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...
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 Subarus 45th WRC victory, the 44th with the Impreza, and was a perfect SWRT finale for the WRC2004 model, which will be replaced for the next event in Mexico. Completing his WRC car debut, Chris Atkinson posted some more impressive stage times and climbed up to ninth overall, before an incident on SS18 dropped him down the leaderboard. His team-mate Stphane Sarrazin fulfilled his aim of gaining experience of the specialist conditions and he finished thirteenth.
SS15: 0756 Lesjofors 1 (10.17km)
Considering the conditions, organisers decided to shorten the first stage of the day and, removing the first 12.16 km, the stage was just 10km long. Following overnight snowfall, a 1cm layer covered the road, but conditions were mostly frozen hard-packed gravel. Resuming his battle with Marcus Gronholm at the head of the field, Petter Solberg was fastest to increase his overall advantage to 13 seconds, but there were difficulties for third-placed Sebastien Loeb. The Frenchman reported a problem with the cooling system on his Citroens engine at the end of Leg two and thought it might cause problems in the final Leg. Completing the 10km stage 14 seconds slower than Solberg, it seemed he was driving to preserve his engine. Gigi Galli drove off the road in his Mitsubishi, he was able to continue but lost 20 seconds to the leaders, while his team-mate Harri Rovanpera picked up his pace to finish third fastest. Chris Atkinson continued his impressive WRC car debut in his Subaru Impreza WRC2004 and was seventh fastest, while Stphane Sarrazin was fourteenth. After the finish, crews moved to the start of SS16.Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 5:32.2
SS16: 0838 Rammen 1 (23.35km)
Having battled at the head of the field with Petter Solberg since the opening Leg, three-times Swedish Rally winner Marcus Gronholm crashed out of the event on the second test of Leg three. Rolling his Peugeot 307, the Finn ripped the front-left wheel off and was unable to continue. Running behind Marcus through the 23km stage, Solberg was slowed by the incident and dropped eight seconds, but retained the overall lead, now by an extended margin of 50 seconds. Having been used in the event for many years, the stage from Rmmen featured an 8km section of icy, uphill hairpins, a fast descent, and a slow, technical 2km section through woodland. At an average speed of 117.08km, Markko Martin was fastest to take his first stage win for Peugeot, while Toni Gardemeister was second and Daniel Carlsson third. After the finish, crews stopped for a refuel before driving 13km west to the start of SS17.Fastest Stage Time:Martin (Peugeot) 11:58.0
SS17: 0927 Malta 1 (11.25km)
As temperatures rose to 2C, Markko Martin was fastest through the short Malta stage to take his second win of the event. Gardemeister was second fastest, with Petters brother Henning third and Harri Rovanpera fourth. The Scandinavian trio had become locked in a battle for fifth overall and, at the finish, just 14.7 separated them. With the pressure off, rally leader Petter Solberg finished 10.5 seconds ahead of Sebastien Loeb, who continued to nurse his engine through the events final kilometres, and maintained the overall lead. Chris Atkinson set another top ten time and ended the stage just 0.4 seconds off Gigi Gallis overall eighth position. Once the narrow, gravely stage was complete, crews returned to Hagfors for a 30-minute service.Fastest Stage Time: Martin (Peugeot) 5:35.3
SS18: 1128 Lesjofors 2 (10.17km)
With the first 12.6km section dropped once again, crews faced a repeat of the 10km technical stage that featured a number of hidden junctions. Running sixth on the road, Chris Atkinson, who had demonstrated an impressive pace on his first WRC event, was caught out by the tricky conditions, slid wide on a corner and went backwards into a ditch 8km from the start. He was able to continue, but lost more than 12 minutes while spectators helped push his car back onto the road and fell from ninth to 21st overall. With a healthy lead of more than a minute, his team-mate Petter Solberg eased off the pace and concentrated on bringing his Impreza home at the head of the field; he was fifth fastest. Sarrazin was fifteenth, the same position that he held on the overall leaderboard. Joining the battle for fourth position, Daniel Carlsson was fastest, with rivals Gardemeister second and Henning Solberg third. Loeb was thirteenth fastest, but there was disaster for the Frenchman after the finish when his Xsaras ailing engine terminally failed and he was unable to restart it. The remaining crews moved to the start of SS19. Fastest Stage Time: Carlsson (Peugeot) 5:31.8
