The victory battle today was thrilling. Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) led Petter Solberg (Subaru) by 7.3sec overnight. The Norwegian went off the road briefly in today's opening stage and the gap widened to 8.6sec. But he reduced it to just 3.5sec...
The victory battle today was thrilling. Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) led Petter Solberg (Subaru) by 7.3sec overnight. The Norwegian went off the road briefly in today's opening stage and the gap widened to 8.6sec. But he reduced it to just 3.5sec and moved ahead on the penultimate stage, holding on during a head-to-head battle over the final stage in Cardiff to win by 6.3sec. It was the closest finish of the season and Solberg's third consecutive triumph in Britain. The BP-Ford duo sandwiched Carlos Sainz (Citroen) in fourth while Harri Rovanpera (Peugeot) and Mikko Hirvonen (Subaru) completed the manufacturer-entered finishers in sixth and seventh. The privately-entered Focus RS of Mark Higgins looked set to claim the final drivers' point in eighth but he went off the road on the penultimate stage in Margam, allowing Manfred Stohl to move up.
Fifty-seven drivers left Felindre parc ferme at 0630hrs this morning. Eleven of those had re-started after retiring on Leg one or two
The final Leg of Wales Rally GB comprised four stages and 90 competitive kilometres. Crews contested two passes through the 30km Rhondda test, a repeat of Margam Park and a final lap of the Cardiff Super Special
Following early morning light showers, conditions cleared and were mostly dry for the remainder of the day. Temperatures started at 12C in the morning, rising to 17C by midday. Stages were loose gravel with some mud and damp patches
Petter Solberg and co-driver Phil Mills take their third consecutive WRC Rally GB win - Win is Solberg's ninth in the WRC & fourth in the 2004 season - Subaru and Pirelli win eight out of the last ten WRC Rally GBs - Rally GB result marks Subaru's 43rd WRC victory, its 42nd with the Impreza - Solberg is fourth driver in the event's history to take three consecutive Rally GB wins - Solberg takes eight stage wins on 2004 Wales Rally GB - Mikko Hirvonen finishes seventh to score more Championship points for himself and Subaru
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: It's been the hardest finish I can remember, but one of the best. Sebastien is a very determined guy. We had the most incredible battle, this is a good result for the sport and we put on a great show - but it was not an easy task today! On the first part of Margam it was very slippery. I hit rocks and everything, but when it dried I though, right, let's go and I absolutely nailed it. I tried everything, but it worked out. I'm so pleased for everyone in the team, we have a great team atmosphere and we're going to carry it through to Sardinia.
Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: I'm pleased to have finished the event and I think I've got some good experience from it. It's certainly a fast rally and the wet the conditions are unique. The grip level changes so quickly you really do need experience before you can push really hard. On the repeated stages I felt my confidence increasing and my pace notes were working better. I must say, Petter has done an incredible job and I'd love to see onboard footage from the Margam stage. I hope I can do the same next year!
Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and the Xsara WRC finished an excellent second in Wales Rally GB and maintained their lead in the Championship, now 28 points ahead of their closest rival. Carlos Sainz and Marc Marti claimed fourth, and this great team performance allows Citroën to increase the gap in the Manufacturers classification to 38 points. Sebastien and Daniel dominated Wales Rally GB, taking the lead from stage 2 to stage 18, a few kilometres before the end of "Margam 2", the penultimate stage of the event. At this precise moment the split times showed that Seb' had a lead of 3,3 seconds on that stage, which then turned into a deficit of 9,2 seconds at the end of the 27,55 km test. Sebastien conceded 12 seconds in 12 kilometres whereas he only lost one second out of 120 km yesterday.
Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: Between kilometre 15 and 20, I made a tiny mistake when I braked a bit late in a right corner in second gear. I had to use the first gear and I went wide by two or three meters. I estimate the loss to be 2 seconds there. Next, I continued to push as hard as I had during the rest of the weekend without feeling anything wrong with the car. I would lie if I said I'm not disappointed with this finale. But I'm happy about two things : I was extremely close to winning the event thanks to my Xsara, and with two second places in a row, I still have all my chances for the title."
Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: "After that, with new settings, I felt more at ease and confident which is very important in these conditions, which have been more typical of the familiar RAC. Sebastien has set an outstanding pace here. I simply want to tell him that he should keep concentrated on the coming events. For my part I'm really happy to bring my contribution to the team result."
