Solberg chases a podium

Petter Solberg's aim for the third leg of the Monte Carlo Rally is to snatch the final podium position from new Ford driver Toni Gardemeister

Solberg chases a podium

The Subaru star was not expecting victory on the championship's opening event as his team will not debut its latest specification Impreza until round three in Mexico. Braking problems then cost Solberg a great deal of time early on leg one, so to begin day three in the thick of the podium fight is better than the 2003 champion anticipated.

"I came here for the podium, that's what I want and that's the plan for tomorrow," said Solberg at the end of leg two. "It's been a good day today, we've even been taking time out of Marcus Gronholm and the brakes are no problem at all now."

Solberg will begin SS10 9.2s behind Ford's new signing Gardemeister, who will be eager to hang on to what would be his first podium since the 1999 Rally New Zealand (which was his first competitive appearance in a WR car). Gardemeister admitted that Solberg's charge was forcing him to keep a close eye on the split times in the later stages.

"When I saw the first split I knew I had to go harder," he said. "We had the engine stall a couple of times in hairpins and we nearly went off on a right-hander, but apart from that it was good.

"I'm feeling more confident and getting close to the limit of the car now."

Gardemeister's pursuer had some scares of his own, Solberg nearly ending his rally on the ice that carpeted the final sections of SS9.

"I hit the bridge at the end of the stage," he said. "It bent the rear axle a little bit but it was quite close to the end so it wasn't such a problem."

Solberg and Gardemeister may yet catch second-placed Gronholm, who is only 13s ahead of the Ford, or they could come under threat from the flying Gilles Panizzi - whose fastest time on SS8 brought the Mitsubishi driver to within half a minute of Solberg's Subaru.

Conditions will be tough on leg three, with snow expected on the famous Turini stages.

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