The Event The 2002 World Rally Championship concludes next weekend with the final event of the season, the Network Q Rally of Great Britain. With less than a week having passed since teams made the gruelling 14,500km journey back from Rally ...
The 2002 World Rally Championship concludes next weekend with the final event of the season, the Network Q Rally of Great Britain. With less than a week having passed since teams made the gruelling 14,500km journey back from Rally Australia, there will be little time for them to relax before the GB Rally kicks off on Thursday 14 November with the first Cardiff Super Special.
Famed for its tough forest stages and changeable weather conditions, the Rally of Great Britain is fast, slippery, unpredictable and renowned as one of the world's greatest motorsport challenges. Widely believed to be Britain's largest sporting occasion, thousands of UK rally fans are expected to attend the event and brave the British fog and rain to see their favourite rally driver charging through the Welsh forests at stomach-churning speeds.
This year's event comprises 17 stages held over 390 competitive kilometres. Leg one will see crews travel 55 kilometres north-west of the central service park at Felindre to contest five stages before returning to Cardiff for the second Super Special. Leg two will then be held in the Brecon Beacons, north of Felindre, before concluding with a third and final Super Special in Cardiff. All four of Sunday's stages will take place east of Felindre.
With the manufacturer's title mathematically wrapped up by Peugeot and the driver's title already won by Marcus Gronholm, all eyes will be on the battle for second place in the driver's championship. With six drivers remaining in the frame, including 555 Subaru World Rally driver Petter Solberg, it looks set to be a fight to the wire.
The 555 Subaru World Rally Team will enter two cars into final event of the season, which will be driven by Tommi Mäkinen and Petter Solberg.
Having not claimed victory on this event before, four-time World Champion Tommi Mäkinen will be looking for his first UK win. Although he has competed in the rally eleven times in his career, he has not yet managed to claim the elusive top spot.
Meanwhile, following his 3rd place podium finish in Australia, Petter will also be gunning for a good result. He has competed on the Rally of Great Britain four times previously.
Tommi Mäkinen: "Since returning from Australia, I have managed to get some skiing in before travelling to the UK. The Rally of Great Britain has not been such a friendly event to me in the past - and I don't really know why because as I have so much experience on it. Looking back to Australia, although what happened there was obviously a huge disappointment, we got a lot of positives from it. The car is feeling so good right now, we have made a jump forward in performance for sure and we are much closer to the Peugeots. I am really looking forward to getting the new car next season - we will see an up in performance then - but it is very important to get one more good experience in the UK with this Impreza."
Petter Solberg: "I am hoping we have a little more luck on this event this year than we did the last time we competed. A freak refuelling incident meant that I didn't even get to finish the first stage on the Friday! I don't have too many good memories of Rally GB so let's hope this year is a bit different. Rally GB is a good event, I really like the roads and the stages - it's a challenging rally to do. I have been really happy with our performance over this whole season - it's been a very good year for me and, as I'm very confident at the moment, I'm looking forward to the event."
The Challenge / The Car
Although classified as a gravel event, the wet, muddy, cold and foggy conditions typically encountered during Rally GB present a special set of challenges to the 555 Subaru team - as Team Principal David Lapworth explained:
"Looking ahead to next weekend I think there are two factors that we'll be dealing with above all else. First of all there's the weather. If you were to look at the stages on a clear day in September you'd think they were perfect, they're smooth and challenging and in great condition. And there's really nothing wrong with them in November either. If the weather's good it wouldn't be a bad rally, it's just that when you add in mud, rain, fog and darkness there's a lot for drivers to contend with.
"Secondly there's competition we're anticipating this year. GB is an event that Colin, Marcus and Richard have all won in the past, and I'm expecting that once again Peugeot will put up some formidable opposition. But although I'm expecting it to be tough, with Petter, Tommi, Pirelli and the Impreza I believe we have every reason to be hopeful of a good result. Traditionally for Subaru, Great Britain is one of our strongest events. The rally is all about grip and as we've shown in the past, the Impreza has excellent traction and low speed grip, it really does suit the conditions.
"We have some new Pirelli tyre compounds for this rally, which Tommi and Petter will be testing over the next few days. Early indications are positive, and after Petter's result in Australia, the whole team is in a buoyant mood. I suppose you could say this is our home event, It's like Peugeot and Monte Carlo - when the WRC travels there, we're on their home ground, well next week, when the championship travels to the forests, they'll be in Subaru territory."
Between the Rallies
After jetting home from Australia, the crews had just a few days at home before travelling to the UK for the Rally of Great Britain pre-event test. Petter Solberg will be clocking up miles at the wheel of the Subaru Impreza WRC test car tomorrow and Sunday, before Tommi Mäkinen takes over the driving duties on Monday. The test will take place in the Swansea area of Wales.