Mixed day for Subaru
- 3rd December 2006, 8:47am
Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson are still in points-scoring positions after the second leg of Rally GB in south Wales today. Petter and co-driver Phil Mills dropped back from second to third place after clipping a gatepost and damaging their car’s steering on SS11. Chris increased his pace during the day and moved up from seventh to sixth place.
SS7: 0850hrs Crychan 1 (19.47km)
It was a crisp, cold Welsh morning as the drivers headed out to start Leg Two. Visibility was good across the open moorland stages, but the ground was still very wet due to overnight rain. The day started with Petter Solberg less than half a minute behind rally leader Marcus Gronholm and a similar distance ahead of third-placed Manfred Stohl. Petter was keen to challenge for the lead, but went off the road and into a muddy ditch near the start of the stage. He recovered, but lost 30s and dropped to third position behind Stohl. “I was trying hard from the start,” said Petter. “I had lots of understeer and made a mistake and got stuck.” Chris Atkinson made a steady start and posted a 10m 54.6s effort, which was sixth fastest.
Fastest Time: Xavi Pons (Citroen) 10m 42.6s
SS8: 0924hrs Epynt 1 (13.76km)
Difficult conditions faced the drivers for their trip across the Epynt military ranges. The stage was exceptionally slippy, and included a mixture of muddy sections and wet asphalt. After his moment on SS7, Petter was back on the attack: his 7m 42.2s time was second fastest through the stage, and he closed to 0.8s behind Stohl. Chris was sixth fastest through the test with a time of 7m 45.9s. He was now only 2.3s behind Dani Sordo in sixth place. At the end of the stage, the Australian said: “I had no real problems, but it is still tough. There are lots of slippery patches, but I really enjoyed the end of the stage.”
Fastest Time: Marcus Gronholm (Ford) 7m 40.4s
SS9: 1001hrs Halfway 1 (18.37km)
Conditions were changeable for Halfway, with a mixture of rain showers and bright sunshine greeting the crews as they climbed out of the forests and onto the open moorland section near the end of the stage. Both Subaru World Rally Team drivers were on the move: Petter reclaimed second place with a 10m 41.7s run. He said: “We tried some different tyres for these stages and although there was very good traction, I didn’t have as much steering precision.” Chris reported no major problems and his time of 10m 48.8s moved him up to sixth position, ahead of Sordo. After the stage, the drivers headed back to Felindre for the first service halt of the day.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 10m 35.9s
SS10: 1337hrs Crychan 2 (19.47km)
The weather turned for the worse as the afternoon’s loop of stages got underway. Many drivers got caught in torrential rain on the second Crychan run and times were generally slower than the first time through the stage. Petter came through in 10m 47.9s, a fraction slower than rival Stohl, so the Norwegian remained second overall by 3.6s. Chris was one of the drivers to get caught in a torrential downpour which reduced visibility. His time of 10m 54.0s meant he remained sixth, but pulled further away from Francois Duval and Dani Sordo. At the front of the rally, Gronholm continued to lead by more than one minute.
Fastest Time: Manfred Stohl (Peugeot) 10m 47.7s
SS11: 1411hrs Epynt 2 (13.76km)
There were more mixed conditions for the drivers to cope with on the second run across the military ranges. Petter had worked hard to build up an advantage over Stohl on the previous tests, but in Epynt he clipped a gatepost and damaged the steering rack of his car. He was able to continue, but the problem cost him about seven seconds and left him just 0.1s in front of Stohl. With no service halt until after the evening’s Super Special in the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, he would have to limp through the next two stages before the problem could be fixed. “I hit the same gatepost that Marcus Gronholm hit two years ago,” said Petter. Meanwhile his team-mate was concentrating on consolidating his sixth position. “We had a steady run through that one,” said Chris, who posted a stage time of 7m 40.1s – second fastest overall.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 7m 39.3s
SS12: 1448hrs Halfway 2 (18.37km)
Atkinson continued his strong form on the penultimate stage of the day, setting the second-fastest time of 10m 34.9s. Heavy rain and high winds had greeted the drivers on Halfway, and the Australian said the conditions were very difficult: “It was pouring with rain as we came through the stage. The condition of the road just gets worse and worse.” Petter had to drive through the stage as carefully as possible. He finished the test in 11m 30.1s. It was tough luck for the Norwegian: he dropped back behind Stohl in the overall classification, although he was still third, 22s ahead of fourth-placed Pons, as the drivers headed off the Welsh moors and towards Cardiff for the end-of-leg Super Special.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 10m 34.4s
SS13: 1706hrs Cardiff Super Special (1.10km)
The final test of the day was the spectator stage in the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Under the roof of the sports venue, the crews enjoyed the chance to show off in front of thousands of spectators. Despite his steering problem, Petter set a time of 1m 04.6s, while Chris negotiated the short stage in 1m 05.1s. They remained third and sixth overall.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 1m 01.5s
Subaru World Rally Team Managing Director, Richard Taylor: “We’d hoped to be challenging for the lead today but a couple of mistakes cost Petter more than a minute and a half and we’re probably lucky to hold on to third place. It’s unfortunate – but we’re still on the podium. Chris has had a couple of strong times this afternoon and has consolidated his sixth position. We still have two cars in the points and we’ll see what tomorrow brings, realistically a podium looks like the best we can achieve now.”
Petter Solberg: “Well obviously we tried a little bit too hard this morning; we chose a new tyre, took a bit of a risk, and unfortunately it didn’t quite work out. In the afternoon we tried just to stay in second place, then I turned-in just a few millimetres too early near the end of SS11, hit a pole, broke the steering and I was out of second. The last forest stage wasn’t easy but we got through okay, we’re still in the competition and that’s the main thing. Tomorrow, we‘ll see. We’re in third place now, but a lot can still happen so I’ll keep pushing as hard as I can.”
Chris Atkinson: “Our day improved after we altered the set-up at the service after SS9. From then on car felt much better, we’ve gained some more grip and the car is generally more to my liking. On stages 11 and 12 I was able to push much more and we were second fastest on both – we missed out by two-tenths on getting fastest times. Now that I have a better feeling with the car I’m looking to keep the same sort of speed tomorrow.”
News from Pirelli
Mario Isola, Pirelli Competizioni Rally Manager: “What is good for us is that the new development of our KP tyres have performed very well in these cold and muddy conditions. Both Petter and Chris have been able to set some very good times during the day. Chris finished very strongly and although Petter now has a lot of time to make up if he’s to catch Marcus, we hope he will continue to push for the best possible finish tomorrow.”
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