The Subaru World Rally Team recorded a strong final result at the Tour de Corse with Petter Solberg on the podium in third and Stephane Sarrazin fourth. The result is the team's best finish on asphalt this year and Petter's six points move him...
The Subaru World Rally Team recorded a strong final result at the Tour de Corse with Petter Solberg on the podium in third and Stephane Sarrazin fourth. The result is the team's best finish on asphalt this year and Petter's six points move him into joint second position in the drivers' championship. Stephane was the only driver = all rally to get within two seconds of Loeb's pace and his well-deserved fourth place equals his best-ever WRC result, which he achieved in the 2004 Rallye de Catalunya. On only his second WRC asphalt event Chris Atkinson continued to learn more about the car on a sealed-surface.
SS9 0758hrs Acqua Doria-Serra di Ferro 1 (15.92km)
Crews left parc ferme for the start of the final Leg and the new Acqua Doria-Serra di Ferro stage located 40km south of Ajaccio. The shortest stage of the rally at just under 16km, the difficult test featured lots of small crests, blind corners and a few short, bumpy sections that made it very tricky to read. Much of the road ran parallel with the sea and was largely flat apart from a jump 13km from the start. Sebastien Loeb scored his ninth win of the event, less than two = seconds faster than Stephane Sarrazin in his Subaru Impreza WRC2005. = Sarrazin's time was the closest that any driver had managed to come to the dominant Loeb over the entire rally. Loeb's team-mate Fran=E7ois Duval rolled his Citroen Xsara approximately five kilometres into the stage, causing extensive bodywork damage. Both Duval and co-driver Sven Smeets were unhurt in the incident and managed to rejoin the road to the end of the stage, but lost over two and a half minutes in the incident and dropped down to eighth on the leaderboard. The delay elevated Sarrazin back to fourth position overall. Petter Solberg was fourth quickest through the stage as he slowed slightly to avoid Duval, but retained third position on the leaderboard, just over 26secs behind Gardemeister. Chris Atkinson was ninth fastest, only 12.5secs slower than Loeb.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 9:43.5
SS10 0841hrs Pont de Calzola-Agosta 1 (31.81km)
The fast, flowing Pont de Calzola-Agosta pass brought troubles for several crews. Duval stopped on the road section to the stage but could not repair his damaged Citroen Xsara and retired. Chris Atkinson left the road at a left-hand bend 14km from the start line and came to a stop with his car beached on a roadside bank. The car was undamaged but Atkinson and co-driver Glenn Macneall were unable to get it back on the road and they retired. Loeb was once again fastest, seven seconds quicker than Toni Gardemeister, while Petter Solberg was third. Skoda's Alexandre Bengue was fourth quickest to close the gap to Kresta in fifth overall to just over 20secs while Duval's retirement moved Mitsubishi's Gigi Galli into eighth overall and the final points scoring position. After the end of the stage crews returned to Ajaccio for a 30 minute service.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 19:05.7
SS11 1129hrs Acqua Doria-Serra di Ferro 2 (15.92km)
The first stage run after service was a repeat of the short pass between the towns of Acqua Doria and Serra di Ferro. The asphalt surface was very slippery, especially at the start of the speed test, as loose gravel and stones had been thrown on to the road in the earlier morning pass. Loeb recorded his eleventh win in eleven stages, but was only three seconds faster than Peugeot's Nicolas Bernardi. Gardemeister was third, just ahead of Citroen privateer Xavier Pons and Galli. Bengue, chasing Ford driver Roman Kresta for fifth overall, was sixth quickest to close the gap to Kresta to just over 15secs, while Solberg was seventh to maintain a comfortable third place overall. Solberg's team-mate Sarrazin had a clean run through the stage to record the ninth fastest time.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 9:42.0
SS12 1212hrs Pont de Calzola-Agosta 2 (31.81km)
Sebastien Loeb made rallying history when he became the only driver to win all stages of a WRC event. Loeb secured victory at the 49th Tour de Corse by nearly two minutes from Ford's Toni Gardemeister with his 12th stage win. Gardemeister was second fastest through the pass, just ahead of Bernardi, whose time leapfrogged him in to the final points scoring position ahead of Gigi Galli. Skoda's Bengue was fourth quickest through the stage and nearly 10secs faster than Kresta, but it was not enough to move ahead in the final classification and the Frenchman remained sixth, his best-ever WRC result. Subaru's Petter Solberg was ninth quickest but retained third overall ahead of team-mate Stephane Sarrazin.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 19:04.8
Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth
We have to be satisfied with our result. We came here looking for a podium and got third and fourth. Neither Petter nor Stephane put a foot wrong, their cars have run competitively and trouble-free for three days and the Pirelli tyres have performed well. Petter and Stephane's pace has been very good and Stephane even managed to get closer to S=E9bastien = on SS9 than anyone else managed all rally. We said that Chris should learn as much as possible from the event and he's certainly done that. He set some good times and he's made some mistakes, but that's to be expected and it'll be interesting to see how he goes in Spain next week.
I'm pleased, it was a good rally and we had some good fun out there, let me tell you. The car is going very well on this surface now, of course it's not a win yet, but it's a positive result for Subaru and Pirelli, we've made a real step in the right direction and I think it looks good for Catalunya.
I'm happy with fourth place here, it's a good result for me and the team too. It will be interesting to see how we get on in Catalunya because we have seen this weekend how much improved the car is on asphalt. I'd like to think that we can aim for a higher placed finish next week - I hope I can improve on the fourth place I got there last year.
It's a shame we weren't able to complete the stages today, but looking at the bigger picture this has been a very useful rally for Glenn and I. We've learned heaps and basically improved our pace on every stage. This is only the second tarmac rally of my career and of course it's pretty tough going up against drivers with so much more experience. The past couple of days gave us a good opportunity to test some different set-ups and finding the limit, like we did today, is part of that process. I'm satisfied that the lessons we have learned will help us significantly both next week and in the future.
News From Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
Petter's consistent performances have underlined the improvements we've made in testing and have enabled him to finish on the podium. I think these latest developments will also lead to future improvements and it is clear that we are working on the right lines. Stephane's second fastest time on the first stage this morning was the closest that anybody got to Sebastien Loeb's stage times, which demonstrates once again the efficiency of the Subaru-Pirelli package.