At the end of day one of Rally Norway, the Subaru World Rally Team has one car firmly in the points and the other just outside the top eight. The cars have returned to the Viking Ship, Hamar, at the end of the leg, and Petter Solberg, on his home...
At the end of day one of Rally Norway, the Subaru World Rally Team has one car firmly in the points and the other just outside the top eight. The cars have returned to the Viking Ship, Hamar, at the end of the leg, and Petter Solberg, on his home event, is in fourth place at the end of a positive day during which he made a deliberately steady start and battled up the order in the afternoon. Chris Atkinson spent most of the day getting used to the conditions and ended up ninth, just a few seconds off eighth place.
SS1: 0743HRS LOTEN 1 (30.03KM)
After a ceremonial start in the centre of Hamar on Thursday evening, the
real action began out in the snow-bound forests in the murky gloom of
Friday morning. A light drizzle was falling near the end of the stage and
visibility was poor. Petter was the ninth driver through the stage and
set a time of 16m 33.03s. He said: "It worked well and it was really
good to see lots of Norwegian flags out there." Chris, starting fifth on
the road, wasn't particularly satisfied with his time of 16m 38.0s. "It
felt ordinary. I just had to battle round," he said.
Fastest time: Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) 16m 14.1s
SS2: 0834HRS HASLEMOEN (11.92KM)
From the opening test, the crews travelled eight kilometres south-east to
an old military camp at Haslemoen. The compact route was much different
to that of stage one, and featured several 90-degree corners and
junctions. Petter came through the stage in a time of 8m 18.5s, which was
sixth quickest, and established him in seventh position in the overall
positions. Chris's 8m 26.5s effort placed him twelfth for the stage and
meant he was ninth in the standings after the opening brace of tests.
After Haslemoen, the crews returned to the Viking Ship in Hamar for the
first service halt of the day.
Fastest time: Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) 8m 08.4s
SS3: 1124HRS LOTEN 2 (30.03KM)
Fresh from service, and equipped with new studded tyres, crews made their
way back to the start of the Loten test used earlier that morning. There
was some frozen gravel showing through in places where the competing cars
had cleared the snow on the road first time through, and that made the
stage tough on the studs in the tyres. Petter Solberg was the quicker of
the two Subarus, bringing his Impreza WRC2006 through the 30km section in
the eighth-fastest time, ten seconds ahead of team-mate Chris Atkinson,
who was tenth.
Fastest time: Hirvonen (Ford) 16:09.9
SS4: 1230HRS GRUE (14.37KM)
Next the crews moved east to a short but fast and flowing test in the
forests. The temperature dropped to minus two Celsius for this stage.
Petter charged through the test in the fourth-fastest time of 7m 33.4s
and, crucially, he closed on sixth-placed Gardemeister in the overall
standings. "We are having a good morning," said Petter. "We are going
very steadily so we can finish the rally and get some points." Chris
cleared the stage in 7m 50.2s and dropped one place overall from eighth
to ninth position, behind Manfred Stohl. However with just 1.7s
separating the drivers, the Australian, who reported traction problems
during the stage, was still within striking distance of the points.
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 7m 31.8s
SS5: 1352HRS OPAKER (14.64KM)
After a 15-minute Remote Service Zone near Kirkenaer, the drivers set off
for a loop of four stages, starting with the Opaker test. The two Subaru
World Rally Team drivers were evenly matched and were seventh and eighth
fastest through the test. Petter set a time of 8m 09.6s and shaded Chris
by exactly one second. The Norwegian driver pulled further clear of
sixth-placed Gardemeister and turned his attentions towards catching the
man ahead of him, Gigi Galli. Chris was now 3.4s behind Stohl in ninth. .
Fastest time: Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford) 7m 59.8s
SS6: 1436HRS KONGSVINGER (14.07KM)
Petter continued his strong afternoon form, posting the fourth best time
through the stage. He also moved up to fourth place in the overall
positions, passing Galli. Subaru's driver had fitted BFGoodrich tyres
with 8mm studs at the Remote Service Zone and his choice suited the
conditions. Petter reported feeling an impact through the steering during
this stage, but his pace was unaffected. Chris resumed his battle with
Stohl and was eleventh quickest through the test, just 0.6s slower than
his rival. The Australian also said he ran over a rock that had been
dragged into the road by a car ahead of him, but escaped without any
serious car damage.
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 7m 31.8s
SS7: 1530HRS FINNSKOGEN (21.29KM)
SS7 was the most southerly stage of the opening day. When the action got
underway in front of thousands of Norwegian rally fans, Petter didn't
disappoint his supporters, posting the third-quickest time through the
test. It meant that with one short stage to run, he was fourth, 37.6s
behind Loeb. Chris was ninth fastest through the test and was in the same
position in the overall standings. The stage was followed by a short
light pod fitting zone for the crews, because dusk was fast approaching.
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 12m 42.3s
SS8: 1633HRS KIRKENAER (6.75KM)
A short spectator stage ended Friday's action, and the fading light
meant the crews had to use lamp pods on their cars. For both Petter and
Chris, the target was to finish the day without any major problems, and
both drivers achieved that aim. Petter ended the day with fourth-fastest
time through the test, which left him a secure fourth overall behind
Hirvonen, Gronholm and Loeb. Chris was two seconds faster than Stohl
through the stage, and was starting to chip away at the advantage the
Austrian had established over him. After the test, the competing crews
drove back to the Viking Ship in Hamar for the final service of the day.
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 5m 48.9s
Subaru World Rally Team Managing Director, Richard Taylor: "We're very pleased with Petter's performance today. He's ended in a strong fourth place, which is right on target, and where we expected him to be at this stage of the rally. Chris has had a tougher time but we have to remember that although this is his fourth snow rally, all of his experience has been on the Swedish Rally and conditions here are very different. It's much more technical, tight and twisty and he has to get used to that with the car. We've had great performance from our BFGoodrich tyres throughout the leg. Overall we're satisfied with the positions of both drivers at this stage of the rally and looking forward to the rest of the event."
Petter Solberg: "It's been very good today. I'm very happy with the result, fourth is not a bad position to be in at the end of the first leg. We have been working very hard to get through the day without any major problems, and the only thing that has happened is the bent steering on SS6 when we hit something. Driving in front of all these people is such an unbelievable feeling and I'm looking forward to the next two days of the rally. We've been building up our confidence and if things continue to go this way I think we can challenge for the podium, but our main objective is to finish this rally. That is important for the rest of our season."
Chris Atkinson: "It hasn't been a perfect day for us, but it is good to get to the end of the first leg and we're still in ninth place. There's a lot more to come and we can try to move up into the points during the weekend. It hasn't been easy today. We're struggling with the balance of the car and it feels a lot different to Sweden last weekend, where we were able to push quite hard. If we can make everything right for tomorrow, we can be fast on any stage."
For the second leg of Rally Norway, the crews head north and east of Hamar for six stages, none of which are repeated during the day, although four of the tests are used again during Leg Three. Of Saturday's action, SS11 (Mountain) is the northernmost stage of the event. The opening stage, Elverum, commences at 0809hrs. Competitors return to the Viking Ship indoor service area at Hamar at 1027hrs.