Subaru's lead driver Petter Solberg crossed the finish ramp of Rallye Deutschland in seventh place this afternoon after a tough three days of competition on the German asphalt. On the Leg's six stages Solberg continued to make up lost time, after...
Subaru's lead driver Petter Solberg crossed the finish ramp of Rallye Deutschland in seventh place this afternoon after a tough three days of competition on the German asphalt. On the Leg's six stages Solberg continued to make up lost time, after problems on day two dropped him from fourth to 13th overall. Determined to achieve the best possible result, he pushed hard right until the end and set the fastest time on the penultimate special stage. Stephane Sarrazin's day started well, with the French asphalt ace closely matching the pace of the lead Citroen duo on SS14, but a broken driveshaft later on meant he had to settle for eighth overall. Chris Atkinson completed a trouble-free run on his first ever asphalt rally to finish 11th overall.
SS14 0818 St. Wendeler Land 1 (16.37km)
The start of Leg three marked the first of the Saarland stages, which use a lot of open public roads, nearly all through farm land. Running seventh on the road, Subaru's Stephane Sarrazin got off to an excellent start and set the third fastest time behind the leading duo of Sebastien Loeb and Francois Duval, who took their eleventh stage one-two of the rally. Running third on the road, Chris Atkinson was one of the first to discover just how slippery the early morning dew had made the surface. The Australian had a small spin at a hairpin, but his car was undamaged and he completed the stage in the 13th fastest time. Caught out by the slippery conditions and a set of cold tyres, Petter Solberg spun into a field 300 metres from the start. His car was undamaged, but the incident cost Petter approximately twenty seconds. Although the top four places on the overall leaderboard looked fairly settled, a battle still raged for fifth between Ford's Roman Kresta and Mitsubishi's Gigi Galli. At the start of the day Kresta held the advantage by 2.4sec and at the end of SS14, he had extended his lead by one second. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 8:59.1
SS15 0851hrs Freisen / Westrich 1 (18.71km)
Petter Solberg set the second fastest stage through the first run of the Freisen / Westrich stage, which had been modified a little since last year. The stage started on a new narrow section, which proved tricky for some drivers. Ford's Dani Sola went off the road on a left hand corner close to the start. The Spaniard attempted to rejoin the stage by cutting across a field but drove into a ditch and remained stuck for seven minutes before he could get free. He eventually rejoined the road right in front of Markko Martin, and the two cars touched, although neither was damaged. Sola's misfortune benefitted Solberg and he moved to eighth overall and into the Championship points. Toni Gardemeister also had an off-road moment as he spun his Ford Focus early in the stage, and crossed the line nearly 30sec slower than Loeb, who was once again quickest. As the battle for fifth intensified, this time Galli was three seconds faster than Kresta, and the gap between them reduced to 0.4sec. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 11:32.1
SS16 0934hrs Birkenfelder Land 1 (13.68km)
On the last of the three morning stages and with the end almost in sight, it seemed that the rally-leading Citroen drivers had eased off the pace a little. For the first time since the rally started, a Citroen was not the fastest car. Peugeot's Estonian driver Markko Martin took the honour on SS16 with Kresta second and Galli third. The top times through the stage were very close, and only 1.5sec separated the top six. The narrow, twisty stage took place on farmland and featured some of the biggest cuts of the rally. Skoda's only remaining driver, Jan Kopecky, retired from the rally when his Fabia ran off the road two kilometres before the finish line and collected left rear damage. Solberg was fifth quickest and Sarrazin 10th. Over the 13.68km stage, only 0.2sec separated Kresta and Galli, and the Czech remained ahead by just 0.6sec. Afterwards, crews headed back to Bostalsee for a 30-minute service before tackling the final three stages of the rally. Fastest Stage Time: Martin (Peugeot) 7:55.6
SS17 1122hrs St Wendeler Land 2 (16.37km)
