Thursday, September 30, 2010

Solberg flies in Rallye de France Shakedown

Norway's Petter Solberg went fastest in a mixed-up shakedown, but the real action gets underway tomorrow morning at 0843 with the first of 20 stages

Former World Champion Petter Solberg has claimed fastest time in the shakedown for the all-new Rallye de France, over a short asphalt stage running around the service area. The Norwegian set a best time of 1m53.4s in his privately-run Citroën C4 WRC, under cloudy skies and damp conditions. Temperatures were cool at around 11 degrees centigrade.

The stage was not especially representative of the conditions that the competitors will face over the next three days, and the times were taken by hand as the specialised equipment had already left for the first stage.

This led to quite a few surprises on the time sheets - but not too much should be read into them. World Touring Car Championship star Yvan Muller was the third-quickest driver on the shakedown, driving Solberg’s old 2006-specification Citroën Xsara WRC.

“My new team mate is not bad at all, is he?” joked Solberg. “From our point of view everything was really good, but the rally is a different thing. We came very close to winning on the last round in Japan, so we’re going to be pushing hard.”

The second-quickest car on the shakedown was Hungarian privateer Frigyes Turan in a Peugeot 307 WRC, while the Ford Fiesta Super 2000 of Henning Solberg was fourth-fastest behind Muller.

Sebastien Loeb, gunning for his seventh consecutive World Championship on home territory in Alsace, could only manage sixth-fastest on the shakedown in his factory Citroen C4 WRC.

“I think everyone has a lot of pressure but there’s a bit more pressure than usual,” said Loeb. “But in the end I prefer just to concentrate on the rally. If the weather is like this that it could be very slippery, so I think it will be tricky.”

Former Grand Prix champion Kimi Räikkönen was ninth-fastest, setting a time just 0.7 seconds slower than Loeb. The rally gets underway at 1830 with a ceremonial start in Strasbourg.

Shakedown times:

1-Petter 1.53,4
2-Turan 1.57,7
3-Yvan 1.58,8
4-Loeb 2.02,2
5-Ogier 2.02,2
6-Sordo 2.02,7
7-Räikkönen 2.02,9
8-Latvala 2.03,6
9-Villagra 2.05,2
10-Hirvonen 2.06,4
11-Wilson 2.14,2

Source: WRC

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