Crash puts Henning out of contention

Crash puts Henning out of contentionFrom Peugeot Press [ 20/05/2006 ].
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The “Rally Italia Sardegna” proved unlucky for the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team so far. After Henning Solberg had managed to reach the podium following special stage eight, he had to retire during the next stage. The OMV driver hit a tree on SS 9 just 300 metres short of the finish, thereby drifting off the road. Driver and co-driver remained unhurt but the Peugeot 307 WRC was too heavily damaged to continue the rally. Meanwhile Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor are fighting to score one or more WRC-points.

SupeRally on Sunday is possible
Henning Solberg doesn’t seem too lucky these days. Following his superb performance on the first day of the Sardinia Rally, things seemed to go equally well on the second leg at first. The Norwegian OMV duo Solberg/Menkerud took advantage of Grönholm’s retirement and climbed up to third place on special stage eight. But the joy about the podium place wasn’t long-lived. Henning Solberg hit a tree on special stage 9 and got off the road. The right front side of the Peugeot 307 WRC was so heavily damaged that it would have been unwise to keep on going. Unfortunately the accident happened only 300 metres short of the finish of the 12,28 metres long special stage. Solberg: “We didn’t want to risk any engine failure, therfore we didn’t even try to go on. Exchanging the engine would cost us a 90-seconds penalty for Greece. But the damage isn’t too bad. Just a small hole in the radiator. SupeRally on Sunday would be possible but we’ll have to discuss this with the team first. The retirement did obviously hurt. But the rally proved to us that we can keep up with the speed of the top drivers on gravel.“

Dissatisfying overall performance
Manfred Stohl tries to make the best of his situation. Although things went better up to the tyre damage on Friday afternoon, Saturday had a backlash in store. During the first stages he couldn’t reach the times of the top drivers – even though the 33-year-old OMV driver managed to overtake Francois Duval (Bel/Skoda) and climb up two places due to the retirements of Grönholm and his OMV Peugeot Norway Teammate Solberg. But the times worry Manfred Stohl. Stohl: “I really can’t put my finger to it. Probably the whole package is lacking something here – including me. I never seem to gather real speed but I couldn’t say where I’m loosing time. Currently we are testing a different set-up so that we might be able to improve our performance on Sunday.“ The OMV duo Stohl/Minor finished leg two in 9th overall place.

Loeb inherits lead
Having been the measure of all things on day one of the Rally Italia Sardegna Marcus Grönholm (BP Ford World Rally Team) once again controlled the competition at the beginning of leg two. Then special stage 8 happened. The Finnish former double-World Champion hit a rock and damaged the hydraulics. The Ford Focus WRC lost all oil and immediately stalled. Thus Sebastien Loeb (Citroen Xsara WRC/Kronos Total World Rally Team) took the lead by default – which he even expanded on SS 9 when Ford works driver Mikko Hirvonen (Fin) spinned just short of the finish and lost over 30 seconds. Daniel Sordo (Spa/Citroen Xsara WRC) currently lies in third place, after Gigi Galli (Ita/Peugeot 307 WRC) had to retire. The Red Bull Skoda Team lies in 13th place (Andreas Aigner/Aut) and 14th place (Harri Rovanperä/Fin).

On Sunday the participants of the seventh run to the FIA World Rally Championship will face another harrowing challenge. Scheduled are six special stages with a length of 78 kilometres, but there will be no service, just a regrouping at halftime. The first car is expected at the finish in Olbia at 13.11.