The Subaru World Rally Team had an encouraging start to the 49th Tour de Corse, with Petter Solberg lying fourth overall at the end of the day just over 12secs ahead of team mate StÃ©phane Sarrazin, who finished Leg one of his home event in fifth.
The Subaru World Rally Team had an encouraging start to the 49th Tour de Corse, with Petter Solberg lying fourth overall at the end of the day just over 12secs ahead of team mate Stéphane Sarrazin, who finished Leg one of his home event in fifth. Petter had a trouble-free run and was pleased with the balance and set-up of his Subaru Impreza WRC2005, while Stéphane set some excellent split times throughout the day. The Frenchman finished in the top ten on every stage, recording the third fastest time through the final pass of the day. Chris Atkinson's encouraging start to the rally was cut short by a mechanical problem. The Australian retired from the Leg but will restart Leg two under Superally regulations.
SS1 0918hrs Ampaza-Col St Eustache 1 (32.89km)
Crews set off in bright sunshine from Ajaccio to the first stage
of the 49th Tour de Corse, the long mountain stage from Ampaza to Col St
Eustache. The route took crews to 1,000 metres above sea level through a
forest section, a series of narrow bridges and two junctions that passed
through villages. Newly-crowned World Champion Sébastien Loeb set the
fastest time through the speed test, ahead of Peugeot driver Marcus
Gronholm, Toni Gardemeister and François Duval. Subaru's Petter Solberg
had a clean run to record the fifth fastest time while French team-mate
Stéphane Sarrazin set some encouraging split times on the damp route,
but had a spin in a hairpin early on in the stage. The early morning dew
caused ice-like conditions and proved difficult for a number of other
drivers including Chris Atkinson, who spun at the same hairpin bend to
finish 16th. Jan Kopecky and Nicolas Bernardi also spun at the hairpin
while Gigi Galli had a difficult pass through the stage, with a bad
vibration from the front left tyre and Harri Rovanpera lost time after
switching to a manual gearshift.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 21:02.4
SS2 1011hrs Aullene-Arbellara 1 (27.78km)
The second test of the rally started on a wide, flowing road at
an altitude of 800m, which then descended for 22km before levelling to
50m above sea level for a short section followed by a narrow, twisty
climb to the village of Arbellara. Chris Atkinson developed a
transmission problem on the road section between stages one and two,
which was eventually traced to a broken front right driveshaft. Atkinson
and co-driver Glenn Macneall were unable to fix the problem in time for
the start of the second speed test and the Australian retired from the
Leg. He will restart tomorrow under Superally regulations. Loeb took his
second stage win of the day to extend his lead over Gronholm to nearly
30secs. Duval was 12secs slower through the stage than team mate Loeb,
but edged closer to Gardemeister in third overall. Solberg was fourth
fastest, while Sarrazin set the sixth quickest time to move ahead of
Ford privateer Dani Sola to sixth overall.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 16:06.9
SS3 1424hrs Ampaza-Col St Eustache 2 (32.89km)
The first stage run after service was a repeat of the earlier
Ampaza-St Eustache pass and featured several surface changes with very
rough, old asphalt interspersed with smoother tarmac sections. Loeb took
his third stage win of the day ahead of Citroen team mate Duval. The
Belgian's stage time was nearly 10secs quicker than Gronholm and
Gardemeister and he moved into second place overall ahead of the pair.
After making some small modifications to the suspension of his Subaru
Impreza WRC2005 in service, Sarrazin recorded the fifth fastest time,
despite running 12th on an increasingly dusty road. Team-mate Solberg
was sixth fastest through the stage, setting an identical time to Sola,
and remained fifth overall, 13secs ahead of Sarrazin. The varying levels
of grip caused by the changing surface proved tough for some crews,
including Skoda's Armin Schwarz, who reported a steering problem.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 21:06.4
SS4 1517hrs Aullene-Arbellara 2 (27.78km)
The repeat of the mountain route gave Loeb a clean sweep of Leg
one stage wins as he extended his lead over Duval to more than forty
seconds. Stéphane Sarrazin put in his best performance of the day to
record the third fastest stage time, just over half a second faster than
team mate Petter Solberg. Gardemeister finished outside the top three
through the stage for the first time during the Leg but moved up to
fourth overall over Marcus Gronholm, who finished the stage 20secs
slower than Loeb. But there was drama for the Peugeot driver in the time
control after the stage finish when his 307WRC came to a halt with
transmission problems. Prohibited from carrying out repair work within
the control area, the Finn later ran out of time and was forced to
retire from the Leg.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 16:04.6
Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth
Both Petter and Stéphane have made a good start to this rally. Both have stayed out of trouble and their cars have run faultlessly. The feedback from both drivers is encouraging. Before this rally I felt that both Petter and Stéphane could get a podium finish, and there's every reason to believe this is still the case. Chris came here to learn, and it's a shame he wasn't able to get more stage mileage under his belt before his day was brought to an end. At least he can be out there again tomorrow and get more valuable asphalt experience.
Today has been a good start and I'm very happy. We've had no problems at all and have made the right set-up and tyre choices. I'd say that in general everything about the car has improved since the last asphalt event in Germany. It feels much, much better. Still we have more work to do, but we have a good direction now and we're posting some good times. For now, the podium is my goal and we'll be aiming to push a bit harder tomorrow.
In general it's been a good day and things have improved steadily as we have gone along. The engineers did a good job at the midday service; they altered the set-up to better cope with the bumpy roads, and it was not such a problem in the afternoon. However, I still think there is more performance to come, both from me as a driver and the car set-up too. Tomorrow we will be looking to get more grip from the car, as well as a more comfortable driving rhythm for me.
The first stage (SS1) was fine, no problems at all, and I was happy with my performance on my first Corsican stage. But when we stopped on the road section after the stage end control we just lost the drive completely. There was absolutely no warning, and although Glenn and I did our best, together with the engineers back in Ajaccio, we eventually ran out of time. Of course it's a real shame to finish the day like this but it's some consolation that we can get back out there again tomorrow.
News From Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
During testing we noted that the new evolution RX5 tyres were two to three tenths of a second per kilometre faster than their predecessors. The stage times throughout the first Leg of the rally have confirmed this and, as a result, Petter has said that he is happy with the rubber's responsiveness and durability. However we still have a lot of work to do and we hope that the information we collect will help us to improve our performance both throughout the remaining two days in Corsica and the next asphalt event in Spain.
Cars leave Ajaccio parc fermé from 0830hrs for a 10 minute service before travelling north east for two twisty, mountainous stages, which will be repeated in the afternoon after a second service. The second Leg of the Tour de Corse comprises just under 125 competitive kilometres and the longest stage of the entire rally, the Vico-Col de Sarzoggiu pass at 36.24km.