WRC

Swedish Rally: Leg two summary

Unnofficial Leg Two News There was a thrilling battle for the lead between leg one leader Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) and Petter Solberg (Subaru). The lead changed hands three times, the duo often separated by just a few tenths of a...

Unnofficial Leg Two News

There was a thrilling battle for the lead between leg one leader Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) and Petter Solberg (Subaru). The lead changed hands three times, the duo often separated by just a few tenths of a second, before blistering times on the final two tests earned Solberg a 12.6sec overnight advantage. Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) slid into a ditch on the opening stage and compounded a difficult morning by damaging the rear of his car after missing a braking point and then hitting a stone. However, he holds a comfortable third ahead of Markko Martin (Peugeot), the Estonian still lacking confidence and struggling to find a good feeling with his car. Gigi Galli (Mitsubishi) spun on stage 10 but worse followed on the penultimate test when a driveshaft broke. He lost 1min 40sec on the final two stages and after starting the day in fourth he ended it in eighth. Francois Duval (Citroen) climbed to fourth this morning but had to stop and change a front left puncture on stage 11 and lost more than four minutes, plunging to 15th. Mattias Ekstrom (Skoda) was in eighth until a power steering problem cost more than 3min 30sec and he is 16th. Toni Gardemeister moved up to 5th position after a better 2nd day behind the wheel of the Focus WRC.

Citroen

The second day of the Rally of Sweden was not easy for the World Champions. Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, who were third overnight, ended the day with engine cooling problems as the car was consuming more water than usual. Francois Duval and Stephane Prevot were an excellent fourth until they suffered from a puncture which forced them to change a wheel during one of the special stages and has damaged their hopes of success.

Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "In places it is a rally on gravel with stones sticking through and we just have to got through it. We don't have tyres for gravel."

Francois Duval / Stephane Prevot: "In the first special stage, I wasn't completely awake, I told myself that the important thing was to stay on the road and from the second stage onwards I was back in the rhythm which I have chosen from this event. The 'Lejen' stage is not good to us. Last year, we went off there. This year one of the many stones on the test ruined our chances. I never saw a Swedish Rally like this one: usually, you are sliding along."

Subaru

After a thrilling performance on Leg two of the Swedish Rally, Petter Solberg has moved into the lead of the event ahead of tomorrow's final six stages. Locked in a close battle with Marcus Gronholm and Sebastien Loeb throughout the Leg, Solberg posted three fastest stage times to move up from second place into the lead, 12.6 seconds ahead of second placed Marcus Gronholm. Continuing his remarkable WRC car debut, Subaru's Chris Atkinson moved five places up the leaderboard to end the day tenth overall, setting a fourth fastest time in the process. His team-mate Stephane Sarrazin, who was concentrating on gaining experience of the specialist conditions, ended the day in seventeenth.

Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "I'm very pleased to be leading tonight, it's been difficult on the stages - judging the amount of grip is tough when it changes on just about every corner! Pirelli and the guys in the team did a great job working out a tyre strategy for today, and I think this really helped on the last stages where I was able to extend the lead a little. We've had a good fight with the other guys, trading times through the stages, but now I'm in a good position and I'm going to do all I can tomorrow to win. Of course, there's still a long way to go and Marcus and Seb are tough competitors, but I have to admit it would be a dream result for me to win here in Sweden."

Stephane Sazzazin/Denis Gairaudet: "It's been a tough day in places, but I came here to learn and that's exactly what I'm doing. It's a bit disappointing that I haven't been able to push as hard as I'd have liked to, but with a spin early on, and the steering vibration later in the day, I haven't been able to settle into a consistent driving rhythm yet. I'm looking forward to Leg three and hoping for a trouble-free run."

Chris Atkinson/Glen Macneall: "We came to the rally with the intention of improving throughout the event and I'm happy that we've done that today. I haven't consciously been trying to go any faster, but the feeling in the car is much better and I've made less mistakes. There was more snow around during the stages late in the morning, which was good but a little tricky. While the conditions are very tricky I tried to play it safe and follow the line of the guys ahead and I think that paid off a bit. Generally I felt a lot more comfortable in the car today and I'm looking forward to getting more kilometres in the bag tomorrow."

Ford

Ford ended today's difficult second leg of the Swedish Rally with both nominated drivers inside the top six. Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen are fifth in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car while Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud hold sixth in a similar car, with just tomorrow's third leg remaining on this second round of the FIA World Rally Championship. A third Focus RS of Roman Kresta and Jan Tomanek is 12th. Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "I spun about 5km after the start and the exhaust hit a rock which squashed it. I lost about 20 seconds and we tried to open the exhaust by using the jack before the start of the next stage. We couldn't open it properly and drove the stage without much power. I've pushed hard all day and apart from the spin this morning, I've had no problems. But I don't understand why I'm faster on the first pass through a stage than I am on the second run. I seem to get worse when it should be the other way round. The time gaps are small behind us so it will be an interesting day tomorrow to try to hold off those trying to catch us,

Roman Kresta/Jan Tomanek: "Both cars in front of me took different lines, so there was no line to follow. I didn't have a good start position and tomorrow will be hard because I'll start in the same place again. But I'll keep to the same rhythm and continue to learn. I've made some mistakes, but that is all part of learning. I went straight on at a corner this afternoon and the spectators had to push me back onto the road. I don't know why, but all my errors have happened in slow corners."

