WRC

Rally Sardinia: Subaru final summary

Subaru's Petter Solberg finished Rally Italia Sardinia in second place today, more than two minutes ahead of third-placed Marcus Gronholm. Taking a total of three stage wins, the Norwegian overcame the disadvantage of running first on the road ...

Subaru's Petter Solberg finished Rally Italia Sardinia in second place today, more than two minutes ahead of third-placed Marcus Gronholm. Taking a total of three stage wins, the Norwegian overcame the disadvantage of running first on the road during Leg one to collect eight points in both the Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championship. Both Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Sarrazin fulfilled their objectives of gaining experience aboard their Subaru Impreza WRC2005s. Clinching a stage win, Chris moved up six places on the overall leaderboard today, while Stéphane completed an excellent gravel rally debut.

Stage Reports

SS12: 0716 S. Giacomo 1 (12.70km)

Rally Italia Sardinia's high rate of attrition continued on Leg three as the narrow, tricky route from S. Giacomo caught out another leading competitor. After encountering problems on Legs one and two, Mitsubishi driver Gigi Galli's rally came to a premature end when he retired at the end of the stage with a broken gearbox. Following earlier misfortunes, he had been in 45th position overall. Ford's Toni Gardemeister restarted after his team fitted a new oil pump to his car. He was sixth fastest, while his points-nominated Ford team-mate Roman Kresta was 15th. With a safe, trouble free run his main priority, Petter Solberg chose to start the stage one-minute late and collect a 10 second penalty rather than risk getting caught in the dust cloud from the car in front. Re-starters Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Sarrazin were fourth and 14th respectively. Before the Leg began, Skoda's Armin Schwarz was excluded after Stewards judged that he had received illegal outside assistance during Leg two.Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 10:31.6

SS13: 0829 S. Bachisio 1 (9.41km)

With the final six stages run consecutively, and no service halt, the challenge for competitors was to judge the pace correctly and preserve their cars and tyres. Pushing hard aboard his Peugeot 307, Marcus Gronholm was the pacesetter and went fastest to snatch overall third place from Rovanpera by 0.1 of a second. Suffering damage to his Mitsubishi's front-right suspension after going off the stage on the last corner, Harri was eighth fastest, 16 seconds slower than Gronholm. He stopped at the end of the stage to try and repair the damage, but it proved too severe and the Finn retired. Subaru's Solberg was second fastest and Atkinson was third. Stéphane Sarrazin delivered another solid drive as he learned more about the car on his gravel debut. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 8:13.0

SS14: 0902 Bortigiadas 1 (11.05km)

Presenting a faster, wider route than the previous two tests, the stage from Bortigiadas took crews uphill for the first 9km, before a high-speed descent to the finish line. Setting an average speed of 86.35kph, Solberg was fastest, with Gronholm second and Atkinson third. There was no change to the overall top three, although Rovanpera's departure from fourth elevated the remaining competitors up a place and Ford privateer Anthony Warmbold moved into the top eight and a potential points-scoring position.Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 7:40.7

SS15: 1036 S. Bachisio 2 (9.41km)

As the air temperature reached 23°C, Petter Solberg was fastest through the repeated S. Bachisio test, while Gronholm was second and Gardemeister third. With the entire field having passed through the dusty stage in the morning, much of the loose gravel had been swept from the stage. This meant second-on-the-road Stéphane Sarrazin faced less of a disadvantage on the repeat and he was ninth fastest, ahead of drivers with far more experience. Ford privateer Mark Higgins was using his Focus' manual gear-change system after the semi-automatic system failed and also suffered a slipping clutch, which cost him around 40 seconds. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 8:00.9

SS16: 1109 Bortigiadas 2 (11.05km)

Subaru continued its winning streak on the penultimate test of the event, as young gun Chris Atkinson went fastest for his first stage win of the rally. Solberg kept up the pace, even though third-placed Gronholm was more than two minutes behind. Petter's second-fastest time made it a Subaru one-two, while Loeb was third. Sarrazin was fifth, to score his best result of the event so far. Mark Higgins collected a two-minute time penalty for arriving at the start of the stage twelve minutes late after stopping to fix his clutch problem. He lost a further 16 seconds in the stage as he continued to change gear manually and fell from seventh overall to tenth. Fastest Stage Time: Atkinson (Subaru) 7:30.5

SS17: 1252 S. Giacomo 2 (12.70km)

Sebastien Loeb completed the final stage of the event to take overall victory on Rally Italia Sardinia. Solberg stormed through the stage quickest to finish second overall, 2 minutes 7.7 seconds ahead of third-placed Gronholm. Stéphane Sarrazin concluded his impressive gravel debut by finishing ninth fastest and taking overall twelfth, while Chris Atkinson delivered another quick time and was fourth fastest. Once the stage was complete, crews returned to Olbia for a 20-minute service, before driving to the finish ramp and podium in the resort of Porto Rotondo. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 10:23.1

Team Quotes

Petter Solberg
I am very happy actually. In the circumstances it's good to take second place and I'd like to thank everyone in the team for their hard work. It's been a good fight with Sebastien, but of course I'd hoped it would be a lot closer. But, it didn't happen like that and so I've got the best result I could. At this point in the Championship it's still very close and I think it's going to be a very interesting year. The key thing we have to do is work harder to find some more performance, but we have a good plan and I'm 100 per cent confident that we will succeed.

