The Subaru World Rally Team ended the second day of Rally Norway in a podium position, thanks to Petter Solberg, who battled through fierce weather to move into third place behind Mikko Hirvonen and Marcus Gronholm. The Norwegian and navigator...
The Subaru World Rally Team ended the second day of Rally Norway in a podium position, thanks to Petter Solberg, who battled through fierce weather to move into third place behind Mikko Hirvonen and Marcus Gronholm. The Norwegian and navigator Phil Mills stuck to their pre-rally strategy and maintained a steady pace, which paid dividends when they moved past a troubled Sebastien Loeb on SS12. Chris Atkinson and Glenn Macneall endured a tough start to the day and dropped out of the top ten after they had a spin and got stuck in a snowdrift. After that the Australian duo focused on building snow rally experience.
SS9: 0809HRS ELVERUM 1 (44.28KM)
The crews left service at the Viking Ship in Hamar as dawn was breaking
and headed out to the longest, most demanding test of the rally. The
temperature was about minus 1.5 Celsius and a great amount of fresh snow
had fallen overnight. The wet, slushy snow made conditions treacherous.
Petter's 25m 35.6s effort was the fourth fastest time through the stage
and maintained his fourth position in the rally standings. Chris,
however, was out of luck. About 18km into the stage he spun off into a
snow bank and got stuck at the edge of the road. The Australian said:
"There were huge amounts of snow up there. Even in the middle of the
stage there was 10cm of snow. The car just went around on a slow corner
and we got stuck on the edge of the road. We had to wait for a long time
for some spectators to push us out." Although his Impreza WRC2006 was
undamaged, the incident cost him about 16 minutes and he dropped out of
the top ten.
Fastest time: Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) 24m 40.3s
SS10: 0923HRS TERNINGMOEN (12.71KM)
After the tough 44km challenge of Elverum, the Subaru World Rally Team
crews drove a 10km road section to get to the next test. Even though
Terningmoen was geographically close to SS9, the route could not have
been more different: the cars blasted along the access roads of a
military range, before turning onto a quick and flowing section towards
the finish. Petter was fifth quickest through the test with a time of 8m
12.2s, but put more distance between himself and his two closest rivals,
Gigi Galli and Henning Solberg. Toni Gardemeister was quicker than Petter
through the stage, but had fallen out of contention due to a spin on SS9.
Meanwhile Chris played himself back in carefully after his problem on the
previous stage and set a time of 8m 27.9s. He was now 14th overall. After
the stage the crews returned to the Viking Ship in Hamar for the first
main service of the day.
Fastest time: Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) 7m 59.1s
SS11: 1205HRS MOUNTAIN 1 (24.36KM)
After service the drivers travelled north to tackle one of the most
distinctive stages of the rally -- a narrow, fast road surrounded by tall
snow banks. The conditions were tough on the crews, with heavy snow and
wind making visibility so poor that drivers could barely make out the
corners ahead of them on the stage, forcing them to rely almost
completely on their pacenotes. Fresh snow on the route also made the
stage slippery. Petter set a time of 15m 26.6s and said: "I just didn't
have any traction. It was very difficult." Nevertheless, he maintained
his fourth position overall. Chris came through the stage in 16m 09.7s.
Fastest time: Hirvonen (Ford) 14m 01.8s
SS12: 1306HRS LILLEHAMMER (5.98KM)
The heavy snow continued as the crews drove the 28km road section to the
Lillehammer spectator stage, a short blast that ended next to the area's
ski resort. Visibility was extremely poor as the top cars negotiated the
second half of the test. The big news from this stage was that Petter
moved up from fourth to third position after Citroen driver Sebastien
Loeb stopped mid-stage for eight minutes. Petter also showed improved
pace compared to SS11. He set the third fastest time, 4m 38.2s, and
pulled out a few more seconds over his brother Henning, who was now his
closest challenger, 12.9s behind. Chris was tenth fastest through the
stage after a steady run.
Fastest time: Marcus Gronholm (Ford) 4m 33.9s
SS13: 1400HRS RINGSAKER 1 (27.31KM)
From Lillehammer, the drivers headed south for the penultimate stage of
the day and faced even more extreme conditions. The first half of the
test was shrouded in fog and fresh snow. Petter resumed his fight for
third with his brother Henning and although he was slightly slower
through the stage, the Subaru driver remained in the final podium
position. Petter's effort of 16m 45.0s placed him fourth quickest
through the section. Chris came through in 17m 18.6s (ninth fastest) and
was just glad to make it to the end. He said: "There's so much snow!
It's the first time I've ever driven in these conditions. It's good
learning for me, but there's no way I can match the speed of the more
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 16m 29.7s
SS14: 1510HRS HAMAR 1 (1.15KM)
The shortest test of Rally Norway was an end-of-leg treat for the
spectators. It sliced a tree-lined route through a park in the city of
Hamar and included a couple of tight, narrow hairpins. It wasn't snowing
in Hamar by the time the crews reached the stage via a 20km road section.
In front of huge crowds and banners bearing the slogan 'Heia Petter!'
(Go Petter!), the Norwegian set a time of 1m 15.4s, more than half a
second faster than his brother Henning. That meant he remained in a solid
third position at the end of the second leg, 9.9s ahead of Henning, with
Sunday's four stages between him and a popular podium finish on his home
event. In the other Subaru World Rally Team Impreza WRC2006, Chris
negotiated the parkland section in 1m 18.0s.
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 1m 13.8s
Subaru World Rally Team Managing Director, Richard Taylor: "We're delighted to see Petter up onto the podium now. It certainly looks like he will have an interesting battle with his brother tomorrow, because the pair of them are separated by just under ten seconds. Chris has had a difficult day with a car that hasn't felt right underneath him. It has been quite hard work and he's dropped quite a long way back after the off on the opening stage this morning. The task for him for the rest of the rally will be to learn as much as he can about driving in these conditions."
Petter Solberg: "I thought there would be a chance that one of the guys in front of me would hit trouble because they were all setting a very fast pace. Our strategy of taking it easy has worked, although since the Mountain stage earlier today we have had some traction problems. I struggled, particularly on the last two stages of the day. I've been fighting so hard to set some good times and we made it to the end of the leg and now we can try to solve this issue. My plan for tomorrow is to make my third place secure. Henning is quite close because I lost a lot of time to him on the Mountain stage, but I hope we can keep him behind us tomorrow. It depends who has the right studded tyres for the conditions."
Chris Atkinson: "Today has been quite tricky for us. I've never driven in that much snow before. We tried to maintain our position from the start of the leg but a small mistake cost us some time because we went off and took a while to get out of a snow bank. In these conditions I haven't been had quite the level of confidence that I need to set fast times. It's disappointing to have lost so much time, but the task for Sunday is to finish all four stages and get some more experience of driving on snow and ice."
The final day of Rally Norway comprises just 97.10km of competitive stages. All four tests are repeats of ones already tackled by the crews during this event. After a second run through the 1.15km Hamar spectator stage, the event finishes with a sting in the tail in the form of another attempt at the 44.28km Elverum section. The official finish of the event takes place in Hamar at 1500hrs.