Loeb’s head-on crash, Atko fourth in Argentina
- 27th April 2008, 10:25am
Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot hold fourth position overall for the Subaru World Rally Team after battling in-car temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius. Petter Solberg and Phil Mills however were ruled out of the competition on the day’s final stage, having earlier demonstrated improved pace with a raft of top-four stage times.
“Chris did exactly what he needed today and as a result was able to climb to fourth overall. He should be happy with his position after two very difficult days” said David Richards. “Clearly it has been a very tough day for Petter and Phil with all the problems they have experienced and it is a very disappointing end to their rally.”
Atkinson and Prévot claimed fourth place on the 15 kilometre stage 11, the longest of the day, after an accident between rally leader Sebastien Loeb and Conrad Rautenbach on the road section between stages forced both involved to retire. With a comfortable gap to the crews in third and fifth, and despite going third fastest on stage 15, Atkinson wasn’t taking any risks on the treacherously difficult surface.
“The biggest focus for us today was to get to the finish, make no mistakes and just hold position” said Chris Atkinson. “We had no major problems and got here ok. There is a big gap in front and behind of us, but we can’t afford to lose too much time so we were still driving reasonably quickly, just not taking any risks by driving around rocks and things like that. I’m happy with fourth though.
“I think tomorrow will need even more caution as the stages are more difficult, especially the long Jordan River stage, and they are a lot more loose and slippery. We’ll approach tomorrow in exactly the same way.”
In the Solberg camp, luck was certainly not on the side of the magnanimous Hollywood and Welshman Mills this weekend, and the duo had a fraught day. After setting a string of top-four stage times in a fight for Manufacturers’ points, they were hindered first by a broken shock absorber, suffered a leaking brake caliper and then slid off the road and into retirement on the final stage.
Through no fault of their own, three kilometres from the end of stage 11 the rear left suspension damper broke. Solberg was able to complete the remaining 16 kilometres and return for the midday service, enabling the team to replace the damper and attack afresh in the afternoon.
Solberg set about restoring the balance with a blistering pace on the day’s penultimate stage, fastest of the field until the last few kilometres when he experienced reduced brake feel. Attacking again in stage 16, he was running second fastest before sliding off the road heavily under braking, 5.3 kilometres into the stage.
“We had so much go wrong today” said Petter Solberg. “We knew we had a brake caliper leaking, and in the last stage I braked and the car just didn’t slow down enough. It’s so, so frustrating and just boring, you know. I want to be able to push and drive properly but we just haven’t been able to this weekend.”
The shortest day of the rally defied the forecasts and was actually hotter than yesterday’s opener. At fewer than 110 competitive kilometres, crews travelled to the north of the Dead Sea service park, along the Jordan River and towards the city of Amman.
Results after day two:
1. Sordo / Marti Citroen C4 WRC 2h 29m 02.9s
2. Latvala / Anttila Ford Focus RS WRC 07 +8.5s (diff. to 1st)
3. Hirvonen / Lehtinen Ford Focus RS WRC 07 +10.4s
4. Atkinson / Prévot Subaru Impreza WRC2007 +2m 02.5s
5. Aava / Sikk Citroen C4 +3m 07.2s
6. Wilson / Martin Ford Focus RS WRC 07 +4m 56.5s
7. Solberg / Menkerud Ford Focus RS WRC 07 +5m 10.9s
8. Villagra / Perez Companc Ford Focus RS WRC 07 +6m 56.3s
9. Al Qassimi / Orr Ford Focus RS WRC 07 +7m 10.5s
10. Galli / Bernacchini Ford Focus RS WRC 07 +11m 29.7s
Ret. Solberg / Mills Subaru Impreza WRC2007 +23m 26.4s
The final day of competition on this inaugural is actually the longest with six stages totalling just over 134 competitive kilometres. It is also the most gruelling, throwing two passes of the 41 kilometre Jordan River stage into the mix. Although the temperature is meant to be lower again, crews will have to spend 30 minutes in the car to complete this stage, as opposed the 10-15 minutes a stage usually takes. Coupled with the fact that it is the final stage of the event, heat exhaustion and tiredness are likely to be deciding factors.
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