Petter Solberg and co-driver Phil Mills took victory on Rally Italia Sardinia today to claim their third consecutive WRC win. Leading the event from the outset, the pair were fastest on 13 of the rally's 19 stages and finished 2 minutes...
Petter Solberg and co-driver Phil Mills took victory on Rally Italia Sardinia today to claim their third consecutive WRC win. Leading the event from the outset, the pair were fastest on 13 of the rally's 19 stages and finished 2 minutes 7.9 seconds ahead of second placed Sebastien Loeb. Success on Pirelli's home event was the third consecutive 'local' win for the team, following victories in Japan, the home of Subaru, and Great Britain, where the team is based. The result also marked Subaru's 44th WRC victory and its 43rd with the Impreza. Using the WRC re-start system, Mikko Hirvonen continued driving today after his retirement in Leg one. Demonstrating his potential, the young Finn set a string of top three times and gained valuable experience aboard his Subaru Impreza WRC2004.
SS14: 0916 Limbara 1 (18.60km)
The highest stage of the event, the first pass through the Limbara Mountain stage took crews more than 1000 metres above sea level. Featuring a series of tight hairpins in the first section, the ascending, loose surface stage included a stretch of asphalt 5km in, and was slippery and narrow for the remainder. Starting with a commanding lead, Subaru's Petter Solberg didn't miss a beat through the test and was fastest in his Impreza to take his tenth win of the event. Quickest through every split time, the Norwegian finished six seconds ahead of the rest of the field and, at the finish, had extended his lead to 1 minute 24.3 seconds. Markko Martin was second fastest, despite suffering a puncture near to the finish and moved up to take joint third with Carlos Sainz. After 325.15km the pair, who had been tussling for the position throughout, held exactly the same time overall. Mikko Hirvonen was third fastest, ahead of drivers with far more experience than himself such as Sainz, Sebastien Loeb and Marcus Gronholm. After the finish, crews moved to the start of SS15. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 13:18.8
SS15: 0949 Terramala 1 (11.59km)
It was tight at the top on the first pass through the short Terramala stage, with the top five drivers setting times within two seconds of one another. Loeb was fastest, with Martin second, Solberg third and Sainz fourth. Hirvonen was fifth fastest, just 1.9 seconds off the winning time. Solberg and Loeb remained well cushioned in overall first and second place, and all eyes were on the battle between Sainz and Martin for third. Sainz was fastest through the first split, but it was the Estonian that had the edge and was faster through the remainder to finish 1.3 seconds ahead. First-on-the-road Marcus Gronholm was seventh fastest, but having lost more than 20-minutes in Leg two due to an engine problem, he was carrying out test work in his 307 and correcting his pace notes ahead of next year. After the stage was complete, crews drove a 22.37km road section to the start of SS16. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 8:42.6
SS16: 1038 Monti di Deu 1 (8.65km)
Starting 1000 metres above sea level, the narrow, loose surface Monti di Deu contested in the Limbara Mountains descended to 500 metres. Featuring a series of sandy, slippery turns in the first section, the stage concluded with a series of flat out, flowing straights to the finish. Recording an average speed of 65.78kph, Petter Solberg was fastest to record his eleventh win of the event, while Sainz was second and Mikko Hirvonen, who was using the opportunity to experiment with different car set-ups ahead of future gravel events, was third. Subaru privateer Andrea Navarra was fourth fastest, giving Subaru three of the four fastest stage times. But there was disaster for Ford driver Markko Martin. Having briefly held a potential podium position, the Estonian lost almost 30 minutes in the test with an engine problem. He crawled to the end of the stage, but was unable to make it to the re-group 49km away in the time allowed and retired. His misfortune was Sainz's gain as the Citroen driver moved back up to claim third. After the finish, crews stopped for a 15-minute re-group before repeating the morning's stages. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 7:53.4
SS17: 1136 Limbara 2 (18.60km)
Shaving 17.1 seconds off his previous time through the Limbara stage, Petter Solberg was again fastest in his Impreza to extend his lead to 1 minute 50.9 seconds. Gronholm was second fastest to move up from tenth to seventh overall and back into the points, while young Finn Mikko Hirvonen enjoyed another trouble-free run and was third fastest. Citroen drivers Loeb and Sainz were 21.8 seconds and 24.7 seconds off Petter's winning pace respectively, and finished fifth and sixth fastest. Following Martin's retirement, Sainz admitted he could relax a little and lying 6 minutes 50 seconds ahead of fourth-placed Navarra, and 1 minute 9 seconds behind second-placed Loeb, he was well cushioned in third overall. After the finish, crews moved to the start of SS18. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 13:01.7
SS18: 1209 Terramala 2 (11.59km)
Having moved up from twentieth position to seventh overall in seven stages, Marcus Gronholm was fastest through the penultimate stage of the event, the repeated Terramala test, to take the stage win, his fourth of the event. Solberg was second fastest, while his team-mate Hirvonen continued his impressive performance at the wheel of his Impreza to finish third fastest. There was no change to the overall top eight and, after the finish, crews moved to the start of SS19. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 8:24.4
SS19: 1258 Monti di Deu 2 (8.65km)
Subaru's Petter Solberg ended the event the same way he had started it, and crossed the line fastest to take a win. Having led the event from start to finish, the Norwegian completed the final technical, narrow, loose surface test to claim his third consecutive WRC victory, by a significant margin of 2 minutes 7.9 seconds. The win marked his fifth WRC victory in 2004 and the tenth of his WRC career. Citroen's Sebastien Loeb was sixth fastest to take second overall, while Sainz was fourth fastest to claim the final podium place. Mikko Hirvonen ended an encouraging day by claiming another top three time. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 7:38.1
It's a fantastic feeling, but it's been really hard work all the way - Phil was cheering as we crossed the finish line, but I was still too focused on the driving to take it all in! It's been a very good few rallies, let me tell you, and it's a great feeling to take another win here, the team have been working so hard, and I think we've proved that we're the best team on gravel now. The event has been good fun to drive, I didn't feel I was pushing to the limit, but the tyres were good, the car worked well and when everything comes together like that it's much easier for me. Pirelli have been very good here, I must say, our tyre choices have been perfect all weekend and I want to thank them, the team and everyone at Subaru for a great job. Next up we've got two tarmac rallies, I have to do the best I can. I actually prefer tarmac to gravel, but I know we have a lot to do. We still have a chance for the Championship. It's very small, but it's still there.
Well, today has been perfect, no problems at all and everything worked as it should. We tried some of Petter's settings this afternoon and they helped us take another positive step. Obviously it's a shame that I wasn't able to take any points from Sardinia, but Jarmo and I have learned a lot about this rally and that's going to be very helpful for next year.
Team Principal, David Lapworth
First and foremost it's been a terrific job from Petter and Phil who have shown their unbeatable pace on gravel. Secondly, yet again I think it's clear that in these conditions our tyres give us a real advantage and I'm very grateful for all the hard work the team at Pirelli have put in. Thirdly I'd like to thank the engineers who did such a brilliant job in getting the set-up of the car right and finally, everyone else in the Subaru Team - three rally wins in a row is an incredible achievement that required everyone to dig deep and this result is a fitting reward for their efforts.
News from Pirelli
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Tyres Director of Motorsport:
Our inspired tyre choice on the first day allowed us to maintain an important advantage for the rest of the rally. Petter continued to dominate for the rest of the weekend, underlining the performance of our P Zero tyres on our home event.