Crash.Net WRC News
Solberg and Gronholm head-to-head
12 February 2005
Subaru's Petter Solberg will go into the final leg of the Uddeholm Swedish Rally tomorrow [Sunday], with a 12.6 second advantage over Marcus Gronholm, who lies second for Peugeot.
The two Nordic drivers have been battling for the lead all day, with Solberg taking first blood this morning, before Gronholm battled back in SS10 and SS11, to go in front by 0.1 seconds.
'Hollywood' though wasn't giving up, and he stormed through the final two tests - SS13 and SS14, winning both, to put himself at the top of the leaderboard.
The battle though looks far from decided and could yet go either way...
"We've had a good fight with the other guys, trading times through the stages, but now I'm in a good position and I'm going to do all I can tomorrow to win," pledged Solberg. "Of course, there's still a long way to go and Marcus and Seb are tough competitors, but I have to admit it would be a dream result for me to win here in Sweden."
Gronholm though is just as determined: "I've enjoyed myself a lot and I hope all the spectators have as well. I think tomorrow will be just as exciting and I'm really looking forward to another big battle. Everything is too close to predict!"
Citroen #1 driver, Sebastien Loeb meanwhile remains in third despite going into a ditch on the opening stage and compounding a difficult morning by damaging the rear of his car after missing a braking point and then hitting a stone. Although he came back somewhat this afternoon, winning SS12, the Frenchman has slipped out of contention for the top prize, now 34.3 seconds off the battle between Gronholm and Solberg.
Markko Martin has moved up to fourth, in the second Peugeot 307, he is over a minute behind Loeb, while Ford duo, Toni Gardemeister and Henning Solberg, are fifth and sixth respectively.
The third works Focus, driven by Roman Kresta, is 12th.
"I've pushed hard all day and apart from the spin this morning, I've had no problems," stated Gardemeister. "But I don't understand why I'm faster on the first pass through a stage than I am on the second run. I seem to get worse when it should be the other way round. The time gaps are small behind us so it will be an interesting day tomorrow to try to hold off those trying to catch us."
Mitsubishi duo, Harri Rovanpera and Gigi Galli complete the provisional points' scorers in seventh and eighth, Galli having dropped down from fourth after gearshift problems and a broken front left drive-shaft in SS13, which cost him 1min 40secs in the following two tests.
"Eight kilometres into stage 13 we started to have a problem with the gearbox and then just before the finish the front left drive-shaft broke," he explained. "I don't remember feeling us hit anything, but it was after cutting a corner, so maybe this could have been the problem."
Of the remaining works drivers, Daniel Carlsson and Chris Atkinson round out the top ten, while Janne Tuohino is eleventh, best of the Skoda drivers, with his team-mates, Janni Paasonen and Mattias Ekstrom, 13th and 16th respectively.
Ekstrom had been running eighth, however he lost power steering mid-way through SS12 and had to struggle for two more stages, something that lost him a lot of time – around 3mins 30secs.
"I'm really disappointed about the power steering problem because I was just concentrating on driving my own rally and staying on the road," said the DTM champ. "It is impossible to drive one of these cars at anything more than walking speed when that happens - now I understand why other WRC drivers complain so much when I see them on television!"
Francois Duval is 15th in the second Citroen, after hitting a boulder in SS11, while Stephane Sarrazin is the last of the work entries, in 17th.
Thus far there have still be no works retirements.
In the Production Car WRC category, Toshi Arai continues to lead, nearly two minutes up on his nearest rival, Aki Teiskonen.
Arai for the record is also second overall in the Group N class, around 50 seconds behind Jukka Ketomaki.
The final leg tomorrow [Sunday] comprises two identical loops of three stages near Hagfors, and includes the most southerly test of the event. Organisers have shortened the first test of each loop from 22.33km to 10.17km for safety reasons.
Drivers leave Karlstad at 05.40 and return to the city for the finish at 15.04 after 89.54km of competition.