Day 2am: Solberg dominates

In one of the most dominant performances of the season, Petter Solberg won every morning stage on the second leg of the inaugural Rally Japan. The world champion is in brilliant form in the works Subaru and has built himself an imperious 46s lead over Citroen's Sebastien Loeb

Day 2am: Solberg dominates

Solberg came into the Japanese event badly needing a finish after a string of retirements and a huge crash last time out in Germany. Even he admitted that, perhaps, he was lacking just a little in confidence. He started well yesterday but then watched as points leader Loeb closed in on him through the afternoon. This morning however Solberg has been in another class entirely, and what was yesterday an overall lead under threat is now almost an insurmountable advantage.

"I've got a good feeling," said Solberg. "No problems at all. I've been pushing a little bit, but when I get a good split time through, I back off. The system seems to be working and I think I'm able to judge the pace quite well. But, that said, I can't afford to relax. We're not going to make any changes. I'm just going to carry on going as we are and keep the speed."

Loeb lost second place overall on the second stage of the morning (SS11) to double world champion Marcus Gronholm, who initially at least was on a charge. The Finn's Peugeot was for most of the morning Solberg's leading pursuer. But Gronholm was hit with a penalty for jumping the start on SS14 and towards the end of the morning experienced intermittent problems with the 307's development five-speed gearbox, allowing Loeb back up to second.

By the lunchtime service, Gronholm was fifth overall, more than a minute and a half off the overall lead.

Markko Martin's Ford Focus, free of yesterday's shock absorber issues, is third ahead of Citroen's Carlos Sainz. The Estonian driver has built a 15s cushion over the legendary Spaniard through the morning, but is still unhappy with the quality of his pace notes. "It's been difficult again," said Martin. "I don't know what I was thinking when I made some of these notes because they are way too fast - it's not just fine tuning.

"The car feels good and I'm pushing harder than yesterday but I'm doing a lot of driving on what I can see, rather than with the notes."

Francois Duval is sixth in the second Focus ahead of Mikko Hirvonen (Subaru) and Harri Rovenpera (Peugeot). Hirvonen has been setting some competitive times this morning, but he was hit by a minute penalty on SS12 for arriving early at the control point.

There have been remarkably few factory retirements so far in the rally and it seems only a matter of time before trouble hits one of the front-runners. Going by recent form, it's usually Solberg who gets the bad luck, but after this morning's performance, there seems only one guy that can win this event.

shares
comments
Day 1: Solberg holds off Loeb

Previous article

Day 1: Solberg holds off Loeb

Next article

Day 2: Solberg consolidates

Day 2: Solberg consolidates
Load comments
Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant? Plus

Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant?

OPINION: Thierry Neuville's diatribe against the upcoming Rally1-spec machines that will usher in the World Rally Championship's new hybrid era was remarkable in an era where drivers are usually reticent to air their views in public. But are the Belgian's concerns about speed, safety and cost entirely valid?

WRC
Sep 16, 2021
How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains Plus

How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains

After Kalle Rovanpera’s historic feat at Rally Estonia, the Finn scaled new heights at the Rally of the Gods with a commanding victory. And this time Toyota’s young star demonstrated why the future is bright with his devastating speed and consistency at the Acropolis Rally

WRC
Sep 13, 2021
The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally Plus

The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally

Five drivers have won first time out at the Rally Acropolis, transcending the tough dirt and gravel Greek roads to cement a place in rallying folklore. Here are three of the first-time winners' tales

WRC
Sep 9, 2021
Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble Plus

Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble

From being considered a likely contender to drive the next-generation M-Sport Ford Puma in 2022, Teemu Suninen's abrupt exit has created plenty of questions. The Finn's bid to become his country's next World Rally Championship winner won't be furthered by being sidelined, but there may be reason behind the decision

WRC
Sep 2, 2021
Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit? Plus

Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit?

OPINION: The Ypres Rally featured a cameo from the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in its final stage, giving WRC teams the chance to experience its iconic corners in rallying machinery. It proved to be an engaging addition to the rally, and could perhaps serve as an example for other events to visit famous circuits

WRC
Aug 24, 2021
How Hyundai's home hero delivered overdue WRC success in Belgium Plus

How Hyundai's home hero delivered overdue WRC success in Belgium

With limited recent fortune and pressure starting to mount, Hyundai needed a big result at the Ypres Rally. All the key components came together in Belgium to see home hero Thierry Neuville lead a manufacturer 1-2 and kickstart its World Rally Championship challenge

WRC
Aug 16, 2021
The new car that can resurrect Ford's WRC winning pedigree Plus

The new car that can resurrect Ford's WRC winning pedigree

M-Sport has become the first to unveil its new-for-2022 hybrid World Rally Championship challenger, the Puma Rally1. Ford has upped its support in a bid for glory, but can the new machine roll back the years and return the Blue Oval to the top of the WRC tree?

WRC
Aug 12, 2021
The rookie WRC driver aiming to continue Loeb and Ogier's legacies Plus

The rookie WRC driver aiming to continue Loeb and Ogier's legacies

French drivers have dominated the World Rally Championship across the past two decades; Sebastiens Loeb and Ogier have racked up the titles in commanding fashion. With Ogier calling it a day on full-time WRC competition from next year, France will pin its long-term hopes on rookie Adrien Fourmaux, who looks to have a bright future.

WRC
Aug 7, 2021