Petter up to fourth after more fall victim to the conditions The Subaru World Rally Team entry of Petter Solberg/Phil Mills finished the second day of the Swedish Rally having climbed to fourth place overall. Team-mates Chris Atkinson/StÃ©phane...
Petter up to fourth after more fall victim to the conditions
The Subaru World Rally Team entry of Petter Solberg/Phil Mills finished the second day of the Swedish Rally having climbed to fourth place overall. Team-mates Chris Atkinson/Stéphane Prévot steadily battled their way through the field focusing on gaining manufacturer points at the end of tomorrow.
Conditions today were equally challenging for crews as the ice continued to thaw and reveal the gravel roads that are normally smothered by snow at this time of year. Only the first running of the Vargasen stage (SS11) had a hard base of ice on its surface and was lined by snow banks, whilst the remaining speed tests were uncharacteristically more akin to a wet gravel rally.
Snow was thin on the ground even at the start of the day, and SS9/10 were reduced to gravel after the first few cars had driven the route. The difficulty was compounded by the fact that crews had to use Pirelli's Sottozero snow tyres, which are designed with metal studs solely for use on sheet ice and snow. Confirming pre-rally concerns as to the road conditions, the second running of the Horssjon stage (SS9/12) was cancelled as after the morning's run it was too badly rutted and too much of it was gravel.
"We saw further crews fall by the wayside today as the surface became more treacherous, and whilst the front-runners have all backed off and are driving cautiously, we may still see some surprises" said Team Principal David Richards.
Solberg and Mills consolidated their road position from yesterday, battling the treacherous gravel-strewn stages and challenging grip levels to finish the day without problem. Solberg benefited when his brother Henning was caught out by the conditions and crashed on the final stage of the morning, promoting the duo to fourth overall.
After yesterday's stages the crew attempted to improve the balance of Solberg's Impreza WRC2007 on the ice and gravel, but he still didn't feel comfortable on the very fast and narrow stages. On this event especially, these routes demand absolute commitment and confidence in the car and Solberg has not been able to push as hard as he would have liked.
"We drove as fast as we could in the conditions today. We couldn't attack or really push, we just drove our own rally" said Petter Solberg. "Ok we're in fourth, but I didn't have a good feeling with the car today. We'll make some more changes in service for tomorrow and see tomorrow."
Atkinson and Prévot continued to battle their way through the field after losing time yesterday. Having also made changes to their Impreza WRC2007 at the end of yesterday's stages, Atkinson felt the car was easier to drive on the winding and slippery routes and finished the afternoon by recording the third fastest time on the final stage. Not entirely confident with the feeling of the car in these conditions however, he wasn't taking any risks.
"We had a steady day" said Chris Atkinson. "The car ran ok, and we had no major problems. We're focusing on Manufacturer points so there was no need to do anything silly. Conditions were very tricky today and it was easy to make a mistake. Every stage was full gravel apart from SS11 so it's a strange Swedish Rally. It was trickiest where you got unexpected slush on the inside of corners that changed the grip level. The car was better today and we were fastest at the beginning of the final stage. We'll make some more changes tonight and have a steady day tomorrow."
Crews spent more time than anticipated at the midday remote service in the town of Hagfors when the first stage of the afternoon was cancelled. The midday halt was extended by one and a half hours, and after a refuel and tyre change crews travelled straight to the Hagfors stage, initially the second scheduled test of the afternoon.
The final day of the Swedish Rally is the shortest of the event, with six stages at just over 97 competitive kilometres. The first two stages are very technical and twisty, and will be very demanding as the forecast mild weather means the stages will be reduced to gravel very quickly. The final stage, run just before the lunchtime service and again at the end of the day, is one of the fastest of the event as crews spend nearly 10 kilometres flat-out in sixth gear.