Rally Monte Carlo
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Subaru World Rally Team - Monte Carlo Leg 1 Report
by Race Author, Subaru World Rally Team
After Thursday's ceremonial start, 34 competitors left Monte Carlo parc ferme at 0700hrs
Leg one, the shortest of the event, included four stages run in the Alps and 108.51 competitive kilometres. After two stages in the morning, the Leg concluded with two runs through the long 32km mountain test from Lantosque
Conditions were sunny throughout the day. The air temperature ranged from 0°C in the morning and 16°C by the afternoon. Stages were mostly dry asphalt with some ice patches
Loeb, Duval, Gronholm, Solberg, Gardemeister, Martin, Auriol, Panizzi, Sarrazin, Kresta
No leading WRC retirements
Subaru drivers Petter Solberg and Stéphane Sarrazin ended Leg one in fourth and ninth place respectively. Although conditions were sunny and mild in the mountains, the twisty Monte Carlo stages lived up to their demanding reputation and caused problems for many WRC competitors. Petter and Stéphane had their fair share of problems when fading brakes prevented both from pushing to the limit. Despite this, Petter ended the day just outside the top-three, while Stéphane, on his competitive debut with the team, set a string of top ten times.
SS1: 0833 Ilonse - Pirelas (22.93km)
Conditions were mostly dry for the first test of the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship, the 23km route from Ilonse. A new and unknown stage in the Championship, the mountain road featured a series of south-facing straights connected by tight hairpins as it climbed to the highest point, a col 1400 metres above sea level. After a 1.5km icy section, the stage concluded with a tight and exceptionally twisty descent on the opposite side of the mountain. Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb took an early lead and was fastest, while new team-mate Francois Duval was second fastest and Peugeot pilot Markko Martin third. In common with other competitors, Petter Solberg and new Subaru team-mate Stéphane Sarrazin both reported fading brake power on the downhill section, but still managed to post the sixth and seventh fastest times. Skoda's Armin Schwarz suffered with differential pressure problems and was 17th, while Mitsubishi driver Gilles Panizzi experienced difficulties with his Lancer's semi-automatic gearshift system. After the opening stage was complete, crews drove a 31.13km road section to the start of SS2.Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 17:18.6
SS2: 0946 St Antonin - Toudon (20.16km)
Setting an average speed of 85.85kph, Marcus Gronholm was quickest through the twisty 20.16km stage from St. Antonin, with Duval 0.3 seconds behind for second and Loeb another 0.8 seconds back for third. Untroubled by the damp section at the start of the mostly dry stage, Petter was fourth fastest in his Pirelli-shod Impreza, while ex-formula one driver Stéphane Sarrazin was ninth. Schwarz's differential problems continued, while Panizzi commented that his car was difficult to handle around tight bends. Temperatures remained at around 3°C through the test, which ran at more than 1000 metres above sea level. After the stage was complete, crews made a 65km return journey to Monte Carlo for a 30-minute service. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 14:05.4
SS3: 1318 Lantosque - Col de Braus 1 (32.17km)
Conditions in the test from Lantosque were mostly dry, although damp patches remained around the first col, the Col St. Roch, and there were several icy sections in the final seven kilometres. At 32.71km, Lantosque was the longest stage of the event and provided drivers with a good opportunity to extend the gaps in the overall standings. Loeb was fastest to increase his overall lead, despite suffering a spin, while Duval was second fastest and Gardemeister third. However, no such luck for Markko Martin who, caught out by the tricky conditions, spun in his Peugeot 307 and stalled its engine, while Mitsubishi driver Harri Rovanpera stalled on the start line. Continuing to grow in confidence at the wheel of his Impreza WRC, race-expert Sarrazin revelled in the dry asphalt conditions in front of his home crowd and was seventh fastest, while team-mate Solberg was eighth. After the finish, crews returned to Monte Carlo for a second 30-minute service.Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 23:44.8
SS4: 1636 Lantosque - Col de Braus 2 (32.17km)
Air temperatures peaked at 16°C as crews made their second pass through the gruelling Lantosque test. Shaving 7.8 seconds off his previous time, Loeb set an average speed of 83.1kph to take the stage win and hold the overnight lead. Duval was next fastest for overnight second while Gronholm was third, for the same position overall. Negotiating the repeated series of tight hairpins and fast straights, Solberg was fourth fastest and moved up two places on the leaderboard to take the same position overall, while Sarrazin suffered a half spin and stall 25km in. He was eleventh. After the finish, crews drove 40km south to Monaco for the end-of-day 45-minute service. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 23:37.0
Fourth overall is good but obviously we've had a pretty tough day out there. The brakes gave us some problems, especially early on, and although the situation improved at the end of the day we lost quite a bit of time. I've always found Monte Carlo a hard event, and so far this one's been no exception, but a podium finish is still very much possible.
Overall it's been a good first day with the team, I'm enjoying the car but I'm not too happy with ninth place, I could have been higher. We've had a few small problems like a poor tyre choice on the first stage, the brake fade and a half-spin on the last test, but things are improving a lot already and I'm hoping to carry on learning tomorrow.
David Lapworth, Team Principal
Of course we're disappointed to have lost time with the brake problems today. It took us by surprise as we've made no changes for this event, but the situation seems to have improved towards the end of the day and we hope to get on top of it completely tomorrow. On the other hand, from some of the split times we've seen that that our pace is generally quite competitive and our target of a podium result still seems realistic. Stéphane has done a very good job today, he's been very careful in the tricky conditions but from some of the split times we've seen that where conditions allow he can already match the speed of the top drivers.
News from Pirelli
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director
Today's leg of Monte Carlo was run in unseasonably warm conditions which meant that we didn't really get a chance to reap the benefit of all the development work we have done on snow and ice. However, there is a still long way to go and we hope to see more representative weather that will allow us to demonstrate the extent of our work.
After 108.51km competitive distance
1. Loeb / Elena Citroen Xsara WRC 1:18:46.9
2. Duval / Prevot Citroen Xsara WRC + 32.7
3. Gronholm / Rautianen Peugeot 307 WRC + 1:01.5
4. Solberg / Mills Subaru Impreza WRC2004 + 1:27.7
5. Gardemeister / Honkanen Ford Focus WRC + 1:30.3
6. Martin / Park Peugeot 307 WRC + 1:39.1
7. Auriol / Giraudet Peugeot 206 WRC + 2:01.9
8. Panizzi / Panizzi Mitsubishi Lancer WRC + 2:03.4
9. Sarrazin / Pivato Subaru Impreza WRC2004 + 2:15.1
10. Kresta / Tomanek Ford Focus WRC + 2:41.2
Saturday 22 January 2005
Leg two will start at 0645hrs when the first car will leave the Monaco parc fermé for a 10-minute service. The longest of the event, Leg two comprises five stages and 128.48 competitive kilometres. Run northwest of Monaco, crews will begin with a reverse run through SS4, before completing a loop of two stages, which is then repeated. The first test will start at 0750hrs and the last at 1652hrs.