Current world rally champion Petter Solberg delivered a consistent performance in his Subaru Impreza WRC2003 today [Saturday] on the Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo to climb the leaderboard and finish the day in fifth place. His team-mate Mikko Hirvonen retired in stage nine after going off the road.

Solberg though, who is normally battling out front for the win, said he wasn't disappointed with his day, despite the fact it was rather mediocre by his very high standards.

"Actually, I'm quite happy," he insisted, sounding like he was trying to convince himself, before adding, "and I have the chance of some good points. There wasn't really much more I could do today, but I'm going to see what I can do tomorrow and hope to make some more places.

"I do feel sorry for Mikko, it was very unlucky that he went off where he did, he seemed to be going well up until that point."

Hirvonen, continued to impress on his Subaru team debut and gained further valuable experience at the wheel of his Impreza early on. Unfortunately though, he later retired after sliding wide on a corner and collecting suspension damage.

The Finn was unsure why he had gone off, although a number of drivers went out in the tricky stage nine, including double world champion, Carlos Sainz and top privateer up to that point, Roman Kresta. Marcus Gronholm also lost around 40 seconds.

Hirvonen explained: "It's a real mystery. I was going steadily to get experience of the rally, and wasn't pushing hard at all. I can understand slipping off the road when conditions are difficult, but I went off on one of the easiest corners of the rally. It was slow speed, second or third gear, and a totally dry road.

"Maybe I heard the pace note the wrong way, I'm not sure, it's just unbelievable. Of course I'm disappointed, but I suppose you have to accept that from time to time these things just happen in rallying. I'm going to study the on-board film to see if that provides any answers, then it's a case of moving on and trying for a better result in Sweden."

Team boss, David Lapworth, summed up the Banbury based team's day.

"It's been difficult for Petter today to try and control his urge to go flat out and stick to the strategy of driving for points," concluded Lapworth, "Losing two stages today hasn't helped our chance of moving up the field, but nevertheless we'll start tomorrow in a good position and on course to pick up some important championship points.

"Obviously, it's been a disappointing day for Mikko. I've been impressed with the way he's tackled his first event with the team and it's a shame he should retire after such a small error. But, that's the nature of this event. Mikko's a bright guy and I'm sure he'll put this behind him and focus on a better finish in Sweden."

The third and final leg of Rallye Monte Carlo starts tomorrow [Sunday] at 0730hrs, when the remaining cars will leave the Monaco parc ferme. The final day will see crews travel north of the principality to contest four further stages [two repeated], and a final 104.40 competitive kilometres. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp at 1430hrs [local time].



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