Rallye Deutschland: Subaru leg one summary

555 Subaru World Rally Team Summary Although Petter Solberg's Subaru Impreza WRC 2003 ran without fault throughout the opening Leg, the man himself was not feeling 100 per cent. Battling with flu like symptoms the Norwegian concentrated on ...

555 Subaru World Rally Team Summary

Although Petter Solberg's Subaru Impreza WRC 2003 ran without fault throughout the opening Leg, the man himself was not feeling 100 per cent. Battling with flu like symptoms the Norwegian concentrated on maintaining a steady rhythm and after a credible performance, ended the day within the top ten. His 555 Subaru team-mate Tommi Makinen retired after SS6 with an alternator related problem. He had been lying in the top ten overall.

Stage Reports

SS1 1009hrs Stein und Wein Fell/Ruwertal 1 (17.21km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 9:37.5

Current Championship leader Richard Burns charged through the narrow Stein und Wein Fell and took full advantage of his leading road position to clinch the stage win. He completed the Mosel vineyard test 0.9 seconds faster than Ford's Markko Martin, despite complaining of insufficient grip due to a poor tyre choice. Colin McRae was third quickest, finishing 1.4 seconds ahead of his team mate Sebastien Loeb. The stage's tight hairpins, square junctions and long, quick straights brought no problems for the leading WRC drivers. One of the more surprising performances came from French youngster Cedric Robert who finished eighth fastest, ahead of the more experienced asphalt ace Peugeot driver Gilles Panizzi. After SS1, cars completed the 19.48km road section to the start of SS2.

SS2 1052hrs Dhrontal 1 (12.81km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 8:08.1

No leading retirements on the second stage run in the wine producing Mosel region, but Subaru's Petter Solberg dropped ten seconds when he overshot a junction mid test and had to reverse to take the correct turn. His team-mate Tommi Makinen was ninth fastest after a stall at the start cost him four seconds. Like the other drivers further down the order, he had to contend with gravel and dirt flicked onto the road by the cars ahead. Burns again took the stage win, with the Citroens of McRae and Loeb second and third. Markko Martin, Francois Duval and Marcus Gronholm took the next three positions, separated by less than a second. Competing in the all-new Skoda Fabia WRC, which was making its debut at the event, Didier Auriol finished twelfth fastest, ahead of the Hyundai's of Freddy Loix and local favourite Armin Schwarz. After the finish, crews returned to Bostalsee for the second service of the day.

SS3 1310hrs Maiwald (15.61km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 9:01.4

With no sign of last year's heavy rain, which made conditions treacherous through the 15km Maiwald test, the first visit of 2003 to the military training region of Baumholder was trouble free for most of the leading crews. Contesting an asphalt event for the first time in the new Ford Focus, Markko Martin was fastest, with Burns second and his team-mate Panizzi, who had picked up the pace after a slow start, third. Both Sainz and McRae overshot junctions and were eleventh and fourteenth respectively. The test took crews through a very fast downhill fast section, before moving onto the rough training concrete tracks of Baumholder, which were littered with stones and flanked by large roadside boulders, normally used to keep military tanks on the road. At the finish, Martin's charge had moved him up to second position overall, 1.7 seconds behind Burns who was leading the event.

SS4 1335hrs Panzerplatte-Ost (35.22km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 20:34.7

The longest stage of the event, the 35km Panzerplatte Ost is renowned for its numerous surface changes, massive kerb stones (known as Hinkelstine), and abrasive nature (see team talk below). But the conditions proved no problem for Markko Martin, and the Estonian finished 9.5 seconds faster than the rest of the field to become the new event leader and open up a 12.3 second advantage at the top of the leaderboard. No such luck for team-mate Duval. Having been third overall, the Frenchman spun near the finish, lost over half a minute and tumbled down to eighth. Last year's winner Sebastien Loeb was second fastest, with Gronholm taking third. Tommi Makinen was ninth quickest, despite encountering a gear selection problem for the last 15km, while Hyundai's Schwarz lost about 30 seconds due to a broken turbo. He finished fifteenth.

SS5 1621hrs Stein und Wein Fell/Ruwertal 2 (17.21km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 9:37.8

Following his impressive pace on the previous two stages, there was disaster for Ford's Markko Martin on the repeat of the 17km Stein und Wein Fell. Unable to use his Focus' top two gears due to a hydraulic problem, the Estonian lost more than 50 seconds and the overall lead. Tumbling to sixth position overall, and with another stage to run before the next scheduled service, he was likely to drop further time before the problem could be rectified. Martin's loss was Burns' gain. Taking the stage win, the Peugeot driver near matched his previous Stein und Wein Fell time to move back into the top spot, ahead of Loeb and Gronholm who were second and third fastest respectively.