SS19: 1210 Rammen 2 (23.35km)
The difficult conditions of the Swedish Rally continued to take their toll on the second pass through Rmmen, and this time it was Skoda driver Janne Tuohino who hit trouble. Ripping a wheel off his Fabia near to the finish, the Finn managed to complete the test, but dropped more than half a minute to the leaders. Daniel Carlsson was again fastest, with Gigi Galli second and Mattias Ekstrom third. Harri Rovanpera contested the stage with no fifth gear in his Lancer. He maintained his fourth position in the overall standings, but only by the slimmest of margins. At the finish, just 0.9 seconds lay between him and fifth-placed Henning Solberg. Younger brother Petter was seventh fastest and, crossing the stage with a two minute 11 seconds advantage, was looking likely to take his first WRC Swedish Rally victory. His team-mates Atkinson and Sarrazin were thirteenth and fourteenth respectively. After the stage was complete, crews moved to the start of SS20. Fastest Stage Time: Carlsson (Peugeot) 11:44.1
SS20: 1259 Malta 2 (11.25km)
Petter Solberg crossed the finish of the final stage of the Swedish Rally seventh quickest to take his first WRC win of 2005, the eleventh of his WRC career and the first Swedish WRC victory for Subaru and Pirelli since 1997. The Japanese marque last won the event eight years ago with Swedish driver Kenneth Eriksson at the wheel. Markko Martin was eighth fastest to finish second overall, two minutes 11.1 seconds behind the leaders winning time, while Gardemeister was third. Rovanpera was fastest through the test to hold on to overall fourth, while Henning Solberg was fifth. Tuohino began the stage on three wheels, but his Skoda lost oil pressure halfway through meaning he was unable to complete it and retired. Fastest Stage Time: Rovanpera (Mitsubishi) 5:34.9
Its a great feeling, like a big dream, I almost cant believe its true. This rally is so special but has been tough for me in the past, and now this year its 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!"
Im 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. Theres still a long way to go, but Im encouraged. Im very happy for Petter too - its a great result for him and the whole team.
Today I picked up the pace a little bit, drove a bit harder, and on SS18 I found the limit, but its all good experience and theres no better way to learn than that. Overall Im very pleased with what Glenn and I have achieved here in Sweden. It would have been disappointing if we had driven slowly and didnt 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 weve certainly done that. Petter has had an awesome weekend and Im very happy for him and the team. Hes proved how quick the car can be here and I look forward to doing that myself in the future. Im concentrating on Mexico now. After some more time in the car I dont think well be too far off the pace.
Team Principal, David Lapworth
I think this has been one of Petters greatest ever victories. Its been an emotional one too as its pretty much his home event. He did a great job of managing the conflict between his head - which said think of the championship points, and his heart, which of course wanted him to win. The fact that he responded so well to the added pressure is a sign of a true champion. Both Chris and Stphane have also been very impressive and have more than achieved their individual objectives. With the benefit of the experience theyve collected this weekend both will be able to come here next year ready for a proper attack.
News from Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
Despite the difficult conditions, our P Zero J1 tyres won the rally and the overwhelming majority of the stages. This is thanks to everybodys hard work and the obvious durability of our unique manufacturing process. Congratulations to Petter we look forward to more of the same in the future!
Rally Mexico: 11-13 March 2005
Round three of the World Rally Championship starts in just under four weeks time when crews move to central America for Rally Mexico. Based in the city of Leon, the route takes in medium to fast gravel roads, which are quite varied in speed and character. Conditions are normally warm and Mexico will be the first gravel rally after two highly specialised events. Including 14 stages and 355 competitive kilometres, the event will commence on Friday 11 March and conclude when the winning car crosses the finish ramp in Leon at 1230hrs on Sunday 13 March. Rally Mexico will see the first competitive outing of the latest evolution of the Subaru Impreza, the WRC2005.