After today's second Leg of the Tour de Corse, Petter Solberg holds third place overall, with one full day of competition remaining. All three of the Subaru World Rally Team's cars ran faultlessly and Solberg finished in the top three in three of...
After today's second Leg of the Tour de Corse, Petter Solberg holds third place overall, with one full day of competition remaining. All three of the Subaru World Rally Team's cars ran faultlessly and Solberg finished in the top three in three of the day's four stages. Stéphane Sarrazin holds fifth place overnight after setting a consistently rapid pace throughout the day, while Chris Atkinson's speed on the unfamiliar event improved steadily. The Australian, who restarted this morning under Superally regulations, bettered his morning times by over 15secs in the afternoon repeats.
SS5 0953hrs Vico-Col de Sarzoggiu 1 (36.24km)
Cars left Ajaccio parc fermé for the pass from Vico to Col de
Sarzoggiu, the longest test of the rally at just over 36km. The highly
technical stage started in front of a convent before running on abrasive
asphalt for five kilometres to the village of Arbori. Crews then passed
through a series of steep, descending corners down to the Truggia Bridge
before climbing back to the Col de Sarzoggiu. Overnight rally leader
Sébastien Loeb continued his monopoly of stage wins, but there was
disappointment for his team-mate François Duval when the brake calliper
on his front-left wheel broke and the brake system lost fluid. The
Belgian dropped over thirty seconds to Loeb through the stage, allowing
Ford's Toni Gardemeister, lying third behind Duval at the start of the
Leg, into second overall. Despite swerving to avoid a wild pig that ran
in front of his car, Petter Solberg recorded the third fastest time and
closed to within nine seconds of Duval on the leaderboard, while
Stéphane Sarrazin was fifth quickest to retain fifth overall. Ford
privateer Dani Sola had a clean run to finish fourth fastest and closed
to within three seconds of Sarrazin, but Skoda driver Armin Schwarz'
handling problems continued and he finished the stage with damage to the
front-left wing that had been caused by a disintegrating tyre. Peugeot's
Marcus Gronholm did not restart the rally following his transmission
problems after the final stage of Leg one.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 25:04.1
SS6 1116hrs Ucciani-Bastelica 1 (26.20km)
The steep, largely downhill speed test proved problematic for
several crews. Schwarz did not start the stage, but returned to service
to investigate the handling problems that had plagued his first run of
the day. His Skoda team believed the unpredictable handling of his Fabia
WRC and excessive tyre wear was too dangerous for the German to continue
and he retired from the Leg and the rally. After the front-left brake
calliper broke in the previous stage Duval stopped on the road section
to SS6 to top up the brake fluid and closed off the front-left system.
He drove the second stage with brakes on three of the four wheels only
and was nearly one minute slower than his team-mate, allowing Solberg
and Sarrazin to move into third and fourth overall. After a promising
start to the Leg, Sola encountered a bad tyre vibration just over one
kilometre from the end of the stage and later spun off the road. Despite
his best efforts, he could not rejoin and he retired from the Leg. After
the end of the stage, crews headed back to Ajaccio for a 30 minute
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 17:00.3
SS7 1444hrs Vico-Col de Sarzoggiu 2 (36.24km)
After service, crews headed back north to Vico for the narrow,
twisty road to Col de Sarzoggiu. With tiny rock walls on the inside of
the corners, there was little opportunity for drivers to cut the apexes
and the stage demanded extremely precise driving. Many drivers reported
a slippery surface covered with dust and gravel and several crews picked
up punctures, including Alexandre Bengue and Toni Gardemeister. Loeb
took his seventh stage win of the event, five seconds faster than Duval,
who had fixed his earlier brake problems in service and edged back ahead
of Sarrazin. Petter Solberg was again third fastest to maintain a 30secs
advantage over Duval, while team-mate Chris Atkinson collected more
experience on his second-ever WRC tarmac event. After retiring from Leg
one, the Australian restarted under Superally regulations and finished
the stage a full 20secs faster than his earlier morning time. Ford's
Antony Warmbold moved closer to Gigi Galli in ninth overall despite
developing a hydraulic problem that forced him to switch to a slower,
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 24:50.9
SS8 1607hrs Ucciani-Bastelica 2 (26.20km)
The first 1.5km of the Ucciani-Bastelica stage was modified
slightly for 2005 but the rest of the test remained identical to the
previous year's route. Crews started at an altitude of 300m, climbing
gradually to run across the top of a col before descending sharply at
the 18km point. Loeb's dominance of the Tour de Corse continued as the
Frenchman notched up his eighth stage win, seven seconds faster than
Duval. Gardemeister was third, with Peugeot's Nicolas Bernardi achieving
his best stage result of the rally in fourth. Petter Solberg crossed the
line 11secs slower than Loeb, but retained third place overall with a
25secs advantage over Duval, while team-mate Chris Atkinson again showed
he was a quick learner when he recorded a time 17secs faster than the
morning's run. Mitsubishi had a tough stage as both Galli and Panizzi
developed problems, Galli losing fourth gear and Panizzi stopping
approximately three kilometres from the end of the stage with engine
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 16:55.1
Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth
It's been a good day and we still have every chance of achieving our podium target. We knew that Sébastien would be fast on this rally, but we have to be pleased with our performance against our other rivals. Petter maintained his pace throughout the day and hasn't put a foot wrong. Likewise, Stéphane is trading times with some of the world's top drivers and it's easy to forget his relative inexperience. It is good to see Chris already well on course to achieve his improvement targets. His learning curve is impressively steep.