SS6 1704hrs Dhrontal 2 (12.81km)
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 8:00.7

Still hampered by a hydraulic problem, and having switched to the manual gear change system for the final test before service, Martin dropped a further 40 seconds through the short 12km test, and another four places overall. He also picked up a 10 second penalty for arriving late to the time control. There were problems too for Subaru's Tommi Makinen after the combined alternator and power steering belt on his car was damaged near the end of SS5. The Finn stopped on the road section to SS6 to investigate the situation and, after consulting the team over the telephone, elected to continue with no belt for the stage and the drive back to service. This delay meant Makinen arrived at SS6 two minutes late and collected a 20 second penalty. Makinen completed the stage with no drive to the power steering or alternator, but even though the power in the car's battery continued to drop, it looked like the car would reach the service area. But in a cruel twist of fate, just 1500 metres from the service park, Makinen's car was caught in heavy traffic and the engine stopped -- almost within sight of the time control Makinen was forced to retire. Loeb clinched the stage win, finishing 0.4 seconds ahead of second fastest Marcus Gronholm. McRae was third and Burns fourth.

SS7 2005hrs Super Special Stage St.Wendel 1 (6.24km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 3:24.7

The first run of the event around the 6.24km Super Special Stage contested through the streets of St. Wendel provided Gronholm with the chance to snatch overall second from Loeb and, completing the test two seconds faster than the Frenchman, he did just that. The stage winner was Burns, closely followed by Gronholm in second with Panizzi in third. Loeb was seventh. Didier Auriol's new Skoda Fabia debut came to an end when it was struck by engine failure mid-test and retired.

Team Quotes

David Lapworth, 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal: "It's disappointing to lose Tommi just as he was beginning to find a rhythm, and was well placed for tomorrow. We planned to start cautiously and it's a shame Tommi never really had the chance to push and see what he could do. It seems that the alternator belt damage may well have been caused by stones on the road, and he was very unlucky not to reach service. It's been a tough day for Petter. He's clearly been suffering with his illness and has not been his usual cheerful self. But he's still battling on and has the prospect of a good result. Lets hope he feels better tomorrow."

Petter Solberg: "It's been a hard day. It's been the most difficult day in a rally car that I've had for a long time. I'm not sure what's wrong, but I feel bad and have no energy. The car has been okay, we've had no problems at all with that. We made a couple of mistakes on the junctions, but that was just down to me. Unfortunately, there's not so much more to say about it. I'm going to try and get a good night's sleep and hope that I feel better tomorrow."

Tommi Makinen: "It's a great pity. We thought we could carry on to service okay, but in the end we were stuck in the traffic and just couldn't go anywhere. It's a shame because the car was going well. It's an improvement to drive on tarmac, and the new suspension is working much better. We've learnt some more positive things here, which I'm sure will help with the next three tarmac events."

News from Pirelli

Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager: "Choosing from the full range of Pirelli PZero Rally tyres, both drivers selected to use the PZero RS tyre for the Baumholder stages (SS3 and SS4) and the PZero RX tyre for the all the remaining stages. Both drivers were happy with the performance of their tyres, and if the rain that is predicted for tomorrow comes, then we're confident of a continuing good performance."

Team Talk -- The Problems of Panzerplatte--

Renowned as one of the most difficult stages of the event, the mammoth 35.42km Panzerplatte Ost, used as SS4, is challenge for both driver and co-driver alike. We spoke to Petter Solberg's 's co-driver Phil Mills to find out what just what makes it so tricky--

"Panzerplatte Ost includes 91 junctions -- all in one stage! That makes it the trickiest of the event by a long way. Its surface is also covered in gravel and dust, making it very slippery and very, very tricky from a driver's point of view. If you get slightly off line, you kick up clouds of dust, dirt and gravel, which you then have to contend with -- and that's exactly what happened to us last year on SS11. We went just slightly off line on one of the Baumholder stages, quite literally three feet, and paid the price. If you leave the driving line on these stages then there's nowhere to go -- you've got these great concrete blocks flanking the stage, in addition to drainage ditches, which together make it pretty horrendous. While the big stones wouldn't damage the tanks that normally use the tracks for training, when it comes to the rally car, they can certainly do a lot of damage!

"It's also a difficult stage for the co-driver -- I've made 47 pages of pace notes for this one test. It's got the most surface changes of any in the entire WRC, including concrete, tarmac, old asphalt, new asphalt, broken concrete, mud, grass, cobblestones -- you name it Panzerplatte Ost has got it. I think the only thing missing is a water splash! It's not the driver's favourite stage of the world championship, but it's certainly one of the most challenging."

Tomorrow's Leg

Leg two, the longest of the event, starts tomorrow from Trier parc ferme. The first car will leave at 0630hrs for the Bostalsee Service Park, before travelling a further 22km southwest for the first stage of the day. Competitors will contest eight stages (four repeated) before a revisiting the St. Wendel Super Special that evening, making a total of 169.38 competitive kilometres. The first stage is due to start at 0828hrs.


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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team