Solberg Eigth after Leg 1

Solberg Eigth after Leg 1From Subaru Press [ 17/10/2003 ].
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After a determined effort that saw the team work through the night to repair Petter Solberg’s damaged car, both 555 Subaru World Rally Team entries took the start in Ajaccio this morning. Both Solberg and Tommi Mäkinen enjoyed a trouble free day. Solberg put in a strong performance over the Leg’s 95km to hold overnight eighth position, less than 45 seconds off the lead, while Mäkinen is twelfth. With unsettled weather and rain showers forecast for Leg two, the character of rally could change dramatically. A wet Leg two would be welcomed by both Tommi and Petter, who have previously demonstrated their confidence in these conditions.

David Lapworth, 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal: “Overall, we’re happy with today’s performance. I think understandably Petter was a little nervous to start with, but he quickly regained his confidence. Our target today was to keep in touch with the leaders and take no risks, especially as there is rain forecast for tomorrow. A few seconds gained or lost today will not seem too important if conditions are wet, as the differences then are much bigger. The team has done a terrific job in the last 24 hours. Things are certainly looking much better now than they did this time yesterday!”

Petter Solberg: “Today was not bad at all, much better than I expected. There were moments yesterday when it looked like we wouldn’t be able to start at all, so I’m quite happy to be here! Despite what it’s been through, the car feels good, I think we’re well placed at this stage in the rally and the weather should make things interesting tomorrow.”

Tommi Mäkinen: “I didn’t feel 100 per cent confident this morning, but we changed a setting on the rear suspension and then the car felt much better and was easier to drive. I felt there was something lacking on the final three stages, but they were very sandy and it was difficult. The tyres have performed well. It’s a balance, I’ve been driving to maintain them, but have also pushing as hard as I can. Corsica has always been a funny rally for me. There is nothing wrong with it and I like it a lot, but I always seem to struggle here. Tomorrow, I will take each stage as it comes and push for a good result.”

Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager: ”Both drivers have today used the new construction of Pirelli PZero RX tarmac tyre developed in the two weeks since Sanremo. Clearly we have closed the performance gap, however the rate of progress has been limited by time. This afternoon Petter chose a harder compound of Pirelli PZero RX tyre, which with hindsight was the incorrect choice due to the unclean stages caused by second usage. The forecast tomorrow is for rain so we can see the driver either selecting a full wet Pirelli PZero RE pattern or a softer compound of Pirelli PZero RX pattern.”

Almost double the distance of Leg one, Leg two includes 190 competitive kilometres and a liaison distance of 257.80km. Taking teams east of Ajaccio, crews will contest a similar loop of three stages, which are then repeated. Competitors will leave Ajaccio parc ferme at 0715hrs, and the first stage (SS7) starts at 0833hrs.