After a problematic Leg one for the Subaru World Rally Team, Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson's main focus for today's second Leg was testing and development work. Experimenting with different car settings, Petter made an impressive start to the...
After a problematic Leg one for the Subaru World Rally Team, Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson's main focus for today's second Leg was testing and development work. Experimenting with different car settings, Petter made an impressive start to the day and recorded top three times on the morning's loop of three stages. He ended the Leg in 14th place after losing time with a gearshift problem and steering damage later in the day. Atkinson too made the most of the opportunity to learn on the icy roads. He improved on his Leg one position of 26th overall and will begin tomorrow's final leg in 13th place.
SS7: 0800 Hara 1 (11.32km)
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 6:04.8
After a 10 minute service in Hagfors the competitive action started with the narrow, technical Hara pass north of the service park. With a temperature of -19°C, snow and ice remained on the road to give ideal winter rally conditions. Subaru's Petter Solberg was back on the pace after technicians fixed the mechanical problems that developed in Leg one and the Norwegian set the third fastest time behind the Ford duo of Gronholm and Hirvonen. Young Finn Hirvonen had restarted after retiring from Leg one in the penultimate stage of the day with a broken alternator belt that sent the water temperature to 150°C. Despite reporting he was not totally happy with his choice of studded ice tyres, Loeb was fourth, just ahead of Swede Daniel Carlsson. The Mitsubishi privateer reported he had hit a snow bank early in the stage, but his time was still fast enough to move him ahead of Galli into third overall.
SS8: 0906 Sundsjon 1 (20.78km)
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 11:07.4
After the end of the Hara stage crews completed a 50km liaison section south to Sundsjon. Young Spanish Citroen privateer Dani Sordo hit a snow bank within five kilometres of the start and lost more than six minutes. He dropped from 12th to 29th. Manfred Stohl also went wide and glanced off a snow bank, losing almost 20secs to stage winner Gronholm. The Ford driver and Loeb continued their duel for the lead, with Gronholm pulling out an 18secs advantage. Solberg's impressive pace continued as he recorded the third fastest time and started his march up the overall classification. After swapping positions after SS7, Galli and Carlsson again traded third and fourth, with the Italian moving back ahead of the Swede. Chris Atkinson ran with a softer set-up on his Impreza, but reported slightly more oversteer that stopped him pushing as hard as he would have liked. After the stage end crews drove back to Hagfors for a 30 minute service.
SS9: 1137 Likenas (21.78km)
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 12:19.6
Likenas, the most northerly stage, was the only speed test of the rally to be run just once. Fans were treated to a spectacular view at the end of the pass when the road ran onto a rallycross track where cars could be seen approaching from the distance. In relatively warmer temperatures of -8°C, Gronholm, Loeb and Petter Solberg once again monopolised the top three stage times. Solberg reported that set-up changes made in service had improved the balance of the car, while Gronholm admitted he was not taking any risks on the icy, slippery surface. Gronholm's team-mate Hirvonen rounded off the top four as he sought to make up the time lost with his Leg one mechanical problems.
SS10: 1234 Hara 2 (11.32km)
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 6:02.4
The road on the second run through the fast, narrow Hara stage was slightly more rutted than the earlier morning's pass. Marcus Gronholm continued to dominate the stage times with his fourth win of the day with Loeb second ahead of Hirvonen and Subaru's Petter Solberg. WRC newcomer Matthew Wilson had an incident during the stage when he ran into a snow bank near the start and got stuck. Nearby spectators helped him out of the drift and back onto the road, but he lost more than two minutes to Gronholm. The battle for third place intensified as Carlsson closed to within two seconds of Galli.
