Solberg Fifth, Dissapointment for Mikko

Solberg Fifth, Dissapointment for Mikko From Subaru Press [ 24/01/2004 ].
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Current World Champion Petter Solberg delivered a consistent performance in his Subaru Impreza WRC2003 to climb the leaderboard and finish the day in fifth place. His team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen, continued to impress on his Subaru team debut and gained further valuable experience at the wheel of his Impreza. Unfortunately, he later retired after sliding wide on a corner and collecting suspension damage. Conditions remained overcast throughout the day, with temperatures fluctuating between -1°C and +3°C. Stages were damp with some ice and patches of melting snow

Petter Solberg: Actually, I'm quite happy and 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.

Mikko Hirvonen: 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.

David Lapworth, 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal: 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. 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.

Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager: Today's Leg has had encouraging aspects, but also the disappointment of Mikko's retirement. Mikko, using the Pirelli PZero RX tarmac tyre, has gained valuable knowledge and found himself becoming more and more comfortable with the Subaru / Pirelli package. Petter has also used the softest compound Pirelli PZero RX and climbed up the leaderboard to fifth place. We hope he will continue to put in a consistent performance and earn valuable points in round one of this year's World Rally Championship.