Rd.2 Corona Rally Mexico

Production Car World Rally Championship
 
9 to 11 March 2007

LEG TWO

SUBARU entrants closing on lead ahead of final day

10 March 2007
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It was another day of drama on the Mexican stages, the rock-strewn roads causing many drivers headaches as they negotiated obstacles that had never appeared in the pace notes.

As with day one, the leg comprised two loops of three stages each, punctuated by the Lunchtime Service. The day ended with two runs through the Superspecial spectator stage.

Drivers reported much better grip levels than on leg one, though many sections remained slippy.

In terms of pace, SUBARU entrants won five of the six road stages and both the Superspecials today. In the morning, it was Kristian Sohlberg who took two victories, on SS9 and SS11. He also won on the second pass of the latter when it was run as SS14 in the afternoon. Another driver right up there was Mirco Baldacci, taking victories on SS10 and SS12. As for the evening's Superspecials, veteran Toshi Arai swept the boards on both occasions in front of the crowds in Leon.

As the morning got underway, Mirco Baldacci was running in 2nd position. Unfortunately, a wrong tyre choice hampered his pace for the first group of stages, though he still managed the win on SS10.

Mirco: "We took the hard compound tyres this morning when we should have been on soft. That cost us a lot of time. On SS11, there's a big jump that was a little scary at high speed. Otherwise, we had no problems in the morning."

In the afternoon, the San Marino native briefly led the event after SS12, though slipped back on the following stage. The battle at the front was incredibly close and a number of drivers traded fastest times. Unfortunately for Mirco, a puncture on SS14 hampered his pace considerably when the car fell off the jack. He ended the day four minutes off the lead, exactly the amount he lost with the flat.

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Travis Pastrana continued to impress on only his second day of world championship competition. "Our pace notes for the morning's stages weren't so good. But we knew this ahead of time as they were modified notes from last year. I am just amazed at the pace of the P-WRC regulars. These guys are on the limit the whole time - it's incredible."

The American hit a big stone on SS10, knocking the steering geometry out of alignment. This and a soft left rear shock absorber hampered his pace slightly. His afternoon was drama-free, and he reported to be concentrating on technique in this, his first WRC event.

Toshi Arai had some drama on SS11, spinning and then stalling the car, losing about 15 seconds. Otherwise, it was business as usual for the Japanese ace. Toshi Arai: "Yes, well I'm happy. We're going quite fast and the car is working well." He said cheerfully at lunchtime.

On the day's second loop of stages, he got a slow puncture, but didn't need to change it until the following road section, so only a minimal time loss there. With Mirco Baldacci's problems on SS14, Toshi moved into second place. He then went into the Superspecials, winning both of the 2.2 kilometre tests.

Kristian Sohlberg, once again proving he's got the pace to mix it with the guys at the front, kept the other drivers honest with his trio of victories throughout the day. Amazingly, on the only stage he didn't win in the morning, SS10, he had a slow puncture. He was less than 10 seconds away however on the 20-minute test. On SS11, his suspension went soft - but it didn't stop him from beating everyone else!

The Finn's afternoon was relatively drama-free, except for some minor gearbox problems, which meant they had to run from SS13 to the end of the day with a gearbox that jumped out of third gear.

On a separate topic, co-driver Risto Pietilainen remarked: "The stones have clearly been put on the road by spectators or kids. It's not the cleverest situation."

Alexander Dorosinskiy found the stones being thrown onto the road a problem. A spin on SS10 also slowed his pace. In the afternoon, a bent steering arm on SS12 was changed on the following road section. No problems on the following stages, though he caught Vojtech eight kilometers from the end of SS14 and had to run in his dust.

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Alexander Dorosinskiy: "Yes, today is much nicer than yesterday. We are more comfortable now, and the grip is better also."

Spyros Pavlides was another to have stones thrown at him, as many of the competitors have had on this event. In the Cypriot's case, things became rather more serious however when his co-driver Denis Giraudet had to have his eyes washed out after rocks thrown by spectators shattered their windscreen. Their afternoon saw more of the same, this time just 500 metres into the stage on SS13. Two punctures on SS14 after their rear shocks went soft was another delay to their progress.

Leszek Kuzaj ran into fuel pump problems on SS9, causing the car to run slowly through the whole stage. He changed the pump at the end of the stage, and the car ran fine after that. On SS10 he was a little too fast into a slow corner, ran wide, hit the bank and bent the suspension on the right front. There were more woes on SS11, where he did exactly the same thing to the other side of the car. He felt fortunate to get back to Service at lunchtime. His afternoon was bleak. One kilometer into SS13, he slipped off the road, taking a wheel off the car. Unfortunately, he'll not be able to re-start under SupeRally tomorrow, and is very disappointed with himself.


George Donaldson

STI Group N Project General Manager:
"It's been another amazing day of Rally Mexico. The drivers have lived up to our expectations, but unfortunately for Mirco, a puncture and then problems changing it has put him out of the challenge for the lead, leaving Mark Higgins with a clear advantage.

"Toshi's taken up the mantle, but he's a minute and a half behind. It's disappointing from one point of view, but we're solid in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th places - and that's a valuable weapon here in Mexico. There's 60 very tough kilometres to go tomorrow, and by no means is that going to be a pushover for any of the drivers. The only driver to have escaped any problems so far is in fact the rally leader, Mark Higgins.

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"Looking back down the field, it's great to see Travis get through another tough day on one of the more difficult events we do. It really is a baptism of fire. Toshi's been steady all day, and Kristian's done an incredible job with some lightning times. He really seems to be getting a feel for the Group N SUBARU, and seems to be able to judge what the car can do. He's going to be a real force to be reckoned with this year. On these two events (Mexico and last month's Swedish Rally) he's been super-competitive. He suffered a few wee problems but has shown incredible survivability - an invaluable quality for a Production car driver. Let's hope it goes well for him tomorrow. Speaking of Kristian's incredible performance, Mirco Baldacci has absolutely mirrored or even bettered that, until of course, the puncture. It's great to have two new drivers come in and do such a good job. We're very happy to have them driving SUBARUs.

"Alex Dorosinskiy is enjoying himself, as is Spyros when the stages are good. Both these guys are showing significant improvement in performance throughout the event. Leszek is of course, incredibly disappointed at his small driving error. In his regular environment, Kuzaj is one of the steadiest and quickest drivers around. He's just not getting it together here; so that's something he will work on to improve for the next event. Make no mistake, when Leszek gets on an even keel in this championship, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with.

"We've got four drivers lined up there in second, third, fourth and fifth - and we're just waiting for anything to happen on the final day tomorrow. It' the roughest leg of the event and is unlikely to be a trouble-free day for any number of the competitors."




Pos Driver Car Name Time   Diff  
1 Mark HIGGINS Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:25:09.0 -
2 Toshihiro ARAI SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 3:26:40.3 +1:31.3
3 Kristian SOHLBERG SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 3:27:47.8 +2:38.8
4 Mirco BALDACCI SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 3:29:15.3 +4:06.3
5 Travis PASTRANA SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 3:31:52.7 +6:43.7
6 Fumio NUTAHARA Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:25:50.6 +7:41.6
7 Stepan VOJTECH Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:40:16.3 +15:07.3
8 Leszek KUZAJ SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 3:45:23.2 +20:14.2