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PIRELLI'’S GIVE 555 SUBARU THE EDGE IN SPAIN World Rally Championship: Round 5 - Spain A crushing display of domination in Portugal at the first true gravel event of the 1998 season was evidence enough that the Subaru Impreza ...

PIRELLI'’S GIVE 555 SUBARU THE EDGE IN SPAIN World Rally Championship: Round 5 - Spain A crushing display of domination in Portugal at the first true gravel event of the 1998 season was evidence enough that the Subaru Impreza 555 World Rally Car is one of the most competitive machines in the World Rally Championship. Former World Champion Colin McRae and co-driver Nicky Grist set the pace from the outset and victory for the British duo has put the 555 Subaru World Rally Team’s Championship aspirations firmly on track. Only four points separate Subaru from the number one slot in the Manufacturers’ Championship and, as the teams head to Spain for the fifth round of the series (20-22 April), a second consecutive victory in the series is well within Colin and Piero Liatti’s grasp. Spain has historically been an event where the 555 Subaru World Rally Team has excelled, as the abrasive all-asphalt surface favours the Pirelli-shod Imprezas. The team have competed in Spain since 1995 and, with two victories in the history books, have one of the most enviable records of the current manufacturers. Colin McRae has competed three times in Spain and, but for stopping to change a puncture on Leg two of the 1997 event, could well have notched his second consecutive victory on the Costa Brava. "We’ve always been competitive in places like Spain and Corsica but the level of competition is a bit of an unknown quantity this year," said Colin. "Mitsubishi will have a new car in the Evolution V and the Toyota is still fairly new so we’ll have to wait for a few stages before we can really judge how everyone is faring. The weather in Spain is generally warm and dry, but the surface is very abrasive which requires a different kind of tyre to say, Monte Carlo, where we had to cope with cold and icy road conditions. If it stays dry the Formula 2 cars will be quick again, but they don’t seem to be as consistent so I’m confident that the World Rally Cars will be leading at the finish of the event." Like Colin, Piero Liatti has had three outings in Spain and although he has an enviable record, victory has always eluded him. The Italian finished third in 1995, and in 1996 and 1997 finished second with co-driver Fabrizia Pons, twice missing victory by a mere seven seconds. "This year it is my turn to win!" said a determined Piero. "The stages can be very tough on tyres so it is important to find a balance between looking after them and being competitive. I enjoy competing in Spain because I have good memories and know the stages, but this year I must win!" Competition in the 1998 FIA World Rally Championship has been as fierce as ever and, with Carlos Sainz losing in Portugal by a mere 2.1 seconds to McRae, the Spaniard will undoubtedly be looking to turn the tables in his home event. Carlos has two victories to his credit (1992 and 1995) but also has a disappointing 10th last year and three other retirements. He is joined by young Belgian Freddy Loix who, despite competing in his first race in Spain, will be driving the second registered Toyota Corolla World Rally Car in place of Didier Auriol. Victory for Tommi Makinen in 1997 gave Mitsubishi Ralliart a first-ever win on asphalt. The Japanese manufacturer will debut the all-new Lancer Evolution V in Spain this year; although pre-event tests have demonstrated its potential, the Rally of Spain will be the car’s first competitive outing. The Finn is joined by young Briton Richard Burns who finished a