The titanic battle for victory between Petter Solberg (Subaru) and Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) ended on the second stage. Gronholm rolled into retirement and Solberg cruised home to win by 2min 11.1sec. Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) was on course for...
The titanic battle for victory between Petter Solberg (Subaru) and Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) ended on the second stage. Gronholm rolled into retirement and Solberg cruised home to win by 2min 11.1sec. Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) was on course for second despite engine problems which forced the French team to detune it before today's action began. He drove slowly to protect the engine, regularly topping it up with water, but it eventually stopped after stage 18. Markko Martin (Peugeot) therefore took second ahead of Ford's Toni Gardemeister who now leads the championship. Teamate Henning Solberg brought his Focus home 5th. Harri Rovanpera (Mitsubishi) split the Ford duo in fourth, despite losing fifth gear on the penultimate test, while Daniel Carlsson recovered from Friday's problem to round off the top six. Chris Atkinson's (Subaru) hopes of a top 10 finish on his debut ended when he went off the road three stages from the end for more than 12 minutes. He finished 19th. Janne Tuohino (Skoda) was on course for eighth but went off on the penultimate test. He started the final stage on just three wheels but lost all oil pressure midway through and retired. The other two Fabia drivers rounded out the top 10.
Having had a difficult day on Saturday, the Citroen team had to cope today with the retirement of Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena just two stages from the end of the Swedish Rally due to engine problems. The second Xsara of Francois Duval and Stephane Prevot was the first to run on newly-fallen snow on Sunday morning but thanks to their tenacity the Citroen team left Sweden with one point in the Manufacturers' Championship.
Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "It is very frustrating, when you are in a good position with just two stages to go and you can't do anything. We did our best. Now we have to overcome this setback."
Francois Duval / Stephane Prevot: (Commenting on the three punctures he endured throughout the rally) "We were obliged to go in the inside of the corners as the other cars did so but we did not have the tyres nor the wheel rims to deal with the lack of snow."
Petter Solberg claimed victory on the Swedish Rally to take his first WRC win of the year, his first in Sweden and the eleventh of his career. Locked in a thrilling battle with Marcus Gronholm until the final stages, the Norwegian and co-driver Phil Mills took six stage wins and won the event by a margin of 2 minutes 11.1 seconds. Claiming ten points in the Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championships, the result marked Subaru's 45th WRC victory, the 44th with the Impreza, and was a perfect climax for the WRC2004 model, which will be replaced for the next event in Mexico.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "It's a great feeling, like a big dream, I almost can't believe it's true. This rally is so special but has been tough for me in the past, and now this year it's just gone perfectly. We made no mistakes all rally - not in the car, or in the team, or anywhere - it just all came into place so well. There are so many people to thank, everyone from Phil Mills, to the guys who work on my car, to Pirelli who have built such an incredible tyre, and the supporters out on the stages who cheered us along. Thanks so much to all of you!"
Stephane Sazzazin/Denis Gairaudet: "I'm quite happy with the way this rally has gone, especially today as we changed some of the set-up and it was much, much better. It was almost like a different rally to me. The car was much easier to drive and gave me more confidence so I could get a better driving rhythm. There's still a long way to go, but I'm encouraged. I'm very happy for Petter too - it's a great result for him and the whole team."
Chris Atkinson/Glen Macneall: "Today I picked up the pace a little bit, drove a bit harder, and on SS18 I found the limit, but it's all good experience and there's no better way to learn than that. Overall I'm very pleased with what Glenn and I have achieved here in Sweden. It would have been disappointing if we had driven slowly and didn't go off and learn anything, so instead we had a fair bit of a go and obviously made some mistakes. Of course the overall result could have been an awful a lot better, but the goal for us was to come here to learn and we've certainly done that. Petter has had an awesome weekend and I'm very happy for him and the team. He's proved how quick the car can be here and I look forward to doing that myself in the future. I'm concentrating on Mexico now. After some more time in the car I don't think we'll be too far off the pace."
BP-Ford World Rally Team leads both the drivers' and manufacturers' standings in the FIA World Rally Championship after claiming a podium finish on the Swedish Rally today. Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen finished third in a Ford Focus RS World Rally Car to head the drivers' series by a point after two of the 16 rounds. Fifth place for Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud in an M-Sport run Focus RS enabled Ford to take a three point advantage in the manufacturers' table.
Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "To be leading both world championships is a superb situation for both myself and Ford. I've never been in this position before. My pace wasn't so good on the first day but I've felt much more comfortable since and gained a lot more confidence in the car. I took no risks but just kept to a speed with which I felt happy. The last two stages were comfortable. The team sent us split times for Rovanpera and I was able to moderate my speed accordingly to ensure he didn't get too close. We had some luck with the retirement of drivers ahead of us, but the Focus is a strong car and while others had problems, we didn't."
