Subaru Wins Rally Japan! Total Domination & a Sweet "Home" Victory
Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg claimed victory on Rally Japan today to take his third WRC win of the year and the eighth of his career.
Dominating the event from the outset, the Norwegian and his co-driver Phil Mills, won by a margin of 1 minute 13.3 seconds to become the only crew to lead a WRC event from start to finish this year.
Claiming a maximum 10 points in both the Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championships, Solberg moves to second in the overall Drivers' standings.
Subaru's young driver, Mikko Hirvonen put in another solid performance and despite encountering a gear selection problem brought his Impreza home in seventh place to collect two Championship points.
Competing in a WRC event for the first time on home ground, Subaru scored its 42nd WRC win and the 41st with the Impreza.
In the Group N class, Subaru Rally Team Australia's Dean Herridge finished a creditable third, placing him 11th overall in Rally Japan. Teammate Cody Crocker was fifth in Group N and 14th overall. Both were driving locally sponsored Impreza WRX STis. Group N was won by Japanese driver Toshihiro Arai, also in an Impreza.
84 starters left Obihiro parc ferme for the final time at 0530hrs this morning. Twenty-one of those had re-started having retired earlier in the event.
The third and final Leg of Rally Japan comprised 111.94 competitive kilometres and a liaison distance of 293.49km. Crews contested a final seven stages (two groups of three, plus a final visit to the Super Special stage at Satsaui). Stages were located north west of the service park at Kita Aikoku.
Temperatures started at 15°C degrees this morning, rising to 22°C degrees by midday. Skies remained clear and bright, while stages were dry, loose gravel.
SS21 0708hrs Rera Kamuy 1 (8.76km)
Despite suggesting he would be content with a second, or even third placed result in Japan, Sebastien Loeb pushed hard and was fastest through the first stage of the day. However, starting the stage with a lead margin of more than a minute, rally leader Petter Solberg was right behind his French rival and collected the second fastest time to maintain his healthy lead. Based in a landscape that was more hilly than that seen on Legs one and two, the narrow forest stage was the first indication of how much time the front-runners would concede as they swept the dry, loose gravel road surface for the cars behind. Running third on the road, Mikko Hirvonen was eighth fastest, while Harri Rovanpera, running second on the road, was seventh. After the finish, crews stopped for a refuel before moving directly to the start of SS22.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 5:17.5
SS22 0733hrs Panke Nikorpet 1 (17.04km)
The first pass through the stage from Panke Nikorpet took crews through a series of long, fast straights. Loeb was again fastest, with Solberg 0.9 seconds back in second and Markko Martin, a further 6.1 seconds back in third. With Solberg maintaining a 1 minute 6 second advantage at the finish, the major battle emerging was for overall fourth between Carlos Sainz, Marcus Gronholm and Francois Duval. On this stage, Gronholm was fourth quickest to reduce the gap between himself and fourth-placed Sainz to 4.6 seconds, but there was disaster for young Belgian driver, Duval. Leaving the road backwards on a right-hand corner 2km in, the Belgian was unable to rejoin the stage and retired. He had been in sixth position overall, 9.2 seconds off overall fifth. A good performance from Mikko Hirvonen saw the