Ford today claimed its 40th consecutive points finish in the FIA World Rally Championship as two Focus RS World Rally Cars finished in the top five of the Wales Rally GB. Markko Martin and Michael Park were third to claim their seventh podium position of the season and BP-Ford World Rally Team colleagues Francois Duval and Stephane Prevot were fifth.
Markko Martin / Michael Park: "It's good to finish on the podium again and obviously this is a fantastic achievement for Ford," said the 28-year-old Estonian driver. "It was great to end with fastest time -- in front of the live cameras too! The pace was good today. It wasn't as fast as Friday but thankfully it wasn't as eventful either. Twice our rally almost ended in the trees then and I was not unhappy to see the end of that day. Driving in the fog yesterday wasn't easy but the conditions were the same for everyone. I had good speed all rally but unfortunately not enough to match Solberg and Loeb for victory on this occasion."
Francios Duval / Philippe Droeven: "It has been a good rally for me in difficult conditions," said the 23-year-old Belgian driver. "The date change certainly didn't make any difference to the weather, which was awful. We tested in dry conditions, which unfortunately proved no benefit at all in the wet here, so our car set-up wasn't perfect on Friday. It was too hard and my confidence wasn't as high as I would have liked. But I made some modifications and I felt happier. I'm happy with the result and pleased with my pace notes. I have not had to make many changes."
Peugeot driver Harri Rovanpera has finished sixth on the Rally Great Britain, scoring valuable points for himself and Peugeot. The Finn was held back by problems on the opening day but fought back to a points-scoring place, despite being disadvantaged by his road position in constantly changing conditions. Britain's round of the World Championship has moved to September this year but intermittent rain was still a constant feature of the event, making tyre choice extremely difficult. Harri was locked in a fierce battle for sixth over the last day of the event, and showed his determination by sealing the position with some quick times on the final leg.
Harri Rovanpera / Risto Pietilainen: "This has not been an easy event for me: it was difficult to find a good pace on the opening day, and on the second day we were affected quite badly by the weather. But as the event went on I became more comfortable with the car and we were able to set some quite encouraging times, thanks also to some good tyre choices. My priority on this rally was to finish and score some points for Peugeot, and I am pleased that we achieved that."
Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: Unfortunately his team mate Marcus Gronholm was not so lucky, despite challenging for the lead over the opening day of the rally. Marcus was poised to make his move on the second day, but was unfortunately distracted by a warning light on his dashboard on SS10. He cut a left-hand corner as normal, but behind a straw bale on the inside of the corner was a metal pole, which broke the front suspension of his Peugeot.
Daniel Carlsson: Daniel Carlsson was another retirement, sliding off on a corner which he approached slightly too quickly on the opening day. The car slithered into a ditch, but there were not enough spectators to help push Daniel out. However, the young Swede started the subsequent two days under the trial of the new Super Rally system, which allows retired cars to re-join. Making his debut in the 307 WRC, he learnt a lot more about the car and set some encouraging times.
Rally GB again confirmed the continuing progress made by ^Êkoda Motorsport's Fabia WRC development programme but the team was denied a top 10 overall result by bad luck. Toni Gardemeister slid off the road into a river near the end of day two and the time lost while spectators wrestled the car back to the road ended his hopes of equaling the team's results in Finland and Germany. Treacherous weather conditions made this one of the most tricky events of the season, despite a date switch from November to September, but all three ^Êkoda Motorsport drivers set top 10 stage times throughout the rally. Armin Schwarz rolled out of the rally at the end of day one and a rare technical problem sidelined Jani Paasonen on Saturday.
Armin Schwarz / Manfred Hiemer: Retired
Toni Gardemeister / Paavo Lukander: "We must forget our overall position here and think about our individual stage performance which was actually quite good. We didn't find consistent grip in these conditions but the stage times were still closer to the leaders like on the other events this year. I made some mistakes of my own and slipping off yesterday cost me a good overall result but without those spectators we would have been out of the rally so 'thank you' to them."
Jani Paasonen / Jani Vainikka: Retired
Next Event - Rallye d'Italia Sardinia
The next round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Rallye d'Italia Sardinia, starts in two weeks time when teams travel to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. Previously hosted in San Remo, this year's Italian round of the WRC will take place on sandy gravel stages rather than twisty asphalt mountain roads. Starting on Friday 1 October, the rally will be based in the resort of Porto Cerve and crews will contest 19 stages and 384.23 competitive kilometres. The event will conclude at 1645hrs on Sunday 3 October.