Galli took the spoils on the re-run of St. Wendeler Land, his first stage victory since Rally Turkey. On the first stage after service, the Mitsubishi driver was 5.4sec quicker than Kresta, which was enough to snatch fifth place. Solberg was only 1.4sec adrift of Galli, and set the second fastest stage time. The Citroens continued to cruise as Loeb finished eighth and Duval sixth. The gap between the top two and third-placed Gronholm was eroded slightly, but Duval remained nearly one and a half minutes ahead of the Finn. After setting some excellent times on the three morning stages, Sarrazin's charge was affected by a mechanical problem when the front right driveshaft on his car broke on the exit of a hairpin. Continuing with three-wheel-drive only, he dropped 26sec to the leaders. Fastest Stage Time: Galli (Mitsubishi) 8:57.3
SS18 1155hrs Freisen / Westrich 2 (18.71km)
On the last proper stage of the event, Petter Solberg scored his first fastest time of Rallye Deutschland. His performance, combined with Sarrazin's mechanical problems, meant the two swapped places on the leaderboard and Solberg moved into seventh position. Galli pulled further ahead of Kresta, with the gap from fifth to sixth growing to just under six seconds. Rally leader Loeb, his eighth victory of the year within touching distance, was fifth quickest. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 11:28.9
SS19 1250hrs St Wendel Spectator Stage (6.24km)
The final stage of the rally, a re-run of Saturday's Superspecial, took place in St. Wendel to the East of the Bostalsee service park. Loeb clinched his 13th stage win of the event to take his eighth win of 2005 in style. The Frenchman finished the rally 37sec ahead of his Belgian team mate Duval, with Gronholm third and Martin fourth. Mitsubishi pilot Galli held on to the fifth place he snatched from Kresta on SS17, while Solberg took two Championship points by finishing seventh. Sarrazin took eighth, the final points-scoring position. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 3:21.9
Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth
It has been a long, difficult weekend with more lows than highs. After Saturday's gear selection problem, Petter missed out on a fight closer to the podium, however he has made good progress back up the leaderboard, showing great character, and can take some consolation with a fastest stage time late today. We are very encouraged with the pace of both Stephane and Chris. Both have shown good speed given their relative inexperience at this level. For Chris this was his first three days of tarmac rallying and the way he has quickened throughout the rally bodes well for the future. Stephane has been able to trade stage times with the Peugeots and Citroens and we are confident that with this experience we can deliver a good result on the remaining two tarmac events this year. From here we now go to Rally GB which is an event where the Subaru-Pirelli package has historically been dominant. Our motivation is very high to maintain that run of success on the team's home event.
Today Stephane and I agreed not to fight for this position, as he had deserved this place. It was very unfortunate that his driveshaft problem then cost him the place giving me the extra point. On the whole, today was better for me as the stages were narrow and twistier and suited the car and me. We kept pushing, always trying a few things and kept learning more. We now have lots of work to do before Rally GB, as we want to be able to push for a fourth win there!
I am very happy with my pace all weekend, although the result itself was not so great. Today it was a big shame to lose the driveshaft and with it another position. I now know that I can fight with the top guys and being in the same car as Petter am pleased that I have swapped and sometimes bettered his times. When I push I know I can be very fast. I am pleased with the car and it is so easy to drive which gives me the extra confidence to push and drive fast. I'm now looking forward to Corsica and Spain when we should be able to get a good result.
This has been one of my better rallies of the year, despite never having driven a tarmac rally before. I have been improving steadily all weekend and that is encouraging. I started the weekend nearly three seconds a kilometre behind the top drivers but by today that gap has been as little as 0.4 seconds a kilometre. I'm definitely happy with my progress and have met or exceeded all the targets we agreed before the weekend. There's a lot we can take away from here that will stand us in good stead for the tarmac rallies later in the year.
News From Pirelli
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director
"Today we have concentrated on gaining data, which will be useful for the two remaining asphalt rallies this year. All the Subaru drivers have put in a fantastic effort, but sadly it did not translate into a top result this time. For the future, however, we are confident that we will be able to offer a stronger challenge."