The Subaru World Rally Team finished Rally GB with a flourish, setting three fastest stage times from the day's four special stages and ending the day with both cars firmly in the points. Petter Solberg and Phil Mills were fastest on the leg and...
The Subaru World Rally Team finished Rally GB with a flourish, setting three fastest stage times from the day's four special stages and ending the day with both cars firmly in the points. Petter Solberg and Phil Mills were fastest on the leg and finished third, maintaining the strong finishing record they have had on this event in the past five years. In the other Impreza WRC2006, Chris Atkinson and Glenn Macneall came home in sixth position.
SS14: 0747hrs Brechfa 1 (28.89km)
The storm that had been forecast for the weekend of the rally finally hit
on Saturday night and early Sunday morning, making conditions even tougher
for the final leg of Rally GB and the last day of the 2006 season. It had
stopped raining by the time the drivers tackled the 28.89km Brechfa test,
but the longest stage of the rally was still very slippery and muddy in
places. Petter was in a determined mood and won the stage with a time of
16m 25.8s. It was a tremendous effort: he was 7.7s faster than the
second-fastest driver, Dani Sordo, and 16.1s quicker than Manfred Stohl. If
the Norwegian could maintain that pace for the rest of the day, he still
had a chance of overhauling the Austrian for second position. Chris started
the day just 7.8s ahead of seventh-placed Francois Duval, so the team's
Australian charger couldn't afford to relax. On this opening test he
comfortably outpaced his rival, set a time of 16m 41.6s and extended the
gap to Duval to 16.8s.
Fastest Time: Petter Solberg (Subaru) 16m 25.8s
SS15: 0844hrs Trawscoed 1 (27.11km)
A similar stage to Brechfa, held in the same forest and on the same network
of forest tracks. The stage was held in mainly dry conditions and the high
winds during the night had blown some large branches into the road.
Petter's pursuit of Stohl suffered a setback when went off the road and
dropped 20s to his rival. "I had a rear puncture before the start of the
stage and going into a corner the back just came round and we had a spin,"
explained Petter, who set a time of 16m 54.6s. In the second Subaru World
Rally Team Impreza WRC2006, Chris set the third-fastest time of 16m 32.3s
and consolidated his sixth position. He said: "It's really tricky and
difficult to push hard in there, but we still took time out of Francois
Duval, which was the plan." In fact, Chris took a large chunk of time
out of Xavi Pons in fifth position, because the Spanish driver had a spin
on the stage. With two stages left to run, Chris was now 24.7s behind Pons.
Fastest Time: Dani Sordo (Citroen) 16m 19.3s
SS16: 1145hrs Brechfa 2 (28.89km)
After a visit to Felindre for the final service of the event, the drivers
headed back to Brechfa for another run through the longest stage. The route
had dried considerably since the first run, but there were still plenty of
hazards for the drivers. A determined Petter cleared the stage in 16m
33.1s, the fastest time overall by 6.5s. He took 17.7s from Stohl, proving
that he could have challenged for second place if he hadn't been slowed
on the previous test. Chris came through in a time of 16m 43.3s and said:
"Where the stage had been swept by the cars passing through it was
really greasy and much more slippery than the first time through."
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 16m 33.1s
SS17: 1243hrs Trawscoed 2 (27.11km)
The rain showers returned for the final stage of the event, ensuring that
the drivers couldn't relax until they'd reached the final time
control. Another fastest time for the Subaru Impreza WRC2006 in the hands
of Petter, who stormed through the test in a time of 16m 22.2s, exactly 4s
faster than rally winner Marcus Gronholm. It cemented the Norwegian's
third-place finish. It was his fourth podium of the season. Chris Atkinson
set a time of 16m 33.6s, which was fourth fastest through the stage and
ensured he finished sixth overall, a solid result on only his second
attempt at Rally GB.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 16m 22.2s
Subaru World Rally Team Managing Director, Richard Taylor: "It's been a mixed weekend for the team. We saw winning pace from both drivers at different points of the rally, but a few small problems meant we couldn't translate that into a victory. But we're delighted to have one car on the podium and Chris was a little unlucky not to finish higher than sixth. The pace we showed on the stages this weekend bodes well for our competitiveness next year and we're greatly looking forward to the start of the new season in Monte Carlo in January. We'd also like to thank Pirelli for their hard work over the years and for the part they have played in the 46 wins and six championships we've achieved with the Impreza."
Petter Solberg: "A difficult day, but the stage times we set were very competitive and that was encouraging. I set a very fast time on the first stage, but the puncture and spin we had in the second test made it impossible to overtake Manfred Stohl. We were quick again after that, but the gap to second place was too big, so we had to settle for third. I'm not too unhappy with that result in the last rally of the season. It is good for the team and also for Pirelli, I would like to thank them because we've had lots of good rallies together. I was enjoying the stages in the afternoon and the pace we were setting shows that next year, when things are going better for us, I think we will be very fast."
Chris Atkinson: "We had a steady run through this morning's two stages and consolidated sixth place, which was the main objective for today. The result isn't ideal, but it has been a really tough event and our aim was to get to the end of the rally and that's what we've done. A points finish is a good way to end a tough year and now we can turn our attentions to making the car strong for the start of the 2007 season. The team has been working incredibly hard and next year we want to reward them with wins."
News from Pirelli
Mario Isola, Pirelli Competizioni Rally Manager: "We are very grateful to Petter Solberg for achieving a fine podium finish here in Wales. The Solberg and Pirelli combination has an excellent record on this rally and the speed he showed today underlines the performance of our Pirelli PZero tyres in these wet and muddy conditions. We are also satisfied that Chris achieved a good sixth place after a difficult start to the rally. As this event marks the end of our current partnership with Subaru I'd like to thank the team for their efforts over the last 13 years and 46 WRC wins."
The Next Event
That's it for 2006: Rally GB was the final World Rally Championship event of the year for the Subaru World Rally Team. Now the team will be working hard to prepare for the challenges of the 2007 season, which begins with Rallye Monte Carlo on January 18-21.