Petter holds narrow lead on leg 1

Petter holds narrow lead on leg 1From Subaru Press [ 03/03/2006 ].
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Petter Solberg started his campaign to win a second consecutive Rally Mexico in style as he led Leg one from start to finish. The Norwegian’s Subaru Impreza WRC2006 ran faultlessly all day and powered him to the fastest time on four of the day’s seven stages. Petter will start tomorrow’s second Leg with a five second advantage over second-placed Mikko Hirvonen. Solberg’s team-mate Chris Atkinson held fifth position throughout the morning’s loop of stages, but accident damage on SS5 brought his day to a premature end.

SWRT SPORTING DIRECTOR, LUIS MOYA: "Overall it’s been a good day. We’ve used the advantage of our position on the first loop of stages and Petter is leading the rally again. I believe that the WRC season really starts here because this is the rally that shows the pace the cars will have on gravel for the rest of the season. After a poor start to the season, Petter is highly motivated and he’s been setting very good times the whole day. We always expected that this would be a close rally and there’s every reason to think it’ll stay this close until the last stage on Sunday. Chris’s target for this rally was to finish in the top five. His performance on the first four stages today showed that was more than possible but a mistake on SS5 threw his chances away. We hope he will be able to restart tomorrow. His target now is to try and get some points."

PETTER SOLBERG: “I’m very happy to be leading the rally tonight. The car has run perfectly and we’re on target for the result we came here for. It’s been quite a tough day though. The starting position gave me an advantage on the morning loop of stages and we were able to make the most of it, but we struggled to match that pace on the stages in the afternoon. The ground temperature during the last two was more than 40 degrees and even with our hardest tyres we had to work very hard to keep the speed. Tomorrow I think the first loop of stages will be okay, so I’ll do all I can to make up more time, but like today I reckon the second time through will be hard work. In general though the feeling is good but after what happened in Australia and Japan I’m not making any predictions. I’m taking one day at a time. I’ll do my best and we’ll have to wait and see what result that gets us.”

CHRIS ATKINSON: “It’s very disappointing to retire from the Leg, especially as things had been going according to plan up to that point. The rock we hit was in the middle of the road. It looks like it broke the wheel rim, which badly affected the handling around the next corner. I could feel we had a problem as soon as I tried to brake, then we slid wide, into a ditch and rolled. The rally isn’t over yet though. We have to pick ourselves up and concentrate on getting the best points finish we can.”

NEWS FROM PIRELLIMARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER: "I am very happy about of the outcome of today. The new tyre compound Petter tested in Sardinia just before this event is an improvement and at the moment everything is going in the right direction. Of course we are disappointed for Chris, but he showed in the morning’s stages that he can go very quickly on this event. We’re crossing our fingers for Petter. As others have shown, it’s a hard rally, but we’ve every confidence in a good performance tomorrow."

Rally Mexico’s second Leg will comprise seven stages and 148.92 competitive kilometres run in the mountains to the east of host city Leon. Crews leave parc fermé from 0900hrs for a 10 minute service before negotiating two loops of three stages and finishing with a second run through the Nextel Superspecial.