Chris Atkinson
We had another good day out there today, I'll always be happy to get a fastest stage time. Overall I'm pleased with what we've learned here in Sardinia. We've found a good pace and a car set-up that I'm comfortable with. It's a good basis to build upon and the rally has been useful preparation for the new few events. I'm looking forward to them.

Stéphane Sarrazin
Very good, I'm very happy and think I've improved over the weekend massively. I've made positive steps all the time and I'm happy because I've been fighting with Kresta, Henning Solberg, Higgins and many drivers that have done this a lot more than I have. It's been a good weekend's work, no crashes. I didn't take too many risks because I'm still not confident enough, but it's a very good start before the next gravel rally. One week ago, I had never driven on gravel, but now I feel I'm starting to be a good driver on a range of surfaces.

Team Principal, David Lapworth
In the surprisingly warm conditions we've experienced this weekend it was always going to be difficult to secure a win, especially with Petter running first on the road on Leg one. Petter has driven very well all rally, he and Sebastien made it a two-horse race, but in the end Loeb's advantage on the second run through the stages proved too much. The eight points keep the Championship battle wide open and it will be interesting to see what happens on the forthcoming gravel rallies. The next three events form the toughest point of the season and they've been the focus of our preparations for the last few months. Chris and Stephane both stuck exactly to their pre-event plans, they've built their pace day-on-day, gained a lot of experience and have both shown a very impressive turn of speed. Chris's fastest stage time certainly attracted the spotlight today but Stéphane's times this afternoon, on his first ever gravel rally, were equally remarkable.

News from Pirelli

Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
Congratulations to Petter for an excellent drive under difficult circumstances. Although Sebastien Loeb proved impossible to catch, Petter was able to use his car and tyres effectively to remain right in the thick of the battle for the Championship.

Team Talk
Cyprus Preparation Camp

This year, the Subaru World Rally Team is holding its training camp for crews and the management team before Rally Cyprus. We spoke to the team's performance trainer John Mills to find out what it's all about:

Who's going to the camp and when will it be?
It's going to run from Saturday 7 May until Monday 9 May inclusive, in Cyprus. Paul Howarth, David Lapworth, Petter and Phil, Chris and Glenn, Denis, Phil's personal trainer David Gethin, John Jones (the team's paramedic) and I will be attending.

What's the purpose of the camp?
The main thing is to get everyone used to working in the heat ahead of the next three hot gravel events. The drivers and co-drivers are already well-prepared physically to cope with the conditions, so the camp's not about trying to make them fitter in a couple of days. It's about getting them used to working in an extreme environment and introducing strategies to help them compete in high temperatures. The next three events have a high rate of attrition and often present specific problems, so we'll be preparing them for those. We want to make sure that everyone is able to reach the correct outcome when in a pressurised situation.

How will you be doing that?
First, we'll hold a series of physical tasks to get everyone working outside and acclimatised to the heat. We'll then gradually introduce a number of mental challenges, based on possible scenarios that may occur during the next three rallies, to improve their skills and teamwork.

What will you be looking for in each driver / management member?
The tasks will enable us to analyse the dynamics of each group and study the relationships between driver and co-driver and management-and-crew. We'll be able to see who works well together and if there are any areas we need to develop. From the participants' point of view, the things they'll be gaining are acclimatisation to the heat, an ability to formulate coping strategies and an understanding of why they're so important

What activities will you be organising?
Mountain biking, which will be interspersed with mental tasks, and an orienteering course that will include a series of challenges designed to get everyone thinking and working together. The third day will include a driver review meeting where we'll assess goals set at the beginning of the year and make sure that they're still in line to be achieved.

How hot are you expecting it to be in Cyprus?
We're expecting temperatures of around 35°C by midday, but inside a car it can feel much hotter, stickier and more uncomfortable. Drivers need to be very fit and mentally alert to perform in such extreme conditions for three days and that's what we're going to Cyprus to achieve.

Next Event

Rally Cyprus: 13-15 May 2005
The holiday island of Cyprus plays host to round six of the FIA World Rally Championship. Starting on 13 May, Rally Cyprus is the slowest and hottest rally of the World Championship, making it a true endurance test for drivers and cars. The air temperature can regularly exceed 30°C during the three-day event, putting the emphasis on stamina and physical fitness. The rally's 18 tests take place high up in the picturesque Troodos mountains, which offer a calm and rustic contrast to the bustling tourist resorts along the coast. At 38.32km, the longest stage will be the Lagoudera - Spilia stage used as SS1 and SS4, while, at 7.57km, the shortest will be the Asinou - Agios Theodoros stage used as SS3 and SS6.

-swrt-

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Stéphane Sarrazin , John Mills , Mark Higgins , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Armin Schwarz , Toni Gardemeister , Roman Kresta , Gianluigi Galli , Anthony Warmbold , Chris Atkinson , Paul Howarth
Teams Citroën World Rally Team