Rallye Deutschland: Subaru leg 2 summary

With his health and fighting spirit steadily returning to normal levels, 555 Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg put in a consistent performance at the wheel of his Subaru Impreza WRC 2003 today. Despite losing some time with suspension...

With his health and fighting spirit steadily returning to normal levels, 555 Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg put in a consistent performance at the wheel of his Subaru Impreza WRC 2003 today. Despite losing some time with suspension damage after a jump on SS11, he remains in the top ten and will start tomorrow's final leg well poised to strike for another points finish.

Stage Reports

SS8 0828hrs Bosenberg 1 (17.02km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 9:16.8

After admitting that he'd struggled to find a steady rhythm on Leg One, Marcus Gronholm was back on the attack this morning and charged through the damp Saarland test to take his first stage win of the event. Finishing almost four seconds faster than the rest of the field, the Finn pulled out a 14.6 second gap over third-placed Sebastien Loeb, and moved to within a second of Richard Burns' overall lead. Ford team-mates Francois Duval and Markko Martin were second and third fastest, while a surprise performance from Roman Kresta, contesting in a Bozian prepared Peugeot 206, saw the Czech driver finish fourth fastest. Feeling in better health, Subaru driver Petter Solberg posted the sixth fastest time. With intermittent rain making tyre choice a critical factor on the stage's slippery surface, Colin McRae, running on slicks, struggled to find the necessary grip in his Citroen Xsara and managed only fifteenth fastest.

SS9 0921hrs Peterberg 1 (10.55km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 6:09.5

As the early morning rain ceased and the smooth asphalt surface of the Peterberg test began to dry, Markko Martin was fastest to take his third win of the event. Working to claw back time lost with a hydraulic problem yesterday, the Estonian finished 3.1 seconds clear of the rest of the field but, with the top eight all finishing within ten seconds of one another, he remained tenth overall. Sebastien Loeb was second fastest and Gronholm third. The result was enough for the Finn to snatch the overall lead from team-mate Burns and end the test with a 3.2 second advantage. Meanwhile, things were getting better for Petter, and he finished fourth fastest. After the stage, crews returned to Bostalsee for the scheduled service.

SS10 1054hrs Erzweiler 1 (19.98km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 11:45.6

Presenting crews with a range of conditions similar to those of the demanding Panzerplatte (SS11), Erzweiler is one of the roughest asphalt stages in the Championship. Dusty, dirty and littered with gravel, the 19.98kms were a marked contrast to the smooth opening stages of Saarland. There were no leading retirements on the stage, but Citroen driver Philippe Bulgalski dropped two minutes when a turbo pipe came loose on his Xsara and he later withdrew on the road section to SS11. Markko Martin was fastest to take a second consecutive stage win and move back into the points to eighth position overall. McRae was second and Loeb third. After the finish crews travelled the short 3.43 km road section to the start of the SS11.

SS11 1125hrs Panzerplatte - West 1 (34.02km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 19:31.9

The changeable weather of the region certainly made its mark on the first run through the long Panzerplatte stage. Markko Martin was amongst the crews lucky enough to complete the test before a torrential rain-shower slowed drivers further down the order. Finishing fifteen seconds faster than the rest of the field, Martin moved to fifth overall, while Burns, running fifteenth on the road, managed only eleventh fastest. Caught in the downpour and after taking a wrong turn at a junction and sliding wide on a corner, the Brit's time was 48.1 seconds slower than Martin's. There were problems too for Petter Solberg, when the right-rear suspension of his Subaru was damaged on landing after a jump 12km from the start line. Petter and co-driver Phil Mills stopped to inspect the damage, but although the trailing link was broken, they were able to carry on and complete the stage, albeit at a reduced speed. The delay cost the Norwegian driver approximately 60 seconds but he remained in 10th position overall. After the finish, crews made the 28.68km journey back to Bostalsee for the third service of the day.

SS12 1353hrs Erzweiler 2 (19.88km)
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 11:40.6

Recording an average speed of 102.66kph, Citroen's Sebastien Loeb shaved five seconds off Martin's previous winning Erzweiler time to take the stage win. Martin was second fastest and Gronholm third. At the finish there was no change to the overall top five and crews moved directly to SS13.

SS13 1424hrs Panzerplatte - West 2 (34.02km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 19:01.6

With no sign of the rain that shook the overall standings on the first run through Panzerplatte, Martin set another fastest time to notch up his sixth of the event and move within striking distance of Colin McRae's overall fourth position. With McRae finishing third fastest, and similarly closing in on Burns in overall third, at the finish just 1.7 seconds separated the trio. But, 'Man of the Test' was Citroen's Sebastien Loeb. Completing the notoriously tricky stage second quickest, the Frenchman dislodged Gronholm in the overall standings to become the new rally leader. No such luck for Toni Gardemeister and the Skoda team. After collecting damage to his Skoda's right-rear suspension top mount and drive shaft, the Finn was forced to retire, bringing the Fabia's debut to a premature end. Ford's Duval also dropped over a half a minute when he suffered a spin and stalled the engine of his Focus. He remained sixth overall.

