Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) dominated the day to take a step closer to his ninth victory of the season. The Frenchman was fastest on all six forest stages to increase his leg one advantage of 9.9sec to 44.7sec. Petter Solberg (Subaru) retained...
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) dominated the day to take a step closer to his ninth victory of the season. The Frenchman was fastest on all six forest stages to increase his leg one advantage of 9.9sec to 44.7sec. Petter Solberg (Subaru) retained second but was powerless to match the championship leader. Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) continued his recovery from yesterday's brake troubles and climbed to third on the penultimate stage, although he was hounded all the way by a hard-charging Francois Duval (Citroen). Harri Rovanpera (Mitsubishi) held third all day until a gearbox problem deprived him of third gear for the final two stages and he dropped more than 30 seconds. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) saw his good run end when he went off the road and down a bank on the opening stage while team-mate Stephane Sarrazin also retired when he too went off the road, damaging the front of the car too seriously to continue.
The famous Welsh red dragon would have been a fitting steed for Citroen's Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena today, but instead it was at the wheel of their familiar red Xsara WRC that they continued to impress in Britain's WRC round.
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "I admit we pushed very hard all day today," said Seb. "But we didn't have a single problem and the car was nicely balanced. Switching to slightly harder compound tyres for the afternoon's loop was a judicious move. The surface is exceptionally dry for this event but I have to say that the stages are just as fun to drive in these conditions. Tomorrow it will obviously be a case of trying not to make any mistakes."
Francois Duval/Sven Smeets: "I am very pleased with my times in the second loop. They are a particularly positive boost for my confidence and I can't complain about the weather conditions either: our pre-event testing was done in the dry and the stages are slippery enough as it is like that!"
At the end of the second day of competition on Wales Rally GB, Petter Solberg holds second place overall, 44 seconds behind the leading Citroen of Sebastien Loeb. Solberg enjoyed another incident-free day on the Welsh gravel stages and his Impreza WRC2005 ran faultlessly over the day's 103 competitive kilometres. Solberg's team-mates Chris Atkinson and Stephane Sarrazin both retired from the Leg after separate incidents in the morning. Chris will re-start the event tomorrow under Superally regulations, but the damage to Stephane's car was too extensive to allow him to continue.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "I've enjoyed the day and overall the feeling in the car is okay but I wish we were able to get closer to Sebastien. I particularly liked the stage inside the stadium - it was great fun and I hope the spectators enjoyed it as much as I did. We're trying as hard as we can out there, going absolutely flat out, but it doesn't seem to be quite enough. Sebastien is doing a good job and we have to work to find some solution to get quicker. I like tomorrow's stages, they're very good and there's still a long way to go, so I won't give up."
Stephane Sarrazin/Denis Giraudet: "I'm disappointed not to be able to finish this event. It was a simple mistake in one junction; I began to make a right turn when in fact the note was for a left. The car went straight on and the front end was damaged on a low bank. Up until that point things had been getting steadily better. The speed was building and I was getting closer and closer to the competition. Generally though and despite the crash, there are quite a lot of positives to take from this rally, it's still only my third ever gravel event and Denis and I were making good progress. Now we'll concentrate on the next event in Corsica and hopefully a better result."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "Not such a good day. I was on a slow, tightening corner when the front wheel just caught the apex and spun the car around. We dropped off the road a fair way into some bushes and there was no way for us to get back on the stage. It's a shame because before the incident the car and the tyres had felt excellent. We were running at a pace that wasn't far off the guys with much more experience, and when you're pushing harder then sometimes mistakes happen. The one consolation is that the car is absolutely fine and we can re- join the rally again tomorrow."
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Roman Kresta and Jan Tomanek climbed into a points scoring position during today's second leg of the Wales Rally GB. The Czech pair are ninth in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car and on target to score the manufacturers' points which will extend Ford's unrivalled scoring record in the FIA World Rally Championship.
Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: Excluded (Underweight)
Roman Kresta/Jan Tomanek: "The roads were pretty dry, although there were a few puddles in the opening stage where cars had cut corners and dragged water and mud onto the track. This afternoon the loose gravel had been swept away and the roads were extremely fast. It felt like driving in Finland at times with lots of time in sixth gear. I chose soft compound Michelin tyres this morning and harder rubber this afternoon and it felt right. My target for tomorrow is clear - to stay in the manufacturer points for Ford."
Marcus Gronholm has continued his spectacular charge up the leaderboard today by depriving his compatriot Harri Rovanpera of third place on the penultimate stage of leg two of the Wales Rally GB. A good run through the morning's stages allowed his team mate Markko Martin to take a solid sixth place.
Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "Today has been good, but it has not quite been the same as fighting for a victory. It's a pity, as we undoubtedly had a car that was good enough to win here. This morning's stages were quite difficult, so I was not taking any risks. I knew that if I kept going at the same pace I could pass Harri Rovanpera, but I think it will be a different story to catch Sebastien Loeb and Petter Solberg. Still, there are four long stages to go tomorrow so anything can happen."
Markko Martin/Michael Park: "This morning was a little bit better for me, as I managed to find some better differential settings which gave me more control over the car. These stages generally suit me quite well, but I need to have full confidence in order to really attack them. The main thing is that we are in a solid points scoring position, and we will try and move a bit higher up the leaderboard tomorrow."
Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team drivers Colin McRae and Armin Schwarz ended the second leg of Rally GB in 11th and 18th places respectively. After six stages in the fast Welsh forests, the leg ended with possibly the shortest stage in the championship, the 1.10kms indoor superspecial at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. It may have lacked distance but there was no lack of atmosphere as over 20,000 rally fans gathered to support their heroes with the noise reaching deafening levels when Colin's Fabia WRC 05 burst into the stadium. Colin's hopes of setting super-fast times were dashed on the run out to this morning's first stage. The semi-automatic gearshift system failed and the Scot had to revert to the manual option. Nevertheless he dropped little time and by the end of the leg had climbed into the top 10 and was poised to chase a points finish on tomorrow's final leg.
Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: "We've had no problems today but I haven't had any speed either. The conditions are a bit like Mexico but unfortunately I've been driving like I did in Mexico too. I really don't know what the solution is."
Colin McRae/Nicky Grist: "Losing the auto shift wasn't the best start to today but it didn't actually cost me a lot of time. The biggest problem was that the manual gearshift isn't located in the best position for me and I had to stretch to reach it. Generally it's been a good day and tomorrow's stages could suit the car a little bit better so we'll be pushing as hard as possible."
The Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 crew of Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen held off a mounting challenge from Marcus Gronholm in the second leg of Wales Rally GB, but ultimately lost out to their fellow Finn when a gearbox problem dropped them from third to fifth in the penultimate stage. Team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido d'Amore have set consistent times in their debut competitive outing in the event and the Italians have moved up the leaderboard into seventh position.
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: "About 5-7 kilometers into the stage (SS7) we lost third gear. We could've dropped more time, but the nature of the stage was reasonably kind to us. The other problem was that normally when you lose a gear you can shift through it, but I had a problem getting over third and was worried the whole gearbox would break. But it's been okay and overall we've had two very good days, with this really being our only problem. Of course we will fight again tomorrow and hopefully take fourth."
Gigi Galli/Guido D'Amore: "I have been staying focused on the road and our notes, because this is my first Rally GB and I have to learn to work myself, not the car, in this situation. The whole day has been good and with the drier conditions, this makes things 'easier'. I'm happy with our performance for our first time here and we have compared favorably with a lot of other drivers with much more experience of these stages."