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Rally Italia Sardegna – after stage 5

Ford World Rally Team drivers Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson overcame a morning of attrition to climb to second in Rally Italia Sardegna. As a string of top competitors encountered problems over rocky and narrow gravel tracks on the Mediterranean island, the Ford duo avoided dramas to reach the midpoint of today’s second leg 25.8sec from the lead in their Fiesta RS World Rally Car.

Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila did not enjoy the same success. Latvala retired his Fiesta RS WRC after hitting a bank and damaging the front of his car too seriously to continue.

Solberg started today’s first full day of competition in this 12th and penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship in third after yesterday evening’s quickfire opening leg. This morning’s action comprised three speed tests covering 58.68km, as the route initially took competitors south of the rally base of Olbia, before heading to the north coast for new tests close to Sassari.

Conditions were slippery after overnight rain and Solberg, in company with his rivals, opted for Michelin’s soft compound tyres. The 37-year-old Norwegian was second through both the 29.68km Monte Lerno and the 14.12km Castelsardo special stages, before settling for a cautious drive through the 14.88km test from Tergu to Osilo as the abrasive gravel tracks took a toll on his tyres.

“We all expected tyre wear to be on the limit because the roads here are abrasive,” said Solberg. “However, the wear in the second stage was greater than we thought. I knew the final test would be difficult, so I was cautious over the initial downhill section to preserve the rubber as much as possible. But the next uphill section was very hard because I didn’t have enough grip.

“We will drive the same stages again this afternoon, but the wear won’t be as great with hard compound tyres. It was a tough loop but I’m happy with my speed. I’ll maintain the same kind of pace and keep an eye out for what my rivals are doing,” added Solberg.

Latvala restarted in sixth and the 27-year-old Finn was third through Monte Lerno to climb to fourth. However, early in Castelsardo he went off the road and hit a bank. The impact damaged his car’s radiator and he was forced to retire.

Leaderboard after stage 5 of 16
1. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen                     FIN                  Citroen DS3                1hr 17min 30.9sec
2. P Solberg/C Patterson                 NOR                Ford Fiesta RS         1hr 17min 56.7sec
3. M Østberg/J Andersson              NOR                Ford Fiesta RS          1hr 18min 36.5sec
4. E Novikov/I Minor                        RUS                Ford Fiesta RS          1hr 18min 43.8sec
5. O Tänak/K Sikk                             EST                 Ford Fiesta RS          1hr 19min 38.8sec
6. C Atkinson/S Prévot                       AUS                 Mini John Cooper         1hr 20min 25.0sec
7. S Ogier/J Ingrassia                         FRA                 Skoda Fabia S2000     1hr 20min 29.3sec
8. A Mikkelsen/O Floene                     NOR                Skoda Fabia S2000     1hr 21min 07.2sec
9.  M Prokop/Z Hrůza                       CZE                 Ford Fiesta RS           1hr 21min 14.8sec
10 K Kruuda/M Järveoja                     EST                 Ford Fiesta S2000      1hr 22min 39.2sec

Bucuresti, 19.10.2012

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