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Solberg gives new Impreza debut win in Mexico

13 March 2005


Subaru team leader, Petter Solberg has won the Rally Mexico, the Norwegian leading from start to finish in the new Impreza, and eventually taking the honours by over 30 seconds.

'Hollywood' eased off through the final leg to ensure he finished and although he has suffered some brake problems - like most of his rivals - the new 2005 specification Impreza more than delivered.

Solberg, who won last month in Sweden too, now leads the WRC drivers' championship, one point up on Markko Martin, who has thus far had an incredibly consistent start to the year.

Speaking at the finish Solberg dedicated the win to Ryuichiro Kuze - one of the founding members of the team, who passed away on the Wednesday prior to the start of the event.

"To get a win with the old car in Sweden and another with the new one here is a great feeling - for sure there's still more to come from this car but I'm very happy with the progress we've made already," he said.

"It's also very special to be able to win here for Mr Kuze. Without him, none of this would be possible, and I'm pleased to be able to dedicate this win to him. At the end of the day this result is all about teamwork, and I'm lucky to have such a great group of people behind me. I can't thank them enough."

Marcus Gronholm took the runners-up spot, around a minute up on his Peugeot team-mate, Martin, who took third. Gronholm, who was in contention for the victory throughout the opening day, was conscious that he needed a finish this time out, following errors in both Sweden and Monte Carlo and as a consequence he was happy to settle for the eight points.

As a result of their 2-3 finish, Peugeot now lead the constructors' race, 8 points in front of Mitsubishi and Ford.

"I was very glad to see the end; it has been a very tricky event and I was concentrating extremely hard on not taking any unnecessary risks," said Gronholm. "This has not really been a rally I enjoyed, but the most important thing is that the car has been extremely reliable and we are on the podium."

Sebastien Loeb took fourth, the Frenchman demoting both Harri Rovanpera and Toni Gardemeister in the final test of the event, winning it by some 30 odd seconds. Despite a poor start on Friday, when he lost over 4 minutes, the reigning world champion never gave up, and his reward was 5 more points to aid his battle to retain the drivers' crown.

"I have been pushing very hard since yesterday and today I turned it up a further notch," he noted. "I honestly drove the final stage as though victory depended on it. It was a near-perfect run, perhaps one of the best of my career."

Harri Rovanpera gave Mitsubishi another solid finish with fifth, while his team-mate, Gilles Panizzi also ended up in the points, eighth overall.

"I'm happy with fifth place but it was a very tough rally. We drove as hard as we could today; it was hard enough to get past Gardemeister but not fast enough to stay ahead of Loeb," he commented.

Ford's Toni Gardemeister was the big loser today, dropping from an overnight fourth to sixth. The Finn though has not felt confident throughout the event, and he has also been suffering as he has the flu.

"I couldn't have driven any faster," he revealed. "I was flat out all the way. I'm a little disappointed with my final position but happy that we finished in the points."

Antony Warmbold was seventh in the only other remaining Focus, the German holding off Panizzi by just 0.7sec after a thrilling final stage showdown to secure his best WRC result to date.

Skoda's Armin Schwarz and Jani Paasonen both completed the event, in ninth and 13th respectively, the latter re-starting on Saturday, after crashing out on SS2. The new Fabia though, while reliable, still seems to lack speed and that is something they will be focusing on prior to New Zealand.

"I'm happy that we had no major technical problems associated with the new car but we must find more speed if we are to get the results we are seeking," stated Skoda boss, Martin Muehlmeier.

In the Junior WRC, Guy Wilks kept going to come out top, the Brit some 9 minutes up on his Suzuki team-mate, Per-Gunnar Andersson, who took advantage of the new SupeRally format to re-start this morning, and secure second place and the eight points that go with it.

Luca Cecchettini and Pavel Valousek were third and fourth respectively, both also benefiting from the new regulations, while Conrad Rautenbach was forced to pull out of the event on Saturday. Only 5 Junior drivers elected to make the trip to across the Atlantic.

Of the 44 starters, 26 were classified at the finish, amongst the retirees, Ford duo, Roman Kresta and Daniel Sola, and Subaru's Chris Atkinson and Citroen's Francois Duval. Atkinson and Duval both re-started this morning however the former stopped in the last test with no oil pressure, while Duval broke down on the way back to the final service with more engine problems.

The WRC now heads to Australasia for the second long-haul event of the season. Rally New Zealand - April 7-10 - is the second of a string of eight loose-surfaced events and takes place on the flowing gravel tracks around New Zealand's largest city, Auckland.


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