SS11: 1349 Sundsjon 2 (20.78km)
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 11:00.4
The re-run of the stage from Sundsjon was one of the most incident-packed of the rally. Petter Solberg was the first to hit trouble when the gearbox in his car developed an intermittent shifting problem on the road section before the start. Although it later turned out to be a minor problem, the team asked Petter not to take any chances and to drive the whole stage in one gear. Solberg manually selected fourth for the 20km stage and despite this limitation still managed to set a top twenty time. Petter's brother, Henning, had a dramatic stage when he rolled his Peugeot 307 into a snow bank. The windscreen was smashed and as the car slid upside down it scooped up a cockpit load of snow. Covered in snow and battling a bitter wind chill, Solberg completed the test but dropped from sixth to ninth overall. Another 307 driver, Austrian Manfred Stohl, retired from the Leg when his Peugeot left the road and became stuck in a ditch. There was no change at the top of the leaderboard and Gronholm tretched his advantage over Loeb with another stage win.
SS12: 1539 Vargasen 2 (39.95km)
Fastest Time: Loeb (Kronos) 20:43.8
Two 2005 stages were combined to create the longest test of the 2006 Swedish Rally at just under 40km. Ten kilometres from the start line Petter slid wide on a corner and nosed his car into a snow bank. The impact pushed ice and snow into the front of his Impreza WRC2006 and partially blocked the engine air intake, severely limiting power output for the rest of the stage. Elsewhere Gronholm's run of stage wins was broken after he stalled at the start, losing around seven seconds. Loeb capitalised on the error and grabbed the win by just over two seconds. Galli and Carlsson's battle for third raged on, with Galli closing to just over 1.5secs of the final podium position.
SS13: 1657 Hagfors Sprint 2 (1.87 km)
Fastest Time: Loeb (Kronos) 2:00.7
Several thousand spectators crammed into the arena on the edge of Hagfors to watch the final stage of the day, the Hagfors Sprint, where crews ran individually under floodlights on an extremely slippery, icy, twisty course. Loeb snatched his second stage win of the day from the Finnish trio of Kosti Katajamaki, Gronholm and Janne Tuohino to close the gap to Gronholm by the smallest of margins. Gronholm and Loeb headed off to the final service with 25secs separating them at the top of the leaderboard. Carlsson and Galli continued their nail-biting fight for third, with just 0.3secs between them with only one Leg remaining. Petter Solberg was slow through the stage after he hit a steel post concealed in a snow bank and damaged the front-right steering arm. The tight, twisty track highlighted the problem and Petter was more than two and a half minutes slower than Loeb through the course. Petter's young team-mate Atkinson made steady progress through the after! noon and ended the Leg in 13th position.
SWRT PERFORMANCE DIRECTOR, DAVID LAPWORTH: "After the disappointments of yesterday, our objective today was to learn as much as possible about the car both for Mexico and for this event next year. We've actually learned a lot today and have been encouraged by some of Petter's times in difficult circumstances. We plan to do more of the same tomorrow."
PETTER SOLBERG: "Well, we've had a few good stages today. Our pace over the first four was okay and, until the gearbox problem in the afternoon, things were looking promising. Of course, after yesterday's difficulties, we've concentrated a lot of our efforts on testing and learning for the future. So, in that respect we've had a useful day. Finding the metal pole in the snow bank on the last stage was unfortunate but it would have been much worse if we'd found it when we were fighting for a win. We're keeping our spirits up and hope to learn more out on the stages tomorrow."
CHRIS ATKINSON: "For us it's been a day of testing and learning things. We've been trying different tyres and set-ups to Petter and seeing the difference. Sometimes that has worked well, other times it's not been so great, but that's the way to learn."
NEWS FROM PIRELLI
MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER: "We are very pleased with the performance of the tyres, but obviously we have a lot of sympathy for Petter as he showed how competitive the Subaru-Pirelli package could be by setting top three times in the morning's stages."
The third and final Leg of the day will comprise six stages and 90.18 competitive kilometres run to the east and south of the Hagfors service park. Crews will leave parc fermé from 0650 before negotiating two loops of three stages including the shortest non-spectator stage of the event, Lesjofors, at 10.49km. The podium finish in Karlstad is scheduled for 1502.