SS14 1627hrs Peterberg 2 (10.55km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 6:25.4

As intermittent showers continued to fall over northern Germany, Gronholm and Loeb continued to tussle for the overall lead, and this time it was Gronholm's turn to clinch the stage win. Repeating his earlier Peterberg performance, the Finn completed the short, smooth test 0.3 seconds faster then Loeb, but it wasn't enough to snatch back the top spot and he remained in second overall. Panizzi was third, with Colin McRae fourth, a result which moved the Scot up to third overall. Despite the rain and mud making the conditions slippery for the cars running further down the order, there were no retirements among the leading WRC crews, although a double stall on the start line cost Duval more than twenty seconds and overall sixth place.

SS15 1715hrs Bosenberg 2 (17.15km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 8:56.5

As the weather conditions continued to fluctuate, tyre choice remained a critical factor. Ford's gamble to run their drivers on slicks on the penultimate group of stages paid off. Clinching the fastest and second fastest time respectively Ford duo, Martin and Duval finished 5.1 seconds clear of the rest of the field, and moved up to take third and sixth in the overall standings. Loeb was third fastest to extend his overall lead to 7.3 seconds, while Kresta was fourth. After the finish, crews drove directly to SS16, to contest the final stage of the day.

SS16 1751hrs Super Special Stage St.Wendel 2 (6.24km)
Fastest time: Kresta (Peugeot) 3:38.0

As the rain continued to fall, Sebastian Loeb held his nerve through the spectator-pleasing Super Special Stage of St. Wendel, and posted the tenth fastest time to maintain the overnight lead. Gronholm was seventh to maintain overall second and Martin was sixth fastest to remain in third. Solberg was fourth fastest.

Team Quotes

David Lapworth, 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal:

"Our strategy for Petter today was to keep pushing, but without taking too many risks, so that we were in a good position to capitalise on any incidents up ahead and well placed ahead of the final six stages tomorrow. Things have gone pretty much according to plan, Petter put in a well-judged drive and we're happy with the tyre choices we made. Weather wise, it was a shame that we didn't get the lucky breaks that we might have, but if the current wet conditions continue, then I think there's every chance of a good points finish tomorrow."

Petter Solberg:

"Physically I'm feeling a lot better now than I did yesterday, I'm definitely coming back to normal. In the car, it's been a tough day, the team and I were hoping that there would be some more rain, as we know the car and the tyres work very well in these conditions, but even though some parts have been wet, it wasn't really enough to make much difference. Still I'm trying my best, the car is very strong and I'll carry on pushing tomorrow."

News from Pirelli

Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager:

"Today Petter used the Pirelli PZero RX Rally tyre for the morning and early afternoon stages, using all of the available compounds due to the changing conditions, which started cold and gradually grew warmer. Later this afternoon, Peter selected the Pirelli PZero RE rain tyre, again to combat the changing weather conditions. We have been happy with both the performance of the tyre and tyre choice, taking into account the difficult weather conditions that have prevailed."

Technical Talk - Painting the Town Blue!

The iconic blue and yellow colour scheme of the team's Subaru Imprezas, used since its debut in Finland 1993, is perhaps one the most recognisable in modern day motorsport. We spoke to Standox, paint suppliers to the Subaru World Rally Team, to find out more about the painting process:

The team's rally cars are painted using complete Standox paint system, which includes primers, fillers, colour coats and high-gloss clear lacquers. The pearlescent blue of the Subaru rally cars, unique to the 555 Subaru team, is developed and manufactured in one of the world's most advanced production facilities in Wuppertal, Germany

The bare metal body shell is sprayed with an etch primer and filler coat before the outside is painted with the colour coat and finished with a high-gloss clear lacquer. The colour coat is applied sparingly on the inside, and no lacquer is used in order to keep the weight down to a minimum. The inside of the roof is painted white to minimise heat absorption, and lacquer is applied to the engine bay to help keep it clean. From start to finish it can take up to three people one week to paint the Impreza, while the road car requires two days of work.

Weight is an important consideration on the WRC car. The primer, base-coat and lacquer used on each Subaru Impreza WRC2003 adds approximately 10kgs to the overall weight. After each event, the shells are stripped before being repainted to ensure there's no paint build-up and consequent weight disadvantage

The paint materials used for the Subaru Impreza WRC are lightweight. The 18 litres of materials used per car, weighs just under 10kg, while in contrast the 5 litres of paint used for the road car, weighs 5kg. More paint is required for the rally car as it's applied to both the exterior and interior, there's no metal exposed on the inside of the road car so less paint is required

Presentation has always been of paramount important to the 555 Subaru team. Their cars were the first to use a custom-metallic paint in 1997 and over the years, the team has constantly amended the colour to ensure that the cars continue to look good on film. There have been several slight colour changes, notably the change to metallic in 1997, and a new blue for 2001 when the four-door car was launched. The yellow graphics were changed to fluorescent yellow in 1997, as it appeared far more striking on television

Tomorrow's Leg

The third and final leg of Rally Deutschland starts tomorrow at 0500hrs, when the remaining cars will leave Trier parc ferme to make the 61km journey to the Bostalsee service park. Crews will then travel north and east of Bostalsee to contest final six stages (a loop of three repeated), and a total of 101.54 competitive kilometres. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp in Trier at 1550hrs.

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team