The Subaru World Rally Team moves from the grassy Pampas of Argentina to the dramatic Mediterranean landscape of Sardinia for round seven of the 16-event World Rally Championship. Italy's round of rallying's global tour is based in the port of...
The Subaru World Rally Team moves from the grassy Pampas of Argentina to the dramatic Mediterranean landscape of Sardinia for round seven of the 16-event World Rally Championship.
Italy's round of rallying's global tour is based in the port of Olbia on the picturesque Costa Smeralda coast, in the north east of Sardinia. It is the fourth consecutive loose-surface rally in this year's championship and competitors will speed through a spectacular mountain landscape.
The rally includes some technical, medium-width roads featuring a hard-packed base covered with a layer of fine, sandy gravel. The drivers running first on the road will be at a disadvantage because they will be sweeping the loose surface for the following cars. However, some of the roads tend to get very rough when the crews drive through them for the second time, which they will do with all of the nine routes. Therefore a shrewd tyre choice and intelligent driving will be absolutely vital on this event.
Warm temperatures are the norm, but rain is a possibility, especially up in the hills, where the drivers will thread their cars up narrow passes to altitudes of more than 800 metres above sea level. Indeed, at the moment the forecast is for the rally to be held on a damp surface.
After the ceremonial start in the old harbour area of Porto Cervo on Thursday 17 May, the action begins with the 31km Crastazza stage at 0943hrs on Friday morning. There are six timed sections on each of the three days, and the winning car is scheduled to cross the finish line back in Porto Cervo at 1430hrs on Sunday 20 May.
The legs on Friday and Saturday are quite similar to those used in previous years. The first day takes competitors through the State Property Forest of Castrazza, in the province of Nuoro. For day two the action shifts to Terranova, and mixes familiar roads with new sections, before the final day includes one test that is completely new: Monte Nuragone. In total, the competitors will cover 342.86km of timed sections and 718.98km of public road driving, making a total rally distance of 1061.84km.
The Subaru World Rally Team has entered two Impreza WRC2007s for Rally d'Italia Sardegna. Petter Solberg/Phil Mills will drive car number seven, while Chris Atkinson/Stephane Prevot will drive car number eight. Petter and Phil won the event in 2004, leading from start to finish, and also finished second in 2005. Chris will start his third Sardinian event, having shown plenty of potential in his previous two outings. In 2006 he climbed as high as third overall, winning one stage along the way.
Paul Howarth, Subaru World Rally Team operations director: "Sardinia is always a tough rally, especially because of the way the road condition deteriorates when the drivers tackle them for the second time. The opening leg of the rally on Friday is made up of three long stages and will be particularly tough on the tyres, especially when the drivers go back along those roads in the afternoon. The tests are all very demanding on the car and this rally is all about reliability and consistency. About one quarter of the roads will be new for this year, which is good for Chris, because the more experienced drivers will not be able to rely on familiarity of the stages."
DRIVER QUOTE - CAR NUMBER 7
Petter Solberg: "I really hope we can start to push for a win again in Sardinia. I'm starting to miss the feeling of being on the podium at the end of a rally. My plan is to win again very soon -- doing well in rallying is the most important thing in my life -- but there are some details that still have to come together. Sardinia is a rally we have won before, and we always have a good feeling on these stages, so maybe this could be a good rally for us. We are on the right track and if we have a good test in Sardinia this weekend I'll be looking forward to making a strong challenge in the rally."
DRIVER QUOTE - CAR NUMBER 8
Chris Atkinson: "Although Rally Argentina was quite tough, we finished in the points in seventh position. Now we need to aim to finish a little higher up the order in Sardinia. It's difficult to make an exact prediction until after I've tested the Impreza on the Sardinian roads, which I'm due to do today [Friday]. But I'm hoping we can make some progress during the test and gather some significant data to allow us to challenge competitively next weekend. As far as the special stages are concerned, this is a rally I always enjoy, and I went well there last year."
Between the rallies
Rally d'Italia-Sardegna comes in the middle of a busy period for the Subaru World Rally Team. Preparations for this event will begin just seven days after team personnel have returned from the previous event in Argentina. Since then, Petter Solberg and Phil Mills have taken part in the two-day recce for the Jordan Rally, in order to gain experience ahead of the Middle-Eastern event's graduation to the WRC calendar next year. On Saturday, Petter then flew to Sardinia to rejoin the team's test division for a day of development work. Chris travelled straight from Argentina to Sardinia to conduct a day's testing and will go from the test site near Luogosanto to Olbia, the rally base, on Sunday. Petter will follow on Monday, in time for recce on Tuesday and Wednesday.