Petter Solberg and Phil Mills ended the second day of action in Sardinia in sixth position overall. The Subaru World Rally Team pairing are 40 seconds off fourth position with six stages left to run tomorrow. After not completing two stages ...
Petter Solberg and Phil Mills ended the second day of action in Sardinia in sixth position overall. The Subaru World Rally Team pairing are 40 seconds off fourth position with six stages left to run tomorrow. After not completing two stages yesterday, Chris Atkinson and Stephane Prevot rejoined under SupeRally rules. They successfully completed all six stages and gathered a lot of data about the Impreza WRC2007.
SS7: 0925HRS LOELLE 1 (22.57KM)
Conditions were dry, warm and sunny as crews left the overnight parc
ferme from 0800hrs to tackle the rally's second leg. After his car had
been checked over, Chris Atkinson re-joined the event following a
collision with some rocks in the road on Friday's penultimate stage. But
with ten minutes of penalty time added and the dubious honour of running
as first car on the road, and contending with the worst of the loose
gravel, the Aussie's original objective of a top-five finish was out of
reach. Instead, for him the day would be more about building experience
of the stages, and developing the pace of the Impreza WRC2007 on its
fourth rally. Rally leaders Sebastien Loeb and Marcus Gronholm were first
and second quickest through the tricky 22km Loelle section, followed by
Mikko Hirvonen, Dani Sordo and Petter Solberg, who's Impreza was back to
full strength after brake problems on Friday afternoon.
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 13m 40.6s
SS8: 1025HRS MONTE LERNO 1 (29.31KM)
After a refuelling halt, competitors headed to the leg's longest stage,
Monte Lerno. Run in exactly the same format as 2006, it featured a mix of
conditions and, at the 21km mark, a massive crest known as 'Micky's
jump' which launched Chris Atkinson's car more than two metres into the
air last year. Atkinson approached things more cautiously this time, and
despite acting as road sweeper for the rest the field he completed the
section cleanly, with the twelfth fastest time. Having lost time on leg
one with a brake problem, Subaru's Petter Solberg took a gamble with a
softer suspension set up on leg two, in an effort to close the gap on the
leaders. But the changes did not have the desired effect on the car's
performance, and although he set a solid sixth-fastest time, it was not
enough to catch those ahead.
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 19m23.3s
SS9: 1110HRS SU FILIGOSU 1 (19.48KM)
The third stage of the morning loop was Su Filigosu, which had been
extended for 2007 with the addition of a new partly asphalt section at
the start. According to Chris Atkinson's co-driver Stephane Prevot, the
sequence of jumps, crests and deceptive junctions in the last five
kilometres of the stage made it the most difficult section of the day.
Another stage win from Loeb made it a clean sweep of the morning loop for
the Frenchman, whose rally lead now stood at 41seconds. Loeb's cause was
helped by a slow time from his closest rival Marcus Gronholm who dropped
12.5sec. Petter Solberg set the seventh-fastest time. After the finish
control crews returned to Olbia for a 30-minute service halt.
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 12m 36.3s
SS10: 1445HRS LOELLE 2(22.57KM)
Saturday afternoon's stages were a repeat of the morning loop. Fresh
from service and with a suspension set-up similar to the one he had used
on leg one, Petter Solberg picked up the pace again and set the fourth
fastest time - his most competitive form of the day. Solberg's immediate
target was the fifth place of Citroen's Dani Sordo, and by beating him
on the stage the Norwegian moved to within 40 seconds of that goal.
Without the handicap of sweeping the road on the second pass, Atkinson
too enjoyed better fortune on the repeat of Loelle, breaking into to the
top-10 stage times for the first time that day.
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 13m 31.6s
SS11: 1545HRS MONTE LERNO 2 (29.31KM)
The road surface of the repeated Monte Lerno test had cleaned
significantly since the earlier running, and stage winner Sebastien Loeb
completed the 29km section 25sec quicker than he had in the morning.
Marcus Gronholm continued to keep the pressure on the Frenchman, and was
just 0.8sec slower, but with one more stage of the day to go, Loeb's
lead stood at more than 40 seconds. Dani Sordo set the third fastest
time, two seconds quicker than Petter Solberg who was fourth. Chris
Atkinson's improved form continued and the Australian was the sixth
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 18m 58.7s
SS12: 1630HRS SU FILIGOSU 2 (19.48KM)
The final stage of the day brought a last charge from Marcus Gronholm who
won the stage and clawed back four seconds of Loeb's lead. Loeb was
second, with Hirvonen third and Sordo fourth, a result which elevated him
to fourth on the leaderboard. Henning Solberg dropped to fifth overall
and with Petter just 30 seconds behind after another top-five stage time
the scene was set for a Norwegian family battle on Sunday. Chris Atkinson
ended the day with another solid top-ten performance and the benefit of
71km of testing and development work.
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 12m 19.3s
Subaru World Rally Team Managing Director, Richard Taylor: "We're happy that Petter is still on course to score points, but having been on the pace with Seb (Loeb) and Marcus (Gronholm) for most of Friday, it was disappointing not to be challenging right at the front today. The changes we made for this morning's loop did not have the effect we anticipated, so for this afternoon's tests we moved back towards the set-up used on leg one. Clearly there is more to do, but we'll work hard to find a good set-up for the final six stages tomorrow. Although Chris is outside the top ten, both he and the team can collect a lot of data to help us improve the car for future gravel rallies."
Petter Solberg: "We're on course to finish in the points tomorrow, and of course I'm looking forward to the battle with my brother, but generally it's been a difficult day on which I haven't been able to push as hard as I wanted. We got off to a great start yesterday, and set some excellent times, but today the car became very difficult to drive and I simply couldn't attack. We're trying everything we can to make it better, and I can change my driving style to get around the problem to some extent, but when I'm doing that I can't push hard enough. It's a very tough situation for all of us in the team, but the engineers are working flat out and I'm confident they will find a solution soon."
Chris Atkinson: "The conditions on the stages today were pretty good and the roads weren't in a bad state on the repeat run. Our road position meant that the morning was always going to be difficult, as we swept the worst of the loose sandy stuff of the road, but the times improved in the afternoon. I'm far from satisfied with the pace we have relative to the competition, and clearly we still have plenty of work to do on the handling of the car, but hopefully the data we have gathered today will help the team find a solution."
Another six stages make up the final day of Rally d'Italia-Sardegna. The tests are situated to the north and west of Olbia, the rally base. Unusually, there is no midday service halt: instead there is a short stop for refuelling between SS15 and SS16. After the final special stage, Braniatogghiu, the drivers drive to Porto Cervo for the ceremonial finish at 1430hrs.