15 November 2012
Ford World Rally Team's Petter Solberg looks back on Rally de Espana, the final round in the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship, in his latest exclusive column for Crash.net
In Petter Solberg's latest exclusive column on Crash.net, the Ford World Rally Team man looks back on Spain and an event that just didn't go to plan...
I went to Spain really hoping to get a win and end the season on a high. I was so fired-up to achieve a good result for Ford, for Malcolm [Wilson] and for all the guys in the team in Ford's final rally, and for that to all go wrong so early on in just the second stage was so incredibly disappointing. It was very hard to take.
That's just the way it's gone this season, though, I guess – starting off well and then going downhill. It's not been our year, but now we need to refocus and look to the future, whatever that may bring...
Going back to the rally, basically, SS2 (Pesells 1) was going well and Chris [Patterson – my co-driver] and I were setting some encouraging split times whilst driving well within our limits. The conditions were really bad with all the rain and the mud, but we were third-quickest and on course to move up the leaderboard until we came around a fourth-gear left-hand corner about 20km in and found ourselves dragged into a big rut that was full of water. An exposed rock was hidden in the rut, and that was enough to damage the suspension, sadly.
Four cars actually hit the same rock, and if it hadn't been for Chris warning the following drivers to slow down, there would have been a lot more, too...
It was a pretty turbulent opening day all-in-all for a lot of drivers, with 11 of the top 20 starters going out.
Right up until the day itself, the forecast was for dry weather on Friday – and as you saw, it was anything but. The conditions were really treacherous. I don't think I've ever seen so many cars have problems in a single day before. It reminded me of Portugal earlier this year – not easy to drive at all.
Of course, we could re-join on Saturday under the Rally 2 rules and we did climb back from 41st to 11th, but to be honest, it wasn't so much fun. When you have a 25-minute time penalty and have lost all hope of fighting for the podium or even a strong points finish, it's a real struggle to find the motivation to continue pushing – and I was also very conscious of not wanting to damage the car again and of getting safely to the finish for Malcolm. It was good to regain 30 positions, but really, after Friday, we were just driving around for the fans. We have had to do that a few times this season – more often than I would have liked in the second half – and it is never easy.
The Fiesta RS WRC, though, was very good. I've no complaints there and it is always a pleasure to drive. It felt brilliant all the way through. I just wish I could have made more of it.
All-in-all, a weekend to forget for me and not the way I wanted to help Ford conclude its official WRC participation.
As for the event itself, well, Spain is always an enjoyable rally – ok, perhaps less so for us personally this year, but I think it marked a fitting end to the season nonetheless. The fact that it is the only mixed-surface event in the WRC does add an extra challenge in terms of needing to adapt not only the whole set-up of the car but also your driving style from one day to the next. The only thing I'm not a fan of, however, is mixed-surface stages like we had on the first day in Spain on Terra Alta. Stages should take place on either asphalt or gravel – not both. At least that's my view.
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