Roman Kresta/Jan Tomanek: "This is a great result for me. I'm especially pleased because there were many good drivers here with more experience than me. Yesterday was difficult because I made a few mistakes and my times weren't so good, but today my performances have been better. Some of my times were quite close to Toni which is good. I would prefer this rally to be a few days longer because I have really enjoyed it and learned so much."
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "The final results just show that it doesn't matter how fast you are, you get nothing if you don't reach the finish. I did the best that I could and although I'm not used to the kind of weather conditions that we've had today, I've had great fun. Yesterday morning wasn't so good for me when I hit a stone and damaged a wheel, but we recovered from that and a points finish is always a good outcome."
Although the weather forecast was for snow storms on the final leg of the Rally Sweden, a storm of a different sort was taking place on the icy stages. Peugeot driver Marcus Gronholm started the day just behind Subaru's Petter Solberg, but while he kept pace with the rally leader on the opening stage this morning, the Finn rolled his 307 WRC into retirement on the following test. It was a sad end to what had been a fantastic battle between the two Scandinavian drivers, with Marcus demonstrating an electric pace over the opening two days of the event. Markko Martin finished a well-deserved runner-up in Sweden on only his second rally for Peugeot, after refining the set-up of his 307 WRC and learning more about his new car and Pirelli tyres. His result moves Peugeot up to second in the manufacturers' championship.
Markko Martin/Michael Park: "I am a little surprised to finish second here! It was an action-packed rally with nothing decided right until the very end. I learnt a lot about the set-up of my car and about the new Pirelli tyres. I was very pleased by their performance - they were very fast and retained the studs extremely well despite the difficult and gravely road conditions. I'm really looking forward to the Rally Mexico next month now, which is an event I won last year."
Daniel Carlsson/Mattias Andersson: "The first stage today was new to the rally, and the conditions were very different to those I had seen during the recce. My notes could have been better, but I was still able to attack with confidence thanks to some new differential settings that worked very well. My two fastest times gave me a lot of pleasure but I really regret the incident on the opening day, which cost me a lot of time and meant that I was running first on the road on Saturday. Under the circumstances sixth is an excellent result but we could have achieved even more."
Jani Paasonen and Mattias Ekstrom finished in 9th and 10th places respectively on the Swedish Rally. During the final day Mattias climbed six places to claim his first WRC points for the Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team but Janne Tuohino went off near the end of the penultimate stage when chasing eighth place. Despite running on only three wheels he attempted to complete the final stage but when he lost oil pressure with 7kms to go he had no choice but to retire. The World Rally Championship now heads for two consecutive long haul events, starting with Rally Mexico on March 11-13 where the team hopes to debut the newly homologated second evolution of the Fabia WRC.
Janne Tuohino/Mikko Markkula: "Overall I was happy with my performance until I made a mistake near the end of SS19. I suffered badly on the gravel yesterday afternoon but I thought that I could have still finished in the points. In the end we had to stop and that is a disappointing result for me."
Mattias Ekstrom/Stefan Bergman: "I have really enjoyed this experience but I was quite frustrated last night about the power steering problem. If you take away the time it cost me I think that I could have finished on the podium and that would have been an incredible result for both myself and the Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team. Now I must concentrate on defending my DTM title with Audi Sport but maybe one day I will be able to drive the Fabia WRC again."
Jani Paasonen/Janni Vainikka: "This was a really difficult rally for anyone running near the front of the field but I am fairly happy with some of the times I was able to set. Now I am looking forward to Mexico."
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team scored points with both its nominated Lancer WRC05s in the Swedish Rally, the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen exceed their result in Monte-Carlo by finishing fourth, rounding the event off with a fastest stage time in only their second event with Mitsubishi. Team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore not only scored points in only their fifth event in a world rally car, but proved to be the revelation of the rally by setting a hot pace and one fastest stage time in one of the series' most specialized events. The finished a fine 7th, equaling their best world rally result (Catalunya 2004).
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: "In the end it was a good weekend for Risto and I. During the first day and a half I never thought a result like this was possible, but now the feeling is good and my confidence with the car is much better. Next week we will be gravel testing and I am looking forward to going to Mexico."
Gigi Galli/Guido D'Amore: "This is only my fifth event in a world rally car, so I am very happy to finish in the top ten. The small technical problems yesterday took me away from a potential podium position, but I don't feel so bad about that because I think we made a good performance anyway. I always try to do my best and that is what matters at the moment."