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "I've gained five places today and my only problem came in stage 10. I cut a corner about 6km from the finish, hit a stone and knocked a piece out of the wheel rim. But Michelin's mousse kept the tyre inflated and there was just a small vibration until the end of the stage. The main difficulty was the snow in the second group of stages. There was no line to follow and while we didn't make a bad stud choice, it wasn't perfect either. There was a lot of gravel on the last group of stages, too much for the studs really, but it was OK."

Peugeot

The second leg of the Rally Sweden has been as breathtaking as the first, with an extraordinary battle between Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm and Subaru driver Petter Solberg. The pair traded tenths of a second and the lead all day, in a thrilling spectacle that captivated spectators. Marcus ends the leg in second place, after his rival pulled out a 12-second advantage on stages where he felt comfortable in the afternoon.Peugeot's Markko Martin concentrated on refining the set-up of his 307 WRC and was able to set some promising times, despite being delayed by a gearbox casing which broke over one of the many bumps.

Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: "It's been a very exciting day, with a fantastic fight on every stage. Petter went quicker than me on the final loop of stages, but I'm really not worried: everything is still possible tomorrow. The car and the team have been fantastic: I've not had any problems all day. I've enjoyed myself a lot and I hope all the spectators have as well. I think tomorrow will be just as exciting and I'm really looking forward to another big battle. Everything is too close to predict!"

Markko Martin/Michael Park: "I broke the gearbox casing over a crest at the very end of SS10. I had to complete the next stage with a big oil leak and the warning light on all the way. Luckily I was able to get to the end of the stage and reach service at Hagfors. Apart from that problem today was very good, and I am pleased to be heading to parc ferme in fourth place. I've learnt a lot on this rally: both about the differential settings on the Peugeot 307 WRC and my new Pirelli tyres."

Skoda

Janne Tuohino, Jani Paasonen and Mattias Ekstrom, hold 11th, 13th and 16th places respectively after the second and longest day of the Swedish Rally. Once again all three Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team drivers set top seven times but none had a trouble-free day.

Running closer to the front of the field brought unique problems as there was a lot of snow on the roads, boosted by fresh falls around mid-day. However, the biggest drama befell Mattias who lost power steering mid-way through SS12 and Sweden's motorsport hero had to struggle for two more stages, dropping out of a World Rally Championship points-scoring eighth place.

Janne Tuohino/Mikko Markkula: "I had some problems with the handling of the Fabia on the first two stages today but I hit something so maybe it wasn't so perfectly set-up afterwards. On SS11 I spun and stalled the engine which cost a lot of time as I ended up facing the wrong way. This afternoon's stages were full of gravel and everybody had problems because their tyres were destroyed."

Mattias Ekstrom/Stefan Bergman: "It was a big difference today driving sixth on the road instead of 18th. My notes were fine but this was a day when I noticed my lack of experience at this level compared to the other guys. I've never driven so close to the front on this rally before. I'm really disappointed about the power steering problem because I was just concentrating on driving my own rally and staying on the road. It is impossible to drive one of these cars at anything more than walking speed when that happens - now I understand why other WRC drivers complain so much when I see them on television!"

Jani Paasonen/Janni Vainikka: "It was tough running first on the road this morning because you could see nothing to tell you where the road ended and the ditch began. There was about 10cms of fresh snow and no tracks to help show you the line. At times the car was flicking the snow over the bonnet as it was so deep. Tomorrow's stages are my favourites of this rally so it will be maximum attack!"

Mitsubishi

The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen hold seventh position at the end of the second leg of the Swedish Rally, the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore, who have been the revelation of the rally, have however dropped from an earlier fourth to eighth in the second Lancer WRC05.

Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: "We went back to our original set-up after the first two stages and things were a bit better and I am understanding the car more. We then had a problem with the gearshift in the last long stage and it's good to have got to service. Generally my confidence is better and hopefully we can keep improving. The top cars are in their own battle, but we will try to be competitive with the rest."

Gigi Galli/Guido D'Amore: "Eight kilometers into stage 13 we started to have a problem with the gearbox and then just before the finish the front left drive-shaft broke. I don't remember feeling us hit anything, but it was after cutting a corner, so maybe this could have been the problem. In the final super special we then spun a couple of times because we were struggling so much with only rear-wheel drive, gearbox and handbrake problems. Tomorrow we try to do something, but the weather could be a very significant factor."

-rallyenewsletter-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team