-on-the-road Petter Solberg commented that a tarmac tyre would have been a more appropriate for some sections. After the finish, crews moved to the start of SS16.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 9:08.3

SS16: 1634 Waipu Gorge 2 (11.24km)

As the tension mounted during the penultimate stage of the day, less than four seconds separated the top six finishers. Breaking the Gronholm/Martin monopoly of wins, Sebastien Loeb took his first victory of the event, with Martin second fastest and Gronholm third. Solberg was fourth and despite Gronholm's challenge, the Finn remained 14.2 seconds off the Norwegian's overall lead. At the finish, there was no change to the overall top ten and crews moved directly to the start of the final stage.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 6:26.3

SS17: 1657 Brooks 2 (16.03km)

Asserting his position at the top of the leaderboard, Solberg was fastest through the repeated test to take the stage win, increase his lead over Gronholm by 5.3 seconds and end the day with a 19.5 second advantage. Loeb was second fastest and Gronholm third. After a determined effort, the Finn ended the day in second place overall, 4.7 seconds ahead of Martin in third. The Estonian was fifth fastest on the stage, later commenting that he had been unable to see properly due to the low sun.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 9:34.4

Team Quotes

Petter Solberg
"That was a very tough day. I've been working harder than usual out there, and everyone's been on the limit. We have a very good tyre but in this weather I knew we'd struggle a little on the rock hard smooth sections and be better on the twisty stuff, and that's exactly what happened, it's no problem. The car has been perfect. Tomorrow is going to be very exciting, there are a lot of determined drivers out there, so I'm going to try and get an early night!"

Mikko Hirvonen
"Quite okay, in fact a much better day than yesterday. I've learned a lot about the tyres and my driving, - especially in slow corners. The pace I have managed on the loose surface is a real improvement over Leg one, and it's one I feel comfortable with. I haven't been taking many risks. My plan for tomorrow is to carry on as we are and see what happens."

David Lapworth , Team Principal
"It's been another excellent performance. Petter's done a fantastic job of increasing his lead over the course of the day. We knew that the unusually dry and warm weather conditions would mean that our choice of tyre would be stretched to the limit, but Petter has been able to maintain a very competitive pace and the tyres have been very good across the range of conditions. Mikko has again gone from strength to strength, and his times as the lead car on the road have been excellent. He's been trading times with some of the best drivers in the world who have far more experience than he has."

News from Pirelli

Fiore Brivio , Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
"Using our new KP2 tyre, Petter was able to maintain the lead of the rally despite a strong challenge from his rivals. Tomorrow's stages are used twice so they will clean up during the course of the leg, and they are also slower than today's stages. If temperatures remain as unexpectedly high as they have been, the tyre's resistance and wear rate will once again be crucial."

Technical Talk
Fuel and the Subaru Impreza WRC2004

Like all cars running in the WRC, the Subaru Impreza WRC2004 runs on an unleaded fuel controlled and supplied by the FIA. The fuel is similar to pump fuel used by road cars, but has a slightly higher RON or octane rating.

In the interests of safety and fairness the fuel is stored centrally for all teams and is pumped from the same drums. Refuelling is carried out at a designated refuel area outside the service park. All WRC cars have standardised 'dry-break' fuel filler couplings to match the refuelling equipment.

In common with its road car cousin, the fuel tank on the WRC2004 is located under the rear seat and holds 90 litres. Unlike a standard road car, which has a plastic ridged tank, the WRC fuel tank (or cell) is made of a Kevlar-reinforced rubber material that's packaged in a strong carbon fibre box. In the event of a crash the fuel tank can withstand massive distortion without damage or leakage.

Engineers use knowledge of stage distance, predicted speeds and road terrain to calculate the fuel consumption of the car as precisely as possible. The target is to add as light a fuel load as possible to keep weight down and gain a performance advantage.

The Impreza has a different engine setting (or 'map') for road and rally stages which affects fuel consumption. This is controlled by a road / stage switch, which adjusts the engine settings. In road mode the engine is tuned for optimum fuel efficiency and relaxed driving. In stage mode the emphasis is purely on performance so the settings are much more aggressive and the engine produces more power.

Like road cars, all rally cars are fitted with a regulated catalytic converter on the exhaust system which reduces the emission of toxic gases.

Tomorrow's Leg

Sunday 18 April 2004
Starts at 0500hrs, when competitors will leave Auckland for the final time to travel to the service park at Raglan before returning to the stages south west of Auckland, last used in 2002. A further 114.74 competitive kilometres and six stages, including the famous 29km Whangaa Coast stage, lie ahead with the first test, Te Hutewai, starting at 0954hrs. The first service is at 0850hrs, and the winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp in Auckland at 1700hrs.


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About this article
Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team