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WRC Petter Solberg returns to the spotlight on day one in Mexico

RALLY GUANAJUATO BICENTENARIO, March 4th-7th, 2010

2010 FIA World Rally Championship, round 2


For immediate release
Friday, March 5th, 2010

PETTER SOLBERG RETURNS TO THE SPOTLIGHT IN RALLY MEXICO

 

·         Ogier holds second as Citroën claim top four places

·         Spaniard Xevi Pons leads S-WRC category

·         Portugal’s Araújo edges Japan’s Arai in P-WRC

·         Finn Räikkönen rolls out of event on seventh stage

 

LEÓN (Mexico): Norway’s Petter Solberg was the sensation of the first day of the Rally Guanajuato Bicentenario, round two of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), in Mexico.

 

The privateer Citroën driver and his British co-driver Phil Mills benefited from a favourable starting position and used it to their full advantage to take a 15-second lead after six slippery gravel stages and three short super specials in the Guanajuato region of Mexico.

 

Solberg was FIA World Champion in 2003 and last won a round of the WRC in Wales in 2005. Since the withdrawal of Subaru from the global rally series, he has struggled on the sidelines with his own private team operation, but he roared back into the spotlight with a sensational start to Rally Mexico on Friday.

 

Two years ago, Sébastien Ogier made his WRC debut and duly clinched a J-WRC category win. He holds second overall in a Citroën Junior Team C4. Defending World Champion Sébastien Loeb holds third place in the first of two Citroën Total World Rally Team C4s. Spanish team mate Dani Sordo holds fourth to confirm the French manufacturer’s early mastery of the Mexican stage conditions.

 

The BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team duo of Jari-Matti Latvala and series leader Mikko Hirvonen struggled to master the slippery gravel stages in their Ford Focuses and hold fifth and sixth positions with it all to do over the remaining two legs of the event on Saturday and Sunday.

 

Solberg’s brother Henning holds seventh place in a Stobart Ford Focus, his colleague Matthew Wilson is eighth, Munchi’s Rally Team’s Federico Villagra holds ninth position and American rookie Ken Block rounds off the top 10.

 

Former F1 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen survived second and third stage woes and the loss of considerable time on the morning loop, only to retire from the event after a high-speed roll on stage seven. His Citroën C4 is reported to have rolled six times in a fast bend.

 

Poland’s Michal Kosciuszko led the new S-WRC category in his Ford Fiesta S2000 until he hit alternator belt trouble in the sixth stage and duly handed the advantage to Spain’s Xavier Pons.

 

Japan’s Toshi Arai passed Portugal’s Armindo Araújo to seize the early initiative in the P-WRC section, but the defending champion returned the favour late on to lead the showroom category at the first overnight halt.

 

Day One

 

Solberg benefited from his starting position on the road to surge into a 9.8-second advantage after the opening 23.37km Alfaro stage. Ogier set the second fastest time, with Sordo, Loeb, Latvala and Hirvonen being punished on the slippery surface for starting in front of the Norwegian.

 

Solberg extended his overall lead over Ogier to 14.4s through SS2, but Räikkönen’s Mexican debut stalled early on. The Finn had clouted a rock and broke a steering arm in SS1 and then spluttered to a halt in Ortega with a fuel pressure-related issue. “On the first stage we hit a rock, which damaged the steering arm, but this had nothing to do with the problem on stage two. The fuel pump just stopped and it took us time to find out the reason why and reconnect it.”

 

Kosciuszko edged into a 6.4-second advantage over Pons in the S-WRC category and Araújo headed the P-WRC section after SS1. The Pole maintained his S-WRC lead through Ortega, but Prokop managed to pass Pons and take second position and Arai moved ahead of Araújo in the showrtoom class. Eyvind Brynildsen’s Skoda Fabia S2000 stopped on the second stage with broken rear suspension.

 

Solberg was again quickest on the El Cubilete test and reached the short street stage in León with a 17.4-second overall lead. Ogier was quickest on the street stage, but Solberg was satisfied with third and an overall advantage of 17.1s in his privately-run Citroën C4 WRC. “Very, very good,” said the Norwegian. “I am very happy. It is good fun to have a start like this. The road surface is cleaning, but not much. It is not too much of an advantage.”

 

Loeb, Sordo, Latvala and Hirvonen completed the top six. Koscuiszko climbed to 11th overall and headed the S-WRC runners. Prokop’s Ford Fiesta sustained a heavy landing and the Czech complained of a possible fuel leak, but he maintained second position. Pons was third and Al-Attiyah held fourth, despite complaining that his new Skoda needed a set-up change before the afternoon’s stages. Arai headed Araújo by 5.8 seconds in the P-WRC section.

 

Solberg was again quickest on the fifth stage after service and extended his lead to 19.7 seconds, as he continued to benefit from running behind the leading quartet of factory cars. He was again quickest through Ortega 2 to move into a 20.7 second lead. Ogier set his second fastest time of the day through SS7 and reduced Solberg’s lead to 17.4 seconds heading into the two remaining 2.21km super specials.

 

There were no late dramas and the Norwegian was delighted to lead at the end of day one, with Ogier – winner of both the late super specials - and Loeb trailing in his wake. “I eased off in some parts on the last gravel stage,” said Solberg. “As I had a big moment in there this morning. It is very interesting from a marketing point of view for a private driver to be in this position!”

 

Tomorrow (Saturday) crews will tackle nine further special stages, totalling 154.44km, in a route of 340.44km. The competitive action gets underway with the first of two runs through the Ibarilla special at 07.54hrs, before crews venture into the Duarte and Derramadero specials. The Coca-Cola street stage is repeated from 11.11hrs and the three repeated gravel stages in the afternoon precede two runs through the 2.21km super special stage to conclude the day’s action.

 

Positions after SS9 (end of day one):

1. Petter Solberg (N)/Phil Mills (GB) Citroën C4 WRC                                                1h 23m 39.9s

2. Sébastien Ogier (F)/Julien Ingrassia (F) Citroën C4 WRC                                    1h 23m 54.9s

3. Sébastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (F) Citroën C4 WRC                                    1h 24m 07.4s

4. Dani Sordo (E)/Marc Marti (E) Citroën C4 WRC                                        1h 24m 20.7s

5. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 09                        1h 24m 41.1s

6. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 09                        1h 25m 11.4s

7. Henning Solberg (N)/Ilka Minor (A) Ford Focus RS WRC 08                                 1h 25m 17.4s

8. Matthew Wilson (GB)/Scott Martin (GB) Ford Focus RS WRC 08                        1h 26m 27.1s

9. Federico Villagra (RA)/Jorge Perez Companc (RA) Ford Focus RS WRC 08            1h 27m 59.7s

10. Ken Block (USA)/Alex Gelsomino (USA) Ford Focus WRC RS 08                     1h 28m 13.2s

 

Ends


For further media information:
Rally Guanajuato Bicentenario Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre, León, Mexico, Tel: + 52 (477) 7714867 or + 52 (477) 7114828, E-mail: media@rallymexico.com, eugenio@rallymexico.commauriciog@rallymexico.com or ndppublicity@googlemail.com

 

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Date issued: 05/03/2010

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