Solberg Crash Hands Gronholm Win

Petter Solberg suffered heartache as he lost victory in the Rally Japan in the penultimate stage

Solberg Crash Hands Gronholm Win

The Norwegian had the win in his sights with a comfortable 22.3-second lead over Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm with just two of the 26 stages remaining.

However, approximately one kilometre from the start line of the 17.04km Panke Nikorpet stage, Solberg, who was running 13th on the road, hit a rock that had been thrown onto the racing line by one of the cars ahead. The impact damaged the front-right suspension and steering components of his Impreza and prevented him from continuing any further.

Solberg had led from the fourth stage of the event.

Gronholm therefore inherited his second victory of the season, following on from his victory in August in his home event in Finland.

Sebastien Loeb coasted home to second place, which was enough to secure his second consecutive World Rally Championship with three rounds remaining.

Solberg's late drama meant that his teammate Chris Atkinson scored the first podium finish of his WRC career.

Atkinson was quickest overall in SS23, securing his sixth stage win ever. That stage result promoted him to fourth, when Mitsubishi's Gigi Galli left the road and sustained left-rear suspension damage and crossed the finish line more than five minutes slower than Atkinson. When he stopped to check the car on the road section after the stage finish he discovered that the damage was extensive and retired from the rally.

Duval continued his points scoring run by finishing fourth, 19.4 seconds behind Atkinson.

Harri Rovanpera finished fifth despite an eventful final day. The Finn's Mitsubishi lost half a minute in the first stage of the final leg after his engine cut out at the first corner. He then ran wide and damaged the suspension alignment on his car's right-front corner in SS23, losing another 50 seconds.

However, he bounced back to take the stage victory in SS24 before moving up when Solberg had his problems.

The Ford pairing of Roman Kresta and Toni Gardemester were promoted to sixth and seventh. Peugeot's Daniel Carlsson, replacing Markko Martin in the event, finished eighth.

Final standings after SS26: Pos Driver Make Time 1. Gronholm Peugeot 3:25:32.0 2. Loeb Citroen + 1:22.1 3. Atkinson Subaru + 2:40.0 4. Duval Citroen + 2:59.4 5. Rovanpera Mitsubishi + 3:59.8 6. Gardemeister Ford + 4:32.3 7. Kresta Ford + 5:32.0 8. Carlsson Peugeot + 6:39.1 9. Warmbold Ford + 7:39.3 10. Schwarz Skoda + 12:07.4 11. Panizzi Mitsubishi + 13:56.8 12. Arai Subaru + 21:12.3 13. Crocker Subaru + 22:16.7 14. Nutahara Mitsubishi + 22:53.8 15. Teiskonen Subaru + 27:55.5 16. Ishida Mitsubishi + 28:10.3 17. Wilks Suzuki + 28:31.7 18. Katsuta Subaru + 31:44.8 19. Ligato Subaru + 31:59.3 20. Beltran Subaru + 35:52.4 All Timing Unofficial 
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Series WRC
Drivers Henning Solberg
Author Tim Redmayne
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