Petter Solberg (Subaru) controlled the day from the front. He won six of the seven stages to end with a lead of 1min 11.5sec. His closest challenger was Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) until the Finn had to drive most of the 34.21km Tandalo test with no...
Petter Solberg (Subaru) controlled the day from the front. He won six of the seven stages to end with a lead of 1min 11.5sec. His closest challenger was Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) until the Finn had to drive most of the 34.21km Tandalo test with no turbo boost. He dropped 23 minutes and lies 15th. The stage proved a bad one for the French manufacturer as team-mate Harri Rovanpera retired with the car jammed in first gear, the result of an electronic problem in the gearbox. Championship leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) climbed to second after an untroubled leg and the Frenchman heads team-mate Carlos Sainz, who was unhappy with his stage times throughout the day, by 1min 11.1sec. Private entrant Andrea Navarra took advantage of the troubles afflicting the manufacturer drivers to climb from eighth to fifth. Other retirements included Armin Schwarz (Skoda) who hit a rock and broke a steering arm on the opening test. He fixed the problem himself in the stage but was sidelined with a broken wishbone in the suspension on the following liaison section.
The Xsaras are currently rounding out the podium positions with Loeb holding 2nd ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz. Loeb is driving to consolidate his championship lead.
Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "We've been in a good rhythm. We must try not to take any risk now. The championship is the objective. The stages are very narrow and twisty tomorrow. You do a little
mistake and you can loose everything."
Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: "It's going OK. The suspension is acceptable but not the best. There is still more work."
Petter Solberg dominated today's action and consolidated his position at the top of the leaderboard. Having led the event from the outset, the reigning World Champion scored six wins out of seven stages today to take his total on the event to nine. He will start tomorrow more than a minute ahead of second-placed Sebastien Loeb. Mikko Hirvonen re-started today after his retirement in Leg one. Although ineligible to score Championship points, the young Finn demonstrated his potential at the wheel of his Impreza WRC2004 and set the second fastest time on SS10.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "It's been really good fun out there. A perfect day with no problems at all and everything has worked well. The stages were better today than yesterday. It's still been tough, but we've done seven stages and to win six of those is not too bad at all. Of course, it's difficult to fight for the championship when Sebastien is so close behind me, but all I can do is carry on and concentrate on doing the best job I can. It won't be an easy day tomorrow, I have to keep my concentration, but I'm looking forward to it, so let's see what happens."
Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: "Overall it's been a good day. I had quite a steady run in the morning and the times were good. It's just a shame because we could have been fighting for a good finish. In the afternoon we knew things would be tough because we had to compromise on our tyre choice. We changed the suspension settings too and tested a possible set-up for Australia. Even with tyres that weren't an ideal choice, I was pleased with the way we went. In many ways it was helpful to be in this position as I had to concentrate on driving smoothly and neatly to minimize tyre wear, and I'm happy with the progress I've made. Tomorrow we'll carry on learning and concentrating more on developing a good set-up for Australia."
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Markko Martin and Michael Park face a fierce final day showdown with former team-mate Carlos Sainz for a podium place on the Rally Italia Sardinia. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car will start tomorrow's third and final leg from fourth position, but just 2.9sec behind the Spaniard after a tight battle over demanding gravel tracks on the Mediterranean island today.
Team-mates Francois Duval and Stephane Prevot climbed to sixth in their Focus RS, despite hitting a wall and badly damaging the rear of their car.
Markko Martin / Michael Park: ""Something is changing the characteristics of the dampers during the stages. They are fine for the first 10-12km but when they become hot, their behaviour changes and it alters the handling of the car. It's a relief to know what the problem has been and if I can find a good feeling in the morning then I think I can catch Carlos."
Francios Duval / Stephane Prevot: "All the drivers starting the stages before me followed a different driving line so for me it was like being first on the road. I had to create my own line and that wasn't so nice. Tomorrow's stages aren't easy. They remind me of the roads in Cyprus and I don't think I will like them."
Marcus Gronholm is the sole remaining 307 WRC at the end of leg two of the Rally d'Italia-Sardinia. The Finn returns to Parc Ferme in 15th place after a disappointing day for the Peugeot team. His team mate Harri Rovanpera was no luckier. Harri started the day in a solid sixth place, with high hopes of moving up the leaderboard. But his hopes were dashed when he developed a transmission problem on SS9 which ultimately led to retirement.
Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: "It was very disappointing as we could have been challenging at the front. About five kilometres into the stage the turbo failed, but although we tried to fix the problem there was nothing we could do. We were very slow and dropped a lot of time, but we will keep on going and try to score some manufacturer points. If there is one positive thing we can take away, it is that the car has the speed to challenge for wins when everything is working properly."
Harri Rovanpera / Risto Pietilainen: "From the start of the stage I had gear selection problems, and then we lost first, second and eventually third gears. Finally we became stuck in first gear, but the problem was too bad for us to continue and we had to stop. It's deeply disappointing, as I think we could have made up some places and finished in a good position."
The second leg of the Rally of Italy saw the retirement of Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team driver Armin Schwarz after breaking a steering arm and then a wishbone. Although he completed the stage it was impossible to drive SS9 - the longest of the rally - and 125kms of road sections before service.
Toni Gardemeister returned to action today under the SupeRally system that allows retired cars to continue but not count in the overall results or WRC points. Despite running 14th on the road at the start of the day and having to avoid rocks kicked into the road by previous cars he immediately began to set top 10 times including seventh fastest on the longest stage of the rally.
Armin Schwarz / Manfred Hiemer: "I hit a rock soon after the start of the eighth stage. The left side steering arm broke and I stopped to repair it. We lost about 11 minutes but were able to reach the finish. However, the wishbone had also been bent and on the following road section it broke. There was nothing I could do to fix that particular problem and so we had to stop. Because I am still feeling very sick with the fever I won't be taking part in SupeRally tomorrow."
Toni Gardemeister / Paavo Lukander: "Today's stages are a lot faster than yesterday's but it's still not an easy rally. We showed on SS9 that we could set fast times here and it was important that we take this opportunity for testing. Tomorrow's stages are not very nice at all so there's nothing for us to learn there."
Martin Muehlmeier (Head of Skoda Motorsport): "This was a tough rally for us. Our strategy was correct but we didn't see the result we wanted. We will not compete tomorrow as Armin is sick and there is not much to learn from just running a single car. Now we look ahead to two asphalt rallies where we should see more benefits from our new homologation."