On a drama-filled day in Sanremo, 555 Subaru World Rally Team driver Tommi MÃ¤kinen put in a consistent and reliable performance at the wheel of his Impreza WRC2003 to improve on his overnight position, finish in the top-10 and collect ...
On a drama-filled day in Sanremo, 555 Subaru World Rally Team driver Tommi Mäkinen put in a consistent and reliable performance at the wheel of his Impreza WRC2003 to improve on his overnight position, finish in the top-10 and collect Manufacturers' Championship points for Subaru. Although Mäkinen and the team were disappointed not to be fighting for the lead of the rally, different tyre and set-up options were evaluated on the day's 96 stage kilometres with the aim of improved competitiveness on the next event in Corsica.
0912hrs Vignai 1 (26.54km)
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 18:00.7
With a comfortable overnight lead of 43 seconds, and just four stages remaining, Sebastien Loeb showed no sign of easing off his pace just yet. In bright conditions, he and co-driver Daniel Elena were fastest through the 26km Vignai stage, with Markko Martin second, and Francois Duval third. With the exception of Duval, who produced a quick time to close the gap on Panizzi by four seconds, the top-10 times through the stage pretty much reflected the top ten-10 positions overall and there were no changes to the leaderboard.
0954hrs Colle d'Oggia 1 (21.52km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 13:58.7
The second of the group of two stages saw another win from Markko Martin. But although he was quickest by more than five seconds, another decent time from Loeb meant it made no significant impact on the Frenchman's overall lead. Duval's attack on Panizzi's fifth place continued, but this time he was only able to take two seconds from the Peugeot driver's advantage. Ahead of the final 48km, Panizzi's lead over Duval stood at 17.8 seconds. Making the most of the opportunity to experiment with tyre and car set-ups ahead of the next round in Corsica, 555 Subaru driver Tommi Mäkinen maintained his 11th place overall. After the finish, crews headed back to Imperia for a 20-minute service halt before a repeat of both stages.
1228hrs Vignai 2 (26.54km)
Fastest time: Panizzi (Peugeot) 19:42.6
Just when it looked like most of the drivers in the top-10 were going to settle for their positions after SS12, the Italian mountain weather changed in an instant, the rain came down and suddenly nothing much looked certain at all. As the weather conditions had been fine at the time of the preceding service, almost all of the manufacturer teams sent their cars out for the final two stages on slick tyres. The only exceptions were Gilles Panizzi, the winner of this event for the last three years, who gambled on a wet weather tyre, and Marcus Gronholm who elected to use a cut-slick. With rain and hail falling at the start line Panizzi's choice proved to be absolutely correct and the Frenchman made the most of his advantage to win the stage by a margin of 20 seconds. Gronholm was next quickest, with the slick-shod chasing pack led by Loeb then Martin, a further eight seconds back. The win promoted Panizzi from fifth to fourth overall, ahead of Carlos Sainz, while Gronholm reduced the gap to second placed Markko Martin from 36 to 26 seconds.
1310hrs Colle d'Oggia 2 (21.52km)
Fastest time: Panizzi (Peugeot) 15:59.6
With torrential rain and hail falling on SS14 too, Panizzi pushed hard to make the most of his unique position. His winning stage time was 1 minute 16 seconds clear of the next WRC car and crucially 1 minute 28 seconds faster than that of Markko Martin, which meant he leapfrogged the Estonian into second place overall. Having set seven stage wins throughout the event, and jostled with Loeb for the lead on 12 of Sanremo's 14 stages, an unlucky Martin finished third overall. The only other driver with a tyre advantage was Panizzi's Peugeot team-mate Marcus Gronholm, but a mistake near the start cost him dearly and the Finn slid off the road and retired. Joint-second quickest WRC drivers on the stage were Loeb and Burns. This strong finish from Richard moved him ahead of Bugalski and Robert into seventh overall, while Loeb's hard-fought leading margin was just enough to clinch victory.
David Lapworth, 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal: "It's not been a good rally for us. We expected to be closer to the leading pack and the end result has been disappointing. That's not been Tommi's fault, he's done a good job on the stages and it got us a couple of Manufacturers' points, but clearly we have work to do. Hopefully Corsica will be a different story. We don't expect to have an answer to Markko and Sebastien by next weekend, but hopefully the conditions will be more favourable and the weather will be a significant factor. Looking to the positive side, we learned a lot from the first run out of our new suspension. We're happy with it in rally conditions and Petter is too."
Tommi Mäkinen: "That's been quite a finish! To have the whole event dry for two days and then the last two stages wet is quite a surprise. Unfortunately, the weather information came about 10 minutes after we left service and being on a hard compound tyre and dry weather set up with so much water on the road was very treacherous. On SS13 the road was completely white with hailstones. Okay we've managed to finish in the top-10 but we like to be at the top rather than the bottom. We haven't been able to find the best performance and in the dry and warm conditions we really are a bit too far away at the moment. But everything can change and hopefully Corsica can be better."
News from Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager: "Clearly the Sanremo rally has been disappointing for us. Like yesterday we've been working on a number of tyre options with the remaining two tarmac rallies in mind and we will continue to do so this week with the hope of an improved performance in future."
The Next Rally
The Tour de Corse, round twelve of the 2003 WRC, begins in a fortnight from the French Island of Corsica. Another classic asphalt rally, and the second of three such events in October, the Tour is renowned for its twisty stages and varying quality of road surface. The event starts from the town of Ajaccio on Friday 17th October.