Both Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson demonstrated the stage-winning pace of the Subaru Impreza WRC2006 on the final Leg of Rally d'Italia Sardegna. Petter secured two stage wins while Chris set his first fastest time of the year, however...
Both Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson demonstrated the stage-winning pace of the Subaru Impreza WRC2006 on the final Leg of Rally d'Italia Sardegna. Petter secured two stage wins while Chris set his first fastest time of the year, however problems in the final stage of the rally cost both drivers places. A bent steering arm dropped Petter to ninth while accident damage relegated Chris from fifth to tenth.
SS13: 0750 S. Giacomo 1 (13.46km)
After leaving Olbia parc fermé crews headed north for the sandy, narrow
S. Giacomo stage, which featured a watersplash 11.5km from the start.
Subaru's Petter Solberg started the morning in the best possible way
with the first stage win, just under a second quicker than overnight
leader Sébastien Loeb. Petter's time moved him to within one second of
seventh position overall. Team-mate Chris Atkinson also started well with
the fourth best time to consolidate fifth position. Skoda's Harri
Rovanpera broke a differential through the pass and lost over one minute,
while François Duval stalled his engine on the startline and took over
10secs to get it restarted.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 10:09.3
SS14: 0841 La Prugnola 1 (9.59km)
Chris Atkinson demonstrated the pace of the Subaru Impreza WRC2006 as he
secured his first stage win of the 2006 season. The Australian had an
excellent drive through the 9.5km La Prugnola speed test to finish over
four seconds faster than reigning world champion Loeb. Chris' Subaru
team-mate Petter Solberg also had a successful stage as he vaulted into
seventh ahead of Finn Kristian Sohlberg. Second overall Mikko Hirvonen
set the third fastest time through the shortest stage of the rally,
however his effort was over a second slower than Loeb and the Frenchman
extended his lead to over two minutes 20secs with four stages left to
Fastest Time: Atkinson (Subaru) 4:46.0
SS15: 0920 Campovaglio 1 (15.92km)
The final stage of the morning's loop of stages was Campovaglio, located
to the north west of Olbia. The stage had never been used in the rally
and ran through the middle of a quarry. Dust was kicked up by the first
cars and many drivers, including Hirvonen and Solberg, reported massively
reduced visibility. Loeb posted his first stage win of the day, with
Subaru duo Atkinson and Solberg continuing their promising morning
performance with the second and third fastest times respectively. Petter
closed the gap to sixth-placed Jussi Valimaki by more than 10secs to just
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 10:53.4
SS16: 1051 La Prugnola 2 (9.59km)
After a 15 minute regroup in the town of Arzachena, the field headed back
north for a further run through the morning's three stages. Petter
Solberg started the second loop as he had the first - with a stage win.
Petter's time closed him to within 18secs of Valimaki in sixth overall.
In a very closely matched battle, the top three stage finishers recorded
times within half a second of each other. Hirvonen and Atkinson were
second and third respectively, with Loeb recording the fourth quickest
time and Duval rounding off the top five.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 4:50.5
SS17: 1128 Campovaglio 2 (15.92km)
Petter Solberg's hunt for sixth place continued in the penultimate
stage. The Norwegian carved a further seven seconds from Valimaki's
advantage with the second quickest time through Campovaglio. The gap
between the pair closed to 10.7secs. Loeb was fastest through the dusty
15km speed test to extend his lead of the rally to nearly three minutes
from Mikko Hirvonen. Subaru's Australian driver Atkinson was again third
quickest, with a time identical to that of Sordo, with Kopecky fifth. The
result was the Czech driver's highest finish of the rally.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 10:40.1
SS18: 1235 S.Giacomo 2 (13.46km)
Jan Kopecky scored his first-ever WRC fastest time on the last stage of
the rally. Petter Solberg collected a bent steering arm in the first half
of the stage, but pressed on at a safe speed for the remainder of the
pass. He lost over three minutes to Kopecky and dropped to ninth overall.
Team-mate Chris Atkinson went off the road midway through the speed test
after he was distracted by dust in the cockpit of his car and missed his
braking point for a corner. The impact damaged his Impreza's front-left
suspension and Atkinson stopped by the side of the road. Under FIA
regulations, the Australian was awarded a five minute penalty for failing
to finish the stage and was classified as tenth overall. Sébastien Loeb
secured his fifth consecutive win of 2006 with the result making
co-driver Daniel Elena the most successful in history with 25 WRC
victories. Hirvonen finished second overall with Sordo in third, the
Spaniard's first-ever gravel podium.
Fastest Time: Kopecky (Skoda) 10:09.2
SWRT SPORTING DIRECTOR, LUIS MOYA: This has been a difficult rally for us with a lot of highs and lows. Overall Chris has had a very encouraging event. His performance has been at a good level throughout; he's been focussed and consistent. He was unfortunate on the last stage when he was distracted by some dust in the car after a very good run in the morning. Petter has had a tough time. When things have worked as they should he has been able to win stages but we have work to do to improve the whole tyre and car package so we can give him and Chris the opportunity to compete for podiums during the rest of the season.
PETTER SOLBERG: It's been a hard event for me. I tried as hard as I could all weekend but the overall result is disappointing. There's not really a lot more to say. We're looking forward to the next event now. I like the Acropolis Rally a lot and I'll give it my best shot.
CHRIS ATKINSON: Overall I'm happy with how I've driven on this rally. Before the last stage we had gone consistently all weekend, made no mistakes and had kept a good pace. Obviously to end the rally like we did is very disappointing, but there was a lot of dust coming into the car and I got distracted. We will be targeting a better finish next month in Greece.
NEWS FROM PIRELLI
MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER: As we saw yesterday, the car and tyre package has the potential to win stages. The result was ultimately disappointing but this is what happens on a rally like this - we have seen similar things happen before. Unfortunately the last stage dropped Petter to ninth and Chris to tenth, however the early pace was encouraging.