Rally GB: Gronholm chases

Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm and Subaru's Petter Solberg have turned up the heat as they attempt to overhaul Wales Rally GB leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen). The Finn won the third stage of the day to close the gap to Loeb while Solberg took the fourth test of the day beating Gronholm by 5.4s

Rally GB: Gronholm chases

Loeb's lead has now dropped to 14.8s with Gronholm 4s clear of Solberg as the drivers head back to service before the final two stages of the first leg later this afternoon.

Loeb took charge of the rally on the first two tests to eke out a 19.5s advantage over Gronholm. With a 30-point lead in the championship it was thought that the Citroen ace would be taking it relatively easy this weekend. Loeb was quick to dispel that belief, though, going through the first stage of the day - the notorious Brechfa 1 forest stage - 5.7s quicker than any other driver.

With the event moved from its traditional November slot, the conditions were expected to be much drier than the mud, snow and ice of former years. But the rain has been hammering it down in Wales making the stages slippery and perilous. Loeb was clearly unperturbed and went an incredible 13.1s quicker than Gronholm on the third stage, the Trawscoed 1.

Going into the third stage of the day then, Loeb had a 19.5s advantage over Gronholm and was a massive 29s ahead of third-placed driver Petter Solberg (Subaru), who has been tipped to take his third consecutive Wales Rally GB victory this weekend. Not if Loeb has anything to do with it, though.

Maybe his Citroen bosses whispered something in the Frenchman's ear before the third stage, or maybe Gronholm and Solberg realised that they needed to step on it or else have Loeb runaway from them, for both piled on the pressure in the final two stages of the morning.

Gronholm pipped Solberg in the fourth test by just 0.1s to clinch the stage win, but Loeb was only 3.3s off the pace. Solberg wasn't going to be left out, though. The Norwegian powered his way through the second running of the Trawscoed test - SS5 - to finish 5.4s clear of Gronholm with Loeb a further 1.4s down.

"You can push in the hard sections and be careful in the slippery ones," Loeb commented. "Everything was perfect. The car has no problems and we will just change the tyres, put in petrol and go again. We will try to continue in this rhythm and see what we can do."

Gronholm added: "It was not so good in the first two stages, but now the conditions will be equal I think. We will change things a bit with the diffs and hopefully we can be a little bit closer tonight."

Solberg was ready to concede that Loeb had done an excellent job this morning, but he too hopes for better this afternoon. "Sebastien was quicker than me on these stages last year too and I just have to speed up," said the Norwegian. "The car and tyres are working well, conditions are drying a little, so we'll see what we can do on the next stages."

Markko Martin is Ford's highest runner in fourth. After the first stage he was ahead of Solberg in third, but by the second stage of the day he dropped to fourth where he remained after the third stage. The Estonian has dropped further on SS5 trailing Solberg by nearly 13s. He can take it relatively easy though for Citroen's Carlos Sainz is 51s down on him in fifth, struggling somewhat on the wet and muddy tracks.

Ford's second driver Francois Duval, who took the first stage of the rally Thursday evening, is in sixth overall just 3s ahead of Peugeot's Harri Rovanpera. Subaru's Mikko Hirvonen has hung onto the final points position in eighth, but is over two minutes off Loeb's pace.

shares
comments
Rally GB: Loeb out front

Previous article

Rally GB: Loeb out front

Next article

Loeb delighted with start

Loeb delighted with start
Load comments
How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain Plus

How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain

While all pre-event chat focused on the two World Rally Championship title fighters, their closest challenger charged into the spotlight on Rally Spain. Thierry Neuville's star turn and another strong drive from Elfyn Evans in his fight with Sebastien Ogier made for an intriguing event as the 2021 campaign nears its crunch point

WRC
Oct 18, 2021
The steely determination behind the WRC’s Solberg 2.0 Plus

The steely determination behind the WRC’s Solberg 2.0

Two decades after Petter Solberg emerged as a World Rally Championship winner, his son Oliver is ready to take the WRC by storm. Having secured a part-time WRC factory drive for Hyundai in 2022, he's raring to repay the marque's faith in him and follow in his 2003 champion father's footsteps

WRC
Oct 14, 2021
Analysing the key moves in WRC’s 2022 silly season Plus

Analysing the key moves in WRC’s 2022 silly season

The World Rally Championship will step into a new hybrid era in 2022, but the car changes haven't been the only excitement that has built within the paddock. WRC's 'silly season' kicked off in a big way and all the key driver moves for 2022 - of which there are many - look set to shake things up

WRC
Oct 13, 2021
How joining Finland’s exclusive club was Evans' true WRC coming-of-age Plus

How joining Finland’s exclusive club was Evans' true WRC coming-of-age

By his own admission, the fifth World Rally Championship victory of Elfyn Evans' career in Finland last weekend was the drive of his life. Winning five stages in a row and soaking up huge pressure from the Hyundais on the fastest gravel stages around, the Welshman put in a faultless showing that proved what he is truly made of

WRC
Oct 4, 2021
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