01 Nov 08
Henning Solberg and his brother Petter both retired from Saturday’s competition on consecutive stages and with similar mechanical problems.
Munchi’s team driver Henning was first to go. The Norwegian, who was sixth, parked his Ford Focus after the finish control of SS17 as a result of left-hand rear suspension damage. Henning collected a left-hand rear puncture in the heavily rutted 33.66km stage but was finally forced to retire from the day when his car’s left-hand rear trailing arm broke.
The repeat of Kamuycep also caused problems for Sebastien Loeb who dropped 22sec to stage winner Mikko Hirvonen. “I had no confidence; the car was doing what it wanted and I couldn’t drive it,” explained Loeb.
The next stage, SS18, was tackled in total darkness and brought more misfortune for the Solberg family. Petter’s Subaru Impreza arrived at the finish control dragging its right-hand rear wheel and suspension behind it. “I just went in a ditch a little bit and, boom! we hit a hole in the road” said Solberg, who had been in fourth place. “I had a 360 degree spin but carried on. I thought the rear corner was bottoming out a bit but actually we’d ripped the whole thing off. It was a small mistake but that’s it. We were trying hard to catch Sebastien.”
Following his team-mate through the stage, Chris Atkinson hit the same hole in his Impreza but got away unscathed. “It was huge and spun us around 360 degrees in the air; I don’t know how we didn’t go off,” he said.
Loeb brought his Citroen safely through the final ‘proper’ test of the day after making adjustments to its dampers. “On the previous stage it was jumping around everywhere, so before SS18 I made the suspension a little harder,” he said. “The road was very rough and I lost a lot of grip.” Sebastien set the fourth fastest time and remained relatively secure in third place.
With just the Sapporo Dome Super Special still to run, rally leader Mikko Hirvonen was happy with his day’s work. “Yeah, it’s been okay,” he said. “We’ve had no problems and we’re still in the lead; so that’s not too bad.” Holding a 35sec advantage over Loeb after SS18, second placed Jari-Matti Latvala said: “It’s been quite alright. In the afternoon it was getting rougher so we had to take it a little bit more cautiously but apart from that it’s been good.”