A difficult day for the Subaru World Rally Team. As expected, the inconsistent Corsican weather made tyre selections extremely tricky and the variable levels of grip on the mountain roads were difficult to predict. Struggling to find the necessary...
A difficult day for the Subaru World Rally Team. As expected, the inconsistent Corsican weather made tyre selections extremely tricky and the variable levels of grip on the mountain roads were difficult to predict. Struggling to find the necessary traction and confidence on tyres that were too hard for the damp stages in the morning, and too soft for the drier loop in the afternoon, Subaru drivers Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen ended the day in seventh and twelfth place respectively. However, with more unsettled weather forecast for Leg two and more than 250 competitive kilometres remaining, there is plenty of opportunity for the overall leaderboard to change dramatically.
SS1: 0918 Ampaza-Col St Eustache1 (32.98km)
After heavy overnight rain, crews made the first pass through
the long mountain stage from Ampaza in bright sunshine, although road
conditions remained damp. Taking competitors to an altitude of 1,000
metres above sea level, the climbing, twisty stage featured a forest
section, a series of narrow bridges and an abrasive road surface that
was interspersed with patches of new tarmac. The roadside of the narrow
stage was also littered with rocks, which prevented drivers from cutting
corners in their lowered, asphalt-specification cars. Having finished
second on the last tarmac round in Germany, Ford's Francois Duval was
fastest, with team-mate Markko Martin 4.3 seconds slower in second and
Citroen's Carlos Sainz a further 14.5 seconds back for third. Petter
Solberg was sixth fastest and Mikko Hirvonen twelfth. There were
problems for Ford privateer Anthony Warmbold when the power steering
system on his Focus WRC failed 10km from the start. The German was
forced to contest the rest of the stage without power assistance and he
dropped more than three minutes to the leaders. After the stage was
complete, crews moved to the start of SS2.
Fastest Stage Time: Duval (Ford) 21:43.2
SS2: 1011 Aullene-Arbellara 1 (27.78km)
A new stage to the event, the 28km test from Aullene started 800
metres above sea level, descended to 80 metres, before concluding with a
narrow, twisty climb to the village of Arbellara, 350 metres above sea
level. Ford's Martin was fastest, 12.3 seconds ahead of the next
quickest driver, Francois Duval, and 21.4 seconds ahead of Sebastien
Loeb in third. With the road surface drying more slowly that they had
anticipated, the Subaru duo of Solberg and Hirvonen struggled for grip
on tyres that were more suited to drier roads. As a result Petter
Solberg was sixth fastest, while Mikko Hirvonen was thirteenth. Warmbold
continued to lose time as he battled through the twisty stage with no
power steering, while Nicolas Vouilloz lost time due to an overheating
engine in his Bozian Racing prepared Peugeot 206. After the stage was
complete, crews returned to Ajaccio for a 20-minute service.
Fastest Stage Time: Martin (Ford) 16:28.6
SS3: 1432 Ampaza-Col St Eustache 2 (32.89km)
The second pass through the long mountain stage from Ampaza saw
Francois Duval take his second win of the event, this time by a margin
of 7.4 seconds. Marcus Gronholm was second fastest and Carlos Sainz
third. Running on harder compound tyres than his team-mate Markko
Martin, Duval shaved 32.9 seconds off his previous Ampaza winning time
and was 22.5 seconds faster than the Estonian. A good run from Peugeot's
points-nominated driver Cedric Robert saw the Frenchman finish sixth
fastest. Petter Solberg was tenth fastest, while his team-mate Hirvonen,
who had made some slight changes to his Impreza's dampers in the
preceding service, was thirteenth. As temperatures rose, conditions were
drier than expected for the second pass and, after the finish, crews
moved to the start of SS4.
Fastest Stage Time: Duval (Ford) 21:10.3
SS4: 1525 Aullene-Arbellara 2 (27.78km)
The final stage of Leg one gave Loeb the opportunity to end
Ford's monopoly of wins and, negotiating the repeated mountain stage
fastest, took his first victory of the event. Duval was second fastest
in his Focus and Martin third. Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm was fourth
fastest while Mikko Hirvonen, contesting his first traditional,
all-asphalt rally for the team, was thirteenth. His team-mate Petter
Solberg was tenth. Despite overcast skies, the forecast rainfall did not
arrive and conditions in the mountains remained dry, but cool. There
were no leading WRC retirements and, after the finish, crews returned to
Ajaccio for a final 45-minute service.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 16:07.7
I'm very disappointed, but that's how it is sometimes. It's very difficult, I tried absolutely everything today, but we struggled. I knew that this would be a tough event, but we are far away and we have to work harder. It's a difficult situation but I wont give up, the end of this rally is a long way off and maybe there will be some rain tomorrow, which should help, we'll just have to wait and see.
I don't have much experience of driving the Subaru on these sort of tarmac roads, so a lot of my morning was spent learning, trying to get the feeling with the car and the tyres in these conditions. We weren't lucky with our tyre choices but despite that, in the afternoon I felt a lot more confident in my driving and, judging my times against Petter's, I can see some improvement.
Team Principal, David Lapworth
It's been a tough day. The tyre calls have been very difficult and we probably didn't get either of them quite right. We had expected the roads to dry a little quicker in the morning and we had exactly the opposite problem in the afternoon. Mechanically both cars have run without fault, but it's difficult to find a good compromise in the set up for these conditions. With more overnight rain predicted, we've another chance tomorrow to get it right!
News from Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
For both loops of stages today the tyre choice and set-up was cautious, which did not enable us to fulfil our maximum potential in both wet and dry conditions. Before the second Leg, we will be looking at all the data available in order to try and improve our performance.
The science of the splits
Thanks to the Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking system used in the WRC since 2002, teams and crews have access to far more data about the performance of their cars on rally stages now than ever before:
The latest system generates split times for each car, typically at 5km intervals throughout each timed section, which can be analysed to show where time was made or lost, relative to other competitors
The GPS data is so fast and accurate that SWRT drivers are able to receive 'almost live' updates on their progress through the stage so they can push harder, or ease off as appropriate
At the Subaru World Rally Team, split times of all competitors are sent directly to a computer located in the management room in the service area. Sporting director Luis Moya monitors the times and informs team co-ordinator Ken Rees of the difference between the Subaru driver and his closest rival or event leader
Ken types the appropriate split time message into another computer, linked by radio to a display screen at the co-driver's feet in the rally car. Once the message flashes up, the co-driver will inform the driver at the next suitable opportunity
The Subaru team aim to get the split information to the co-driver less than eight seconds after it first appears on the team computer
The message is sent in a form of shorthand using driver initials, numbers and a plus or minus sign depending on whether the Subaru driver is slower or faster. For instance, -2 CS would mean that Carlos Sainz was two seconds slower at the split point