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Solberg wins the Cyprus Rally

22 June 2003


Petter Solberg guided his Subaru Impreza WRC2003 to victory on the Cyprus Rally, which finished in Limassol this afternoon.

The final loop of six stages once again took crews north of the rally's base and into the Troodos mountains. Solberg started the day with a 25.3-second lead over Peugeot's Harri Rovanpera. By lunchtime service, that gap had mushroomed to 47.6 seconds with Solberg fastest on two of the three stages. The fight was effectively over from then. Solberg throttled back over the re-run tests - where Rovanpera suffered a broken driveshaft - to win his second FIA WRC victory by more than four minutes.

Rovanpera's problem almost dropped him back into the grasp of third-placed Sebastien Loeb. After the 18th and final stage of the event, the Citroen driver was just 2.8 seconds behind. Loeb led a Xsara WRC trio, with Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz claiming fourth and fifth respectively. Ford's Mikko Hirvonen rounded out the top six in his 2002-specification Ford Focus RS WRC.

Solberg's car ran without any problems through leg three. Tommi Makinen retired yesterday after SS10, out of time after stopping for 28 minutes to fix his car in the sixth stage.

Solberg was delighted to take his second win in the FIA World Rally Championship - his first came on Rally Great Britain last November. He had taken time out of Rovanpera on the first loop of three stages this morning, building his lead to almost 50 seconds. From then on he was happy to stroke the Impreza WRC 2003 home through the rally's last three stages to claim the team's first win of the season.

''This is brilliant! It's a fantastic result for everybody involved,'' said Solberg, ''Everything has gone to plan for the last two days. We had this plan for Greece, it didn't work there, but it did work here. I drove pretty carefully through those final three stages, listening for any noises on the car. It was perfect, like it has been all weekend. Everybody has been working so hard for this result, I would like to thank everybody involved in this victory.''

David Lapworth, Subaru's team boss, added: ''We've worked very hard for 12 months now and have focused on being strong on this type of event. Here we've been able to combine the reliability and speed of the car and Petter and Phil [Mills]'s performance has been one of the coolest that I can remember. We've brought the car forward now and have more things planned for the second half of the season. We feel very well prepared.''

At Peugeot meanwhile Rovanpera's car broke a front-left driveshaft in SS16. Marcus Gronholm retired with transmission trouble on SS6, while Richard Burns' car overheated and stopped on the road section following the tenth stage.

Rovanpera decided against risking his second place in an all-out effort to beat Solberg. The Finn drove sensibly to get the car to the finish, his best result of the year to date - and collected eight points for the Peugeot team at the same time.

''I wanted to get second place, so there was no big attack today,'' said Rovanpera, ''This has been a very hard rally and we've had some problems going right up until the finish. When the driveshaft broke with two stages still to go, I thought we weren't going to make the finish, but we are here. I feel unlucky and lucky at the same time. We had two wheel-drive for the last couple of stages and we were dropping a lot of time. It was hard work to the finish, but it's good to get second.''

Peugeot's technical boffin Jean-Pierre Nicolas added: ''The problems we had with the transmission this weekend were not the same as the trouble we had in Greece. Here it was linked to the temperature; this is the hottest rally we have ever done and heated up the lubricants in the engine and transmission and caused the problems for Richard [Burns] and Harri. We still do not know what the problem was with Marcus Gronholm's car, but we are looking into it.''

Citroen's Loeb suffered an electrical fault on SS15. The other two Citroen Xsara WRCs made it to the finish without any problems.

Loeb's electrical glitch cost him approximately 15 seconds, but he remained ahead of team-mates McRae and Sainz. Loeb had also clipped a rock on the stage previously, knocking the steering on his Xsara slightly out of line. With 27 seconds separating McRae from Loeb and 1m 14s separating the Scot from fifth-placed Sainz, none of the Citroen drivers had any reason to drive flat out. They arrived at the finish in that order, picking up more points for the French firm.

''I was lucky to get into service after the morning stages, the car kept cutting out through the last stage of that loop,'' said Loeb, ''I don't know what the problem was, maybe it was heat-related, but it just wouldn't pull. I had to keep stopping and resetting everything. After that scare, and hitting the rock on the stage before, I just wanted to make the finish. We weren't going to risk anything through the final loop.''

McRae commented: ''There was nothing to push for this morning, we just driving sensibly. We were testing some various transmission settings on the car, which are good for the car's gravel set-up. It's been good for me to get another full event in and get more time in the car on this sort of surface.''

''There was no reason for us to fight today,'' continued Sainz, ''we just wanted the finish. We've got some good points from this rally, now we have to look ahead to the next round.''

Over at Ford Hirvonen's Focus RS WRC02 suffered a throttle problem on the final stage, while the two 2003 cars of Markko Martin and Francois Duval retired on the first stage yesterday with dust-related engine problems.

Hirvonen's progress through the final day's six stages was undramatic. The Finn enjoyed the wider stages more than most on this event. He was very happy to make it to the finish in the points to maintain Ford's record, which now extends to 21 rallies in the points.

''This morning was good, we were very sideways in lots of places, we had a good time on the stages,'' said Hirvonen, ''There were quite a lot of rocks on road, which had come down between the recce and the rally, but our gravel note crew did a good job for us and we had all of the information in our pace notes. The fly-by-wire throttle broke on the last stage, which meant it was sticking a little bit, but nothing too bad - it doesn't really matter now, we've made the finish.''

Christian Loriaux, technical director at Ford Rallye Sport said: ''The problem with the dust was that it was fine enough to get through the filters on the car and get into the engine, but then it was thick enough to cause a problem between the pistons and the cylinders.''

For Hyundai Armin Schwarz's overheating problems continued into the final day, but there were no new problems on the German's Accent WRC. His team-mates Freddy Loix and Justin Dale retired earlier in the rally, with Dale the first to go when his engine overheated terminally on the second stage. Loix lasted until the first test on leg two, when the engine on his car suffered a dust-related engine failure.

Schwarz's priority today was points. For the first time since the Monte Carlo Rally in January, he made it to the end of a round of the FIA World Rally Championship in a points-scoring position.

''I am very happy to be here, for me and for the team,'' said Schwarz, ''This has been a very difficult rally. The conditions make it hard enough, but then not having the car running right has made it harder for us. We have driven the last two days at about the same speed we do on the recce, but it's worth it to get here.''

Of the other entries Toshi Arai won the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship category, leading from the first leg to the finish in his Subaru Impreza. The Japanese driver's trouble-free run continued through today, allowing him to open a three-minute gap on second-placed driver Martin Rowe. Rowe was backed up by his team-mate Stig Blomqvist, the former world champion taking third.

Top non-works crew were Alistair Ginley and Rory Kennedy in their Ford Focus RS WRC01. They finished eighth overall, despite driving the final loop of stages with broken power steering and in torrential rain.



Rally statistics - Leg 3:

Starters: 18 crews (8 Group A and 10 Group N) started this morning.

Retirements: One.

Today - Sunday 22 June: Leg 3 starts from Limassol at 07h30 and covers 305.30km, including 82.86km on six stages. The first car is expected to arrive back in Limassol at 15h20.



Stage by stage summary - Leg 3:

SS13 Vavatsinia-Kambiou 1 (19.00kms):
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 17m 00.3
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 17m 04.1
3. McRae (GB) Citroen 17m 18.5

Leaders after SS13:
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 4h 12m 21.9
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 4h 12m 51.0
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 4h 15m 25.1

SS14 Macheras-Vavatsinias 1 (12.94kms):
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 11m 26.5
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 11m 34.6
3. McRae (GB) Citroen 11m 44.7

Leaders after SS14:
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 4h 23m 48.4
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 4h 24m 25.6
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 4h 27m 13.1

SS15 Kellaki-Foinikaria (9.49kms):
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 8m 29.2
2. Sainz (E) Citroen 8m 38.6
3. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 8m 39.6

Leaders after SS15:
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 4h 32m 17.6
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 4h 33m 05.2
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 4h 36m 09.9

SS16 Vavatsinia-Kambiou 1 (19.00kms):
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 16m 45.3
2. Sainz (E) Citroen 17m 00.1
3. McRae (GB) Citroen 17m 05.2

Leaders after SS16:
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 4h 49m 02.9
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 4h 51m 15.6
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 4h 53m 15.1

SS17 Macheras-Vavatsinias 1 (12.94kms):
1. Sainz (E) Subaru 11m 32.8
2. McRae (GB) Citroen 11m 37.1
3. Loeb (F) Peugeot 11m 38.8

Leaders after SS17:
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 5h 00m 43.9
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 5h 03m 47.3
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 5h 04m 53.9

SS18 Kellaki-Foinikaria (9.49kms):
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 8m 28.7
2. Sainz (E) Citroen 8m 30.3
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 8m 35.5

Leaders in Limassol after SS18 / Leg 3:
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 5h 00m 43.9
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot +4m 14.0
3. Loeb (F) Citroen +4m 16.8
4. C.McRae (GB) Citroen +4m 45.3
5. Sainz (E) Citroen +5m 42.2
6. Hirvonen (FIN) Ford +8m 58.7
7. Schwarz (D) Hyundai +13m 29.0
8. Ginley (GB) Ford +23m 57.3
9. Arai (J) Subaru +30m 01.1
10. Rowe (GB) Subaru +33m 44.1

Production Car WRC leaders after SS18 / Leg 3:
1. Arai (J) Subaru 5h 30m 05.6
2. Rowe (GB) Subaru +3m 21.7
3. Blomqvist (S) Subaru +5m 41.5
4. Ligato (RA) Mitsubishi +20m 44.4
5. Colsoul (B) Mitsubishi +30m 54.7
6. Errani (I) Mitsubishi +1 05m 53.1




Next event: July 23 - 27 - ADAC Rallye Deutschland.




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