Incident and disappointment marked the first Leg of the Tour de Corse for the Subaru World Rally Team. Petter Solberg had a difficult start to the rally when exhaust damage sustained in a spin on the first stage dropped him more than three minutes...
Incident and disappointment marked the first Leg of the Tour de Corse for the Subaru World Rally Team. Petter Solberg had a difficult start to the rally when exhaust damage sustained in a spin on the first stage dropped him more than three minutes behind the leaders. Petter finished the day 14th overall. Chris Atkinson continued to gain more valuable asphalt experience but suffered a set-back on the penultimate stage when the exhaust system on his car was damaged in almost identical circumstances to Solberg's. Stephane Sarrazin ran reliably and showed improvement throughout the Leg. He ended the day in tenth place.
SS1: 0938 Ampaza - Col St Eustache 1 (32.89km)
Crews set off in bright sunshine from Ajaccio to the first stage of the
50th Tour de Corse, the long mountain stage from Ampaza to Col St
Eustache. Sebastien Loeb opened his bid for two consecutive Tour de Corse
victories with the fastest stage time, eight seconds quicker than Ford's
Marcus Gronholm. Loeb's team-mate Xavier Pons came through the bumpy
pass third fastest. Several drivers reported slippery, dusty conditions
and struggled to stay on the correct racing line, including Matthew
Wilson who hit the side of a bridge and punctured a tyre. Chris Atkinson
set the tenth fastest time, three seconds quicker than team-mate Stephane
Sarrazin. Petter Solberg had a difficult start to the rally when his car
left the road 5km from the finish line and hit a bank. The impact damaged
the right-hand rear corner of his Impreza and flattened part of its
exhaust system, severely limiting engine power for the remainder of the
stage. The incident dropped Petter dropped 1min 29secs behind the leader.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 20:45.5
SS2: 1031 Aullene - Arbellara 1 (27.78km)
Crews completed a short road section to the second stage of Leg one, the
newly-resurfaced Aullene -- Arbellara. Gronholm took the win through the
classic Corsican pass with its cambered 90 degree bends leading down a
mountainside. Loeb came through the 27km test second quickest to retain
his overall lead, while Frenchman Alex Bengue moved into third overall
ahead of Mikko Hirvonen and Xavier Pons. Before the stage, Petter Solberg
and co-driver Phil Mills stopped on the road section to make repairs to
their car. They managed to open up the flattened section a little and
went on to set the tenth fastest time. Spaniard Dani Sordo regained some
of the time he lost through the first test of the day and moved up the
leaderboard from 13th to ninth overall.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 15:49.8
SS3: 1434 Ampaza - Col St Eustache 2 (32.89km)
The first stage after a 30 minute service halt in Ajaccio was a repeat of
the first test of the day - the 32km section from Ampaza. Citroen's Loeb
scored his second stage win of the Leg and extended his lead over
Gronholm to more than 15secs.The stage was again very slippery and once
more proved problematic for Matthew Wilson, who spun and lost over one
minute to Loeb. In a repeat of Petter's earlier incident, Chris Atkinson
spun his car off the road shortly after the start and damaged its exhaust
tailpipe and rear silencer. Atkinson was quickly underway again but the
exhaust system soon overheated due to the restriction and this in turn
damaged some of the car's electronic gear-selection components. After
noticing smoke in the car, Atkinson stopped to make a safety check before
continuing to the end of the stage. He dropped approximately eight
minutes. Dani Sordo and Mikko Hirvonen were third and fourth quickest
through the stage to move into sixth and third respectively.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 20:48.8
SS4: 1527 Aullene - Arbellara 2 (27.78km)
The final stage of the Leg was the repeat of the classic Corsican stage
between the villages of Aullene and Arbellara. Loeb and Gronholm
continued to monopolise the top two stage positions, with the Frenchman
holding the advantage this time to take the stage win by four seconds.
Loeb's overall lead was extended to just under 20secs. Behind them Bengue
and Hirvonen continued their own battle, with Bengue re-taking third
place after the Finn stalled on the start line and lost around 10secs.
Sordo and Pons also swapped position with reigning JWRC champion Sordo
moving into fifth. Subaru's Stephane Sarrazin achieved his best finish
of the Leg with the sixth fastest time, nearly 10secs quicker than his
morning run. The Frenchman moved into the top ten overall ahead of
Francois Duval. Sarrazin's team-mate Chris Atkinson lost a further 1min
13secs to leader Loeb as his gear selection problems persisted.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 15:51.4
SWRT SPORTING DIRECTOR, LUIS MOYA: Obviously we're disappointed. We thought we had a reasonable pace on the last day in Spain, but today in Corsica we are certainly not satisfied with our performance. All we can do now is try our best to improve the situation over the next two days. We will do all we can to get the best result on Sunday.
PETTER SOLBERG: Well, not the best. We've had better days of course, and with all the problems we've had it's been very difficult. We changed the gearbox earlier and the replacement is a slightly different specification. The car wasn't as easy to drive in the afternoon and we had to try some different settings to compensate, but that's how it is. Tomorrow's another day and we'll do all we can to improve on our position.
STEPHANE SARRAZIN: It was a bit difficult; we are not where we were expecting to be. I'm doing all I can but we're not getting the results we want. In terms of what's possible for this rally, well, I hope to get into the top six; we'll just have to see. You can guarantee that I'll be pushing as hard as possible tomorrow.
CHRIS ATKINSON: We had a good start to the day but a small mistake at a hairpin corner on SS3 just crimped the exhaust pipe and we had some gearbox problems after that. So not really the best day, it's disappointing but not the end of the world. Tomorrow we'll go out there and learn as much as we can in these conditions and hopefully keep improving.
NEWS FROM PIRELLI
MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER
The bad luck that impeded two of the three Subarus during the first Leg didn't reveal the real progress done by the Impreza with our last P Zero evolutions in such a difficult rally like Corsica. >From a performance point of view, I'm confident that from tomorrow Petter, Chris and Stephane will have the opportunity to underline the real competitiveness of the car and the major improvement we did with the Pirelli tyres regarding the severe asphalt special stages of this rally. As Petter said this afternoon, we didn't stop fighting.