WRC

Solberg glides on final day for Cyprus victory

Solberg glides on final day for Cyprus victory

Subaru's Petter Solberg gets his second World Rally Championship career victory on the Mediterranean island, Cyprus. Today's final leg consisted of six special stages over 82.86 kms, Solberg had the fastest time in all but the seventeenth ...

Subaru's Petter Solberg gets his second World Rally Championship career victory on the Mediterranean island, Cyprus. Today's final leg consisted of six special stages over 82.86 kms, Solberg had the fastest time in all but the seventeenth stage.

Petter Solberg and codriver Phil Mills celebrate victory.
Photo by Subaru World Rally Team.
"I enjoyed the whole rally. I love these tight, twisty types of rally stages," Solberg stated at the finish. "We were quickest from the start. My co-driver Phil (Mills) was really professional, as was everyone in the team here in Cyprus."

The Norwegian's first WRC victory was the final 2002 event in Great Britain. Today, he and co-driver, Phil Mills stayed ontop the leaderboard from the opening morning stage to build up the slight edge they held over the Peugeot team of Harri Rovanpera and co-driver Risto Pietilainen.

Mills commented, "This was a fantastic result. we were on a cruise towards the end once Harri (Rovanpera) hit trouble, we were surprised to be fastest on the final stage."

Solberg moves into fourth overall in the championship standings, just shy of Marcus Gronholm in third. Peugeot's Gronholm, the current world champion, retired on leg two.

"That was one of the most cool, calm and collected drives that I've ever seen," declared Subaru's David Lapworth. "We knew that Petter had the speed to be a winner but what we wanted him to do was to show that he could drive strategically."

Rovanpera gave Solberg breathing room on the sixteenth stage as the Finn finished a dismal seventh due to a driveshaft failure. This gave Solberg the overall lead with over a two minute cushion, allowing him to take the final two stages at a slower pace.

"The second round of stages today were the most difficult stages of my career," Rovanpera said. "But I held on just from Sebastien Loeb and second place was a great result."

Indeed he did, as the Citroen team took the top three fastest times for the 17th stage; Carlos Sainz bested teammates, Colin McRae and Sebastien Loeb.

Loeb gained on second-place Rovanpera, by the end of stage 71, the Frenchman was one minute in the arrears to the sole remaining Peugeot factory driver. Loeb had to still watch his back as teammate McRae was only 25 seconds behind him, followed by Sainz.

Petter Solberg.
Photo by WRC McKlein.
The final stage was set with only 17 of the original 51 starters were vying for the precious championship points, unless the Subaru broke, Solberg had the rally win locked up.

Solberg could have taken the final stage easy, however, the Norwegian set the fastest time and won the overall by slightly over four minutes. Rovanpera limped the Peugeot home in tenth for the stage but kept the second spot on the leaderboard edging Loeb by only 2.8 seconds.

The Spaniard Sainz was second fastest on stage 18, however was not able to gain on his two teammates. McRae was fourth fastest, giving the Scotsman the fourth place overall finish ahead of Sainz in fifth. Sainz moved to one point behind points leader Richard Burns in the championship standings. Burns retired his Peugeot during leg two yesterday.

The remaining Ford driver, Mikko Hirvonen who was left holding the blue oval after the early retirements of Markko Martin and Francois Duval, finished sixth overall giving him and Ford three points.

Hyundai's Armin Schwarz finished seventh giving the team valuable points and the first ones since the season's opening round at Monte Carlo.

The 341.05 km rally proved to be a downfall for many as the retirement numbers increased per day, 34 in total. Top championship contenders left without points including Burns, Gronholm, Martin, Duval, and Tommi Makinen.

For the privateer team, Alistair Ginley, the retirements opened the door. Finishing just ten minutes behind Schwarz, the team garnered the final point.

The teams have off a full month before Rallye Deutschland on July 23-27. Point leader Burns (37) will attempt to keep himself in that position as Sainz at 36 points will like to hold the top spot. Gronholm remains at 30 as he received no points in this weekend's rally. Solberg's victory at Cyprus puts him now fourth in the standings with 29 points. Loeb and McRae moved up to a tie for fifth (23), both are tied with Martin who also earned no points this rally.

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team