Subaru's Petter Solberg consolidated his second place overall on Rally Italia Sardinia today. Taking a stage win, the Norwegian increased his lead over the third placed driver by more than 90 seconds and is on course for a strong points finish ...
Subaru's Petter Solberg consolidated his second place overall on Rally Italia Sardinia today. Taking a stage win, the Norwegian increased his lead over the third placed driver by more than 90 seconds and is on course for a strong points finish tomorrow. Contesting his first ever gravel event, Stéphane Sarrazin traded stage times with drivers with far more experience, while his team-mate Chris Atkinson gained more valuable event knowledge at the wheel of his Impreza WRC2005. Although both new drivers were unable to complete the Leg, both will restart in the morning.
SS7: 0938 Loelle 1 (30.73km)
The long and twisty 30km stage from Loelle proved a sharp wake up call at the start of Leg two as three drivers fell foul of the difficult conditions. Ford privateer Mikko Hirvonen began the stage in third place overall, but ripped a wheel off his Focus and was unable to continue. Subaru privateer Daniel Carlsson braked too late at a corner, went off the road and embedded his Impreza in some sand, while Xavier Pons crashed his Bozian prepared Peugeot 206 and blocked the road completely. Stéphane Sarrazin, the next driver through, was unable to pass the stricken car and the stage was cancelled. All remaining drivers, including Stéphane and his Subaru colleague Chris Atkinson, eventually completed the route at a non-competitive speed and were given notional times by the event Stewards. Of those that did complete the stage, Sebastien Loeb was fastest, Petter Solberg was second, despite incurring a 5 second delay as he overtook Hirvonen, and Gronholm was third.Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 19:46.9
SS8: 1034 Tandaló 1 (38.77km)
The longest and most difficult stage of the event, the 38km test from Tandalo was very narrow and rough; the last 10km likened by some drivers to the conditions on Kenya's Safari Rally. More drivers succumbed to the treacherous stage surface, which became more rutted and rocky as each passing car flicked stones onto the driving line. Nine kilometres from the finish line, Chris Atkinson's Subaru collected suspension damage to the front-right corner, which made it impossible for him to steer the car accurately. He and co-driver Glenn Macneall tried to continue, but the damage was too great and they retired from the Leg. Gigi Galli lost 40 minutes when his Lancer suffered an engine sensor failure 15km from the start, while Toni Gardemeister lost 10 seconds when he overshot a junction. His Ford team-mate Roman Kresta was 14th fastest, almost 2 minutes off the pace. Subaru champ Petter Solberg was quickest, with Loeb second and Gronholm a further 15.9 seconds back in third. Contesting his first-ever WRC gravel event, Stéphane Sarrazin set some excellent split times to finish an impressive tenth. After the stage was complete, crews returned to Olbia for a 30-minute service.Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 28:09.0
SS9: 1409 Lovia Avra (5.01km)
Broadcast live on Italian television, the short 5km sprint from Lovia Avra was less twisty than the previous two and the only stage to be used just once on the event. Recording an average speed of 81.94kph, Gigi Galli was fastest, with Solberg second and Loeb third. With 69.50 competitive kilometres remaining after the stage finish, the leading drivers were careful to preserve their tyres through the abrasive route. Once the stage was complete, crews moved to the start of SS10. Fastest Stage Time: Galli (Mitsubishi) 3:40.1
SS10: 1551 Loelle 2 (30.73km)
The tricky terrain of the repeated long and twisty 30km stage from Loelle claimed another victim as crews made their second pass through. Skoda's Armin Schwarz stopped 7km into the stage with clutch failure in his Fabia and retired, leaving Janne Tuohino as the team's remaining driver in Leg two. At the finish he lay in 14th position overall. Battling for the overall lead, Loeb and Solberg were first and second fastest respectively and finished the stage 11 seconds quicker than the rest of the field to increase their overall advantage to more than two minutes. In the battle between Rovanpera, Martin, Gardemeister and Gronholm for overall third, Harri retained the position, but at the finish just 13.2 seconds separated the group. As the air temperature began to fall to around 24°C, crews made they way to the start of the Leg's final test, SS11. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 19:33.8
SS11: 1647 Tandaló 2 (38.77km)
Rutted roads and scattered rocks made driving treacherous on the second pass through the Tandalo stage. Tuohino spun off the stage in his Fabia 2km from the finish and was unable to continue, while Toni Gardemeister was forced to pull over when the oil pressure warning light illuminated in his Focus. Both cars retired from the Leg as the rate of attrition on Rally Italia Sardinia continued to increase. Extending their lead, Loeb was fastest to end the Leg with a 55.2 seconds advantage overall, while Solberg was second fastest to end the day more than 2 minutes ahead of third-placed Rovanpera. Harri set the same time as Gronholm, who moved ahead of Martin overall. After delivering an impressive performance on his first ever gravel event, Stéphane Sarrazin retired his Impreza from Leg two with a clutch problem 7km from the finish line. Once the stage was complete, the remaining crews returned to Olbia for an end-of- day 45-minute service. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 27:37.4
Overall I think today has been a good day. We have had no major problems. I'm happy with my own performance, and when you look at how fast Sebastien is going, we have to be pleased with where we are. That's just how it is sometimes. I pushed as hard as I could, but clearly we have some work still to do. But still, this rally isn't over yet. With six more stages and no service tomorrow, a lot of things can happen. You can be sure I'll push as hard as I can right until the end.
There's not really much to say after just thirty stage kilometres! We arrived at the start line of SS7 just as it was cancelled, and when the front suspension-arm broke after 30kms of SS8, our day was over. Up until that point I was very happy with the car, we were using the same set-up as yesterday and it was working well. So far on this rally I seem to be learning a lot about the mechanical elements of rallying - hopefully I'll get more driving experience tomorrow!
It's been very good today and overall I'm happy. I had a problem with the clutch on the last three stages and I lost my good position overall, but that's how it is. I've come here to learn and I'm definitely doing that. My times have been improving throughout the weekend, it's a good feeling in the car and I'm hoping we can restart and have another good day tomorrow.
David Lapworth, Team Principal
With Sebastien on this form, the only option for Petter was to try and maintain the pressure, consolidate his second place and try to avoid being part of today's dramatic events. He's driven well, extended the gap behind him and is still on course for at least eight points. Chris and Stéphane have not had such good days, like so many others they have been victims of the conditions. Nevertheless, this is all valuable experience and they will continue tomorrow with an eye on the next couple of events and next year's Rally Sardinia.
News from Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
Well done to Petter for maintaining second place and putting himself in an excellent position to capitalise on anything that might happen tomorrow. Unfortunately, the time lost yesterday was too great to recuperate, but we wish Petter the best of luck for a top result tomorrow.
Sunday 1 May 2005
The third and final Leg will start at 0630hrs, when the first car will leave parc ferme for a 10-minute service. Crews will then contest a further six gravel stages (three repeated), which comprises a total of just 66.32 competitive kilometres. The event will conclude when the winning car crosses the finish ramp in the holiday resort of Porto Rotondo at 1430hrs.