I must say, I'm happy with what we've done today. It's been better than I expected actually. The car and the tyres are working very well in these conditions and I think the development work that we've done recently is a massive step forward. We haven't had any problems to report, apart from the near miss with a pig on the first stage, and I hope we can have another trouble free run tomorrow.
Yes, it was good, not fantastic, but we struggled a bit with too much understeer for my liking. But to be fifth overall is not bad and there are still another 95 kilometres to go tomorrow. I liked the roads today, they were very exciting, and tomorrow I hope to be able to push a bit harder. Everything can happen over the remaining four stages, I will push to the maximum.
After our departure from the rally yesterday, today has almost been a test, and not a bad one at all. I'm happy with the pace that we showed all day, there was steady improvement in our times and it's encouraging to see the progress on the time sheets. We've gathered a lot of feedback from the car, especially on how it reacts in different situations. There are so many surface changes on this event that we've been finding our way a bit. We made a few little mistakes, but we're learning more all the time and it's definitely going to help us when we come back here again.
News From Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager
Petter used the same type of XR evolution tyre all day today, which performed consistently enough for him to end up looking at the podium finish on one of the most specialist asphalt events of the entire calendar. The information we have gathered over the last two days should be enough to give him a strong finish to this event, with a view to another competitive performance on the asphalt of Spain next week.
The Tour de Corse is renowned as one of the most punishing rallies for drivers and co-drivers. The twisty, tricky stages have earned the event its 'rally of ten thousand corners' nickname. With a multitude of hairpin bends, sharp descents and steep inclines drivers and co-drivers are put under enormous physical and mental pressure:
On Leg one this year, during SS2 (Aullene-Arbellara), SWRT drivers were subjected to the highest g-forces of the World Rally Championship so far. The forces are high as cars accelerate quickly from the exit of one hairpin bend to the apex of another within very short distances. Subaru's on board data recorders measured a peak lateral (side-to-side) force through the stage of 1.575g.
In wet conditions the lateral g-forces are reduced - but not by much. Even on a fully wet road the Pirelli shod Subaru Impreza WRC2005 has an impressive grip on things. During the soaking wet Corsica pre-event shakedown, Solberg's car still recorded a lateral g figure of 1.475g.
Frequent direction changes can be a pain in the neck and both drivers and co-drivers prepare carefully to avoid any muscle strain. As part of his fitness routine, co-driver Phil Mills uses a specially adapted helmet with weights attached to the bottom which he wears to build up his neck muscles. "I just put it on when I watch TV and move my head from side to side. It helps to strengthen my neck. You feel pretty stupid watching Coronation Street with this helmet on, but you appreciate it when you come to an event like this when you have massive forces going through your body."
Concentration levels are always high for drivers and co-drivers, but the Tour de Corse requires extreme absorption in the road ahead. Petter Solberg commented, "A lot comes down to the pace notes. You really have to concentrate on what the co-driver is saying and it's not easy sometimes. It seems that at this rally Phil is talking all the time - I have to absorb what he says very quickly as the corners keep coming."
Hot and sunny weather can make the car's cockpit a fairly uncomfortable place to be. This year will be Denis Giraudet's eleventh Tour de Corse: "It's very challenging for us and the car gets very, very hot in the high temperatures, almost like a sauna. With all the movement in the corners you see exhausted drivers at the end of each stage."
Ex-Formula One driver Stéphane Sarrazin has experienced g-forces of up to 6g behind the wheel of an F1 car. He still rates this rally as being one of the most challenging, and as difficult as Formula One: "The g-forces are not as high as F1 and my fitness level is good so I don't have a problem with this, but you have to be 100% concentrated on the road. Vico-Col de Sarzoggiu is the most technical of the event as it's very narrow and twisty. If you don't concentrate here you will have a very big accident."
Crews leave parc fermé in the port of Ajaccio from 0700hrs for a 10 minute service before departing for the mountains to the south east of the capital. Leg three is the shortest of the rally, comprising just over 95 competitive kilometres and features two loops of two stages. The Acqua Doria-Serra di Ferro pass is new for 2005 and is also the shortest test, while the Pont de Calzola is one of the fastest of the event as crews reach average speeds of around 100km/h.