555 Subaru World Team driver, Petter Solberg dominated leg two of the Wales Rally GB today [Saturday].

Delivering a steadfast performance aboard his Subaru Impreza WRC, the Norwegian held his nerve and was quickest on every stage to increase his overnight lead and end the day 41.2 seconds ahead of rival, Sebastien Loeb.

With 73.86km remaining, the Subaru star is well positioned ahead of the concluding stages of the 2003 World Rally Drivers' Championship.

"I'm feeling good, but for sure it's been a hard day," noted 'Hollywood', "It's worked out really well. My lead didn't look so sure before the second to last stage [SS14], and I thought that would be a good opportunity for Sebastien to gain some time - so I planned a big attack.

"But then, 1 km from the start on a small left hand corner, I hit a huge hole in the road. It went bang, and I tell you I thought that was it. The steering was bent and the suspension had taken a big knock, but I just kept on going even though I thought that something would break quite quickly. But, it didn't and when the splits came through, I was still in front. I've been extremely lucky.

"Tomorrow, I still can't afford to take things easy, but I'm actually feeling quite calm. I think I'm driving at about 90 per cent, so I do have more in reserve; I'm trying not to think too much about the finish. I spoke to Fred Gallagher today and he gave me some good advice, to relax and have fun driving, and I'm just concentrating on doing that."

Locked in a close battle for overall third, team-mate Tommi Makinen meanwhile set a string of top four times. Contesting his last event as a full time WRC driver, he is looking good for a podium finish.

"For me, there were no problems whatsoever today," noted Makinen, "We tried some different tyres in the morning and the afternoon, but in the end we went back to our original settings and I'm very happy with that. I think that's what we are going to use tomorrow if the conditions stay the same. For sure it's going to be a big fight tomorrow with Colin [McRae], but I'm really enjoying myself in the car and I'm going to be driving flat out - no question."

Team boss, David Lapworth, added: "It's been a brilliant day from Petter. We hoped that he could slowly increase his lead today, without taking too many risks, and that's exactly what he's done. We've been feeding him split times through the stages and he's done a brilliant job of controlling his speed.

"On his last event with the team, it's great to see Tommi enjoying his scrap with Colin. But, Tommi has had a major part to play in Petter's success today too. He has sacrificed some of his stage times to evaluate the performance of some of our other Pirelli tyre options in these conditions, and the information that he's helped us gather will undoubtedly help us on tomorrow's final stages. Overall, the plan from here is to carry on in the same mode, for Petter to continue to build a time cushion without taking risks and for Tommi to do the same and finish on the podium."

Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally manager, continued: "As yesterday's forecast predicted, we have experienced dry conditions as in leg one. Both Tommi and Petter chose to remain with the Pirelli KM6 gravel rally tyre, with Tommi selecting a different evolution on a couple of occasions. We're delighted with today's performance, with the combination of Petter, Subaru and Pirelli showing their dominance and winning all of the stages. Tomorrow we hope for a good finish."

Leg three tomorrow starts at 0520hrs when the first car will leave Cardiff parc ferme to contest the final round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship. Just three more stages and a final 73.86 competitive kilometres lie in wait for the remaining crews. Both the 2003 Drivers' Champion and 2003 Manufacturers' victor, will be confirmed when the winning car crosses the finish podium in Cardiff tomorrow afternoon.



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