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 ...
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
SS16: 0743 Rhondda 1 (30.00km)
As the tension mounted in the closing stages of Wales Rally GB,
all eyes were on the nail-biting battle between the leading duo,
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb and Subaru's Petter Solberg. Separated by just
7.3 seconds and in first and second places respectively after 304.03km
of competitive driving, the pair started the stage more than two minutes
ahead of the rest of the field. Making the first pass through the long,
damp Rhondda stage that included a series of long fast gravel straights
interspersed with tight, muddy junctions, Solberg had the edge through
the first two splits. But, running wide on a fifth gear corner, the
Norwegian lost his advantage and Loeb was fastest through the stage to
win by a slender 1.3 seconds. At the finish, the pair were separated by
8.6 seconds with 60 competitive kilometres remaining. Negotiating the
wide forest roads high up on the Rhigos Mountains, Markko Martin was
third fastest for Ford and Carlos Sainz fourth. Mikko Hirvonen was
eighth fastest to remain in seventh position overall. After the finish,
crews returned to Felindre for a final 20-minute service.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 15:08.6
SS17: 1046 Rhondda 2 (30.00km)
Promising to give 'everything he had' on the second pass through
the high-speed Rhondda stage, Petter Solberg kept to his word. Setting a
blistering average speed of 121.2kph, the reigning World Champion was
fastest through every split in his Impreza to take his seventh stage win
and, more importantly, snatch 5.1 seconds back from rival Loeb. At the
finish, Petter's exceptional pace had reduced the gap between the pair
to just 3.5 seconds. With only one long competitive stage remaining, it
looked set to be a thrilling battle that would go right to the wire.
There were problems for Ford driver Francois Duval who encountered a
brake problem in his Focus after leaving the preceding service. The
young Belgian was forced to stop and make roadside repairs before the
start and was fourth fastest through the test, 5.9 seconds behind
team-mate Martin. Contesting the stage for only the second time in his
WRC career, Mikko Hirvonen was seventh fastest to retain the same
position overall. As a result of the event's date change, there was no
sign of the fog that usually shrouded the stage and, after the finish,
crews stopped for a refuel before moving to the start of SS18.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 14:51.1
SS18: 1205 Margam 2 (27.55km)
Normally used as the final stage of the Championship, the
picturesque Margam Park stage has been the scene of a range of emotions
over the years. This year was no different as thousands of spectators
braved the variable autumnal weather to witness the outcome of the
battle that continued to rage between Solberg and Loeb. As the tension
mounted, rain began to fall as crews started the stage's tricky blend of
junctions, crests, fast gravel straights and muddy, narrow hairpins.
Loeb had the initial edge and was fastest through the first three
splits. But, as the rain ceased, conditions dried and Petter Solberg
powered through the final 7km on his harder compound tyres. Clawing back
time, the Norwegian finished 9.2 seconds faster than Loeb and snatched
the overall lead. Ending the test with an impressive 5.7 second
advantage, the World Champion was looking good for his third consecutive
Rally GB win. Martin was third fastest and Duval was fourth. Having been
in eighth position overall, there were nervous moments for Ford driver
Mark Higgins when he left the road and hit a tree. He was able to
continue, but lost more than 20 minutes to the leaders. After the stage
was complete, crews drove 54.03km to the start of the event's final
short test, SS19.
Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 15:06.7
SS19: 1415 Cardiff Super Special 3 (2.45km)
The third and final run through the head-to-head Super Special
at the Cardiff dockland arena brought more competitive racing from the
WRC drivers. Driving in front of more than five thousand spectators,
Petter Solberg held his nerve over the jump and through the stage's
water splash to finish third fastest, extend his overall lead and claim
his third consecutive WRC Rally GB victory. He became one of only four
drivers to ever achieve the feat. The win marked his fourth WRC victory
in 2004 and the ninth of his WRC career. Loeb was fourth fastest to
finish second overall, while Martin was fastest to take the final podium
position. Mikko Hirvonen crossed the line to take seventh place and,
with it, more points in both the Driver and Manufacturer Championships.
Fastest Stage Time: Martin (Ford) 2:04.8
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 thought, 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.
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!
Team Principal, David Lapworth
That was possibly the most exciting finish to a rally I can remember! Even halfway through the penultimate stage (SS18), Petter still had it all to do. As he went through the stage we started to see the advantage of our tyre choice, but more than anything it was down to Petter's unbelievable commitment to win the rally. I think his last few splits were out of this world. The last two rallies have been a testament to a superb team effort. We had a spell of bad luck, but the way the whole team has pulled together to turn it around has been phenomenal. Petter winning his third Rally GB, and the eighth for Subaru in the last eleven years is proof of the strength of our Pirelli tyres in these conditions. Mikko Hirvonen will have benefited enormously from competing the event in such difficult conditions and he's put in a creditable performance behind the wheel.
News from Pirelli
, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
A fantastic victory for Pirelli, Subaru and Solberg for the fourth time this year. On the second half of the Margam stage (SS18), which was getting progressively drier, Solberg's Pirelli P Zero KP4 tyres reached the right temperature allowing him to make up the difference on Sebastien Loeb and pass him for a fantastic win.
Rallye d'Italia Sardinia: 1-3 October 2004
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.