Leg 2 of the 44th Sanremo Rally began at 0600hrs this morning when the remaining 43 competitors left the famous Riveria resort of Sanremo to tackle a further six stages in the Ligurian hills to the north of the town. Comprising 150.57...
Leg 2 of the 44th Sanremo Rally began at 0600hrs this morning when the remaining 43 competitors left the famous Riveria resort of Sanremo to tackle a further six stages in the Ligurian hills to the north of the town.
Comprising 150.57 competitive kms, Leg 2 revisited routes used on the previous day and presented crews with a mixture of narrow and twisty asphalt tests. While weather conditions remained generally dry, there were occasional light showers and damp patches of tarmac under the trees which made tyre choices difficult but absolutely vital. In the afternoon there was more low cloud and with clouds looming overhead, a tricky decision about which tyres to choose for the marathon 42km SS14.
The second day saw only a handful of retirements and last year's winner, Peugeot's Gilles Panizzi, maintained the lead throughout the day. Team-mate Marcus Gronholm holds overnight second, lying 22.1 seconds behind.
However, the star of the day was undoubtedly 555 Subaru driver Petter Solberg. The gutsy Norwegian put in a sensational tactical performance and clawed his way up through the leaderboard to finish the Leg in third place, 21.1 seconds ahead of closest rival Richard Burns. He also holds tonight's honour of being the only non-French team driver to achieve a stage win, after clinching the final two of the day. However, in a day of mixed fortunes for the 555 Subaru Team, team-mate Achim Mörtl was lucky to escape injury after his car left the road at speed in SS10 and crashed into retirement.
SS9 0825hrs S. Romolo 1 (10.69km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 6:45.6
The French teams continued to dominate from the outset today and took the top four places on the first sprint through the S. Romolo stage, a reverse run of yesterday's SS8. However, this time it was Marcus Gronholm who was quickest, finishing nearly four seconds ahead of second placed Richard Burns and breaking team-mate Gilles Panizzi's successive run of wins. The flying Frenchman was relegated to fourth, 0.1 seconds behind Bulgalski. A good start to the day for 555 Subaru driver Petter Solberg. Following yesterday's strong performance, the Norwegian began his assault on overall sixth and fifth place, held by Jesus Puras and Markko Martin respectively, and finished the stage fifth quickest, one second ahead of the Puras' Citroen Xsara. Achim Mörtl was eleventh and moved up to thirteenth place overall. A bad start for Mitsubishi, the team decided to withdraw Alister McRae from the Rally due to an injury that he sustained during training prior to the event.
SS10 0918hrs Colle Langan 1 (42.31km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) and Panizzi (Peugeot) 28:52.8
The first run through the marathon Colle Langan stage brought the day's first casualty when Phillippe Bulgalski, who had been lying in overall second place, careered off the road. His incident slowed the current leader, Panizzi, who stopped to wait while the road was cleared. Panizzi was later issued an equal time to Gronholm, who was quickest, and maintained his overall lead. Another excellent run for Solberg who finished third to snatch fifth in the overall standings. At the end of the stage he lay just 2.8 seconds behind Markko Martin. No such fortune for team-mate Mörtl however. The Austrian slid wide about 35km into the stage and knocked the left-rear wheel out of alignment. He continued, but when braking after a sixth gear straight the car spun, left the road and crashed backwards into a concrete bridge-support. The car was later retired and Achim, who hit his head in the collision, was taken to hospital for a precautionary scan. He was later reported to be fit and well.
SS11 1209hrs Cosio 2 (19.19km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 12:11.4
As the weather clouded over above SS11, Subaru's Petter Solberg continued to shine and charged through the 19km test to finish third quickest, ahead of rivals Martin, Puras and Burns. His impressive sprint edged him even closer to fourth placed Martin and third placed Burns in the overall standings and, with just 8.4 seconds separating the three ex-team mates at the end of the test, the Norwegian had moved well within striking distance of a potential podium position. Peugeot's Gronholm was quickest through the stage notching up his third stage win of the Leg. However, he made up only a second on Panizzi, who was second fastest, and at the end of the test the Finn continued to trail his team-mate by 33.4 seconds overall.
SS12 1255hrs San Bartolomeo 2 (25.38km)
Fastest time: Panizzi (Peugeot) 15:03.3
As the battle for third continued to rage, Petter Solberg set another blazing pace on SS12 and finished third quickest. It was enough to move him up to fourth place overall, dislodging Martin to fifth, and at the end of the stage he lay 9.5 seconds ahead of the young Estonian, who finished back in seventh. In response to the pressure being applied by Solberg, Burns, in third overall, upped his pace and finished the test second fastest. Panizzi was quickest and extended his lead over Gronholm, who was fourth, to more than 40 seconds.
SS13 1551hrs S. Romolo 2 (10.69km)
Fastest time: Solberg (Subaru) 7:03.1
A stunning stage by 555 driver Petter Solberg saw the young Norwegian complete the S. Romolo test nearly 2 seconds faster than the rest of the field - and achieve the first stage win of the rally by a non-French team driver. The result moved him to within striking distance of overall third place, positioning him just 1.4 seconds behind Richard Burns on the overall leaderboard. Gronholm was second fastest, with Ford's Markko Martin in third. Burns, no doubt feeling the pressure, was sixth fastest, just behind his team-mate Panizzi who maintained a healthy overall lead, despite finishing fifth. A better stage for Ford's Colin McRae. The Scot has finished fourth quickest, his best performance of the event so far.
SS14 1644hrs Colle Langan 2 (42.31km)
Fastest time: Solberg (Subaru) 28:59.9
Solberg continued to set the pace on the final and longest stage of the day and stormed through to clinch his second stage win and third position overall. Finishing more than 13 seconds ahead of second placed Markko Martin, Solberg's time catapulted him in front of Burns in the overall standings and placed him just 37.6 seconds behind Gronholm. Despite finishing just ninth fastest, Panizzi maintained overall lead yet Gronholm, who was fourth fastest, clawed back more than fourteen seconds on his team-mate and reduced the overall gap between them to 22.1 seconds. A bad stage for Skoda's Toni Gardemeister and Hyundai's Freddy Loix when the twisty stage claimed it's second victims of the day. Loix, who was eighth, hit a wall and retired while Loix hit a rock and collected right rear wheel damage 15km before the end. He limped to the finish but dropped more than 23 minutes.
Starts from Sanremo parc ferme at 0600hrs when crews will again travel north to the Ligurian hills to contest the final four stages, comprising 88 competitive kms. The Leg uses two stages, which are both run twice. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp back in Sanremo at 1500hrs.