After problems earlier in the event, the team's focus for Leg three of Rally Sweden was on testing and learning for the future. Chris Atkinson worked on evaluating new set-ups for the Impreza WRC2006 and ended the rally 11th to score 3 ...
After problems earlier in the event, the team's focus for Leg three of Rally Sweden was on testing and learning for the future. Chris Atkinson worked on evaluating new set-ups for the Impreza WRC2006 and ended the rally 11th to score 3 manufacturers' points. Petter Solberg had a good start to the Leg with a third fastest time in one of the morning's stages, but his car stalled at the start line of SS18 and a starter motor problem prevented them from getting underway within the regulation 20 second period. Solberg finished the rally but was later excluded from the final results.
SS14: 0758 Lesjofors 1 (10.48 km)
Fastest Time: Loeb (Kronos) 5:56.3
Crews left a snow-covered Hagfors after a 10 minute service for the first stage of the final Leg from Lesjofors. After 5cm of snow overnight, the road was icy and covered with snow, putting the first crews through the stage at a distinct disadvantage as they were forced to plough the road for the following pack. Petter Solberg, running second on the road, was particularly affected as snow flicked up by the car covered his windshield and affected his view of the road ahead. The Norwegian nevertheless set the eighth fastest time. Ex-DTM champion Matthias Ekstrom did not complete the stage after hitting a snow bank and damaging the engine oil cooler, while Loeb set the fastest time through the speed test. The Frenchman however only closed the gap to overnight rally leader Gronholm by less than half a second. Kristian Sohlberg did not start the Leg after his engine lost oil pressure on the way back to the last service of Leg two.
SS15: 0830 Rammen 1 (23.35km)
Fastest Time: Loeb (Kronos) 11:49.3
After a short 14km liaison section from Lesjofors, crews arrived at the quickest stage of the rally that ran past two lakes and over a narrow embankment. The road had been ploughed following heavy overnight snow, but conditions were still extremely icy, making long studs essential. Loeb continued to chip into Gronholm's lead with another stage win, but the gap from first to second still remained at 23secs. Petter Solberg showed the potential of the new Impreza with the third fastest time but there were problems for his brother Henning who stopped midway through to change a broken wheel. The battle for third place took yet another twist as Gigi Galli moved back ahead of Daniel Carlsson.
SS16: 0921 Malta 1 (11.25km)
Fastest Time: Loeb (Kronos) 5:47.7
The final speed test of the morning's loop of stages was the short pass from Malta. Running second on an extremely snowy road, Petter spun and stalled 5km from the start, but only lost five seconds when he restarted the engine. Skoda driver Andreas Aigner, however, had terminal engine problems and the team advised him to pull over and retire before the start of SS16. Loeb was quickest though the 11.25km test and took nine seconds out of Gronholm's lead. The Finn's advantage was cut to just over 14secs after his Ford Focus developed a hydraulic leak through the stage, leaving him with only manual gearshift and no active differential. Carlsson and Galli traded third place yet again when the Swede moved back into the final podium spot. After the end of the stage crews returned to Hagfors for a 30 minute service.
SS17: 1129 Lesjofors 2 (10.48km)
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 5:47.7
Gronholm's Ford team fixed his earlier hydraulic problem in the 30 minute service halt. The problem was traced to a damaged filter that had allowed hydraulic oil to leak out onto the windscreen. The Finn left service and went on to set the fastest time through the stage and extend his lead over Loeb to 18secs. The closely-matched battle between Galli and Carlsson took another twist as Galli again moved back ahead of the Swede, but with a slender gap of only 0.7secs. The Solberg brothers rounded off the top six with Hirvonen seventh and Atkinson eighth as the Australian continued to concentrate on testing and developing new parts for the Impreza WRC2006.
SS18: 1201 Rammen 2 (23.35km)
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 11:50.3
It was too close to call between Galli and Carlsson as their unpredictable fight went another round, with Carlsson taking the smallest of advantages into the final stage -- just 0.2secs. Further down the order Henning Solberg moved back into the top ten overall after a broken wheel delayed his progress in the first stage of the day. Petter Solberg had problems on the start line when his engine stalled and the starter motor malfunctioned. After eight minutes of roadside maintenance he and co-driver Phil Mills identified the problem and got the car started again, but the pair faced exclusion for not leaving the start line within the FIA regulation 20 seconds.
SS19: 1252 Malta 2 (11.25km)
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 5:48.0
Marcus Gronholm received the best birthday present when he won the final stage of the day to take victory in the Swedish Rally. The victory was the fourth time Gronholm had won the event. Loeb dropped nine seconds to the Finn through the final stage, but with a two minute gap back to third place, his second position was never in jeopardy. The battle for third went right down to the wire, with Carlsson coming out on top. Galli was nearly seven seconds slower than the Swede after he was forced to negotiate the stage in fourth gear. Thomas Radstrom was elevated to fifth position after Janne Tuohino stopped 500m from the end of the stage with an engine problem.
SWRT PERFORMANCE DIRECTOR, DAVID LAPWORTH: "This just hasn't been our rally and all of us in the team share Petter's disappointment and frustration. When they were able, Chris and Petter showed glimpses of the potential of the WRC2006 but, for a number of reasons, our overall performance was way below our expectations. The important thing is that we learn from what has happened this weekend and come out fighting in Mexico."
PETTER SOLBERG: "I just don't know what to say. I'm trying to remain positive about things but it's certainly been a weekend to forget. Clearly we've got a lot of work to do now to get things back to normal. I want to thank everyone who supported us this weekend, there were so many Norwegian flags by the side of the road and I'm sorry we weren't able to get a better result."
CHRIS ATKINSON: "We're pretty happy today. We took some steps forward with the set up and learned a bit more. The pace was a bit better and I think we're learning things for the future. Sweden's a good fun rally, but it hasn't been good for our team at all. I'm looking forward to our test for Mexico in a couple of week's time. I'm hoping for a better result there."
NEWS FROM PIRELLI
MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER: "We were very sorry for Petter today, but the result can only be improved in the next event. We must stay concentrated on Mexico. We still have another 14 events to go and should remain focussed on the overall goal. We were pleased with the performance of the tyres in general."
THE NEXT EVENT
After the frozen forests and snow-covered barren landscape of central Sweden, the FIA World Rally Championship heads to warm, sunny Mexico. Part of the calendar since 2004, the event has become well-liked thanks to the high-speed, picturesque gravel roads and beautiful scenery. Crews climb into the mountains around host city Leon to some of the highest stages in the championship where both car and driver are tested to the max.