Subaru: Wales Rally GB, 29 November – 2 December 2007

107 of the original 108 crews left the service park this morning for leg two.

Today’s leg took crews through seven stages. The first two loops of three stages stretched far into the Brecon Beacons, before the crews travelled to Cardiff for a spectator stage inside the Millennium Stadium. It was the shortest leg of the event, at just over 104 competitive kilometres.

Heavy rain fell before the cars left the service park in the morning, and continued with showers throughout the rest of the day. The temperature ranged from three to seven degrees Celsius.

Mikkelsen (Ford)

Subaru World Rally Team summary
Subaru World Rally Team drivers Petter Solberg and Phil Mills finished the second day of Wales Rally GB in fourth place overall after battling more treacherous winter conditions. Ahead of the final day of competition, their team mates Xevi Pons and Chris Atkinson hold sixth and ninth places respectively.

Today there was no respite from the terrible weather which had made the stages of leg one especially challenging. More heavy rain this morning soaked the narrow gravel routes, and further showers later in the day made grip levels unpredictable. In contrast, the short spectator stage inside Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium was protected from the elements Ė the only WRC stage this season to be run indoors.

Petter started the day with a spin on the opening corner of the first stage (SS7), and lost in the region of 20 seconds as he restarted the car. He and co–driver Phil Mills recovered to record consistent stage times, including third fastest on the Cardiff spectator stage, and consolidate fourth position overall.

Chris and co–driver Stephane Prevot were involved in a nail–biting battle with Ford’s Matthew Wilson all day as the two fought for sixth position. Ending the first day one second behind Wilson, the Australian completed SS7 three seconds faster to overtake his rival. The pair traded stage times throughout the day, and while Wilson closed to within 0.3 seconds by early afternoon, Chris upped his pace to finish 10 seconds clear.

Xevi Pons and co–driver Xavier Amigo started leg two strongly with the sixth fastest stage time on the opening stage (SS7), before a spin on a tight right–hander in the fourth split of SS8 lost them 40 seconds. The resulting damage to the rear suspension was rectified in service, but the pair ran out of washer fluid by the end of the afternoon loop, reducing their visibility on the night stage with a mud–covered screen.

Team quotes
Richard Taylor, Subaru World Rally Team Managing Director:
"All three Subarus have run reliably today in conditions that have continued to be the toughest we have seen this year. Apart from Chris who, now in sixth place, holds just a 10 second lead over Matthew Wilson, the top ten looks fairly stable. However, with over 100km of very difficult stages to cover tomorrow there is plenty of opportunity for positions to change. "

Petter Solberg:
"Today has not been so bad for us, but the conditions have been difficult again. We struggled quite a lot actually. The final spectator stage was great; a lot of Subaru flags and Welsh flags for Phil. We always get a good welcome here. The stages tomorrow are very, very difficult. Very muddy and slippery. We will see; we will try hard to do some good stage times and get a good result. That’s the main thing."

Chris Atkinson:
"Today has not been so easy for us. The car was better in the afternoon after we made some changes but it has not been easy in these conditions. We found more pace this afternoon and I took a few more risks to try and put a gap to Matthew because he’s doing some good times. The main thing for us now is to make sure we get to the finish and get some good points."

Xevi Pons:
"We got off to a good start today and I was feeling more comfortable in the car, but an accident on SS8 meant we couldn’t push hard and instead had to concentrate on getting the car back to service. With the car back to full strength in the afternoon I felt confident to push harder and the times improved as the day went on, but SS12 was hard when I couldn’t clean the screen. Tomorrow the roads are very different, but I hope we can continue this better feeling."

Tomorrow’s Leg
Tomorrow’s final leg consists of only four stages, but the two gravel routes (each run twice) are the longest of the event. The stages stretch almost due north of the Swansea service park past the town of Carmarthen. The finish is held in Cathays Park, the same location as the ceremonial start.

Leg 2 Leaderboard
1. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen 2h 16m 27.3sec
2. M Gronholm/T Rautiainen +35.5sec
3. S Loeb/D Elena +1m15.0sec
4. P Solberg/P Mills +2m26.3sec
5. D Sordo/M Marti +2m56.9sec
6. C Atkinson/S Prevot +5m49.9sec
7. M Wilson/M Orr +5m59.9sec
8. M Stohl/I Minor +6m55.4sec
9. X Pons/X Amigo +7m46.4sec
10. M Ostberg/O Unnerud +9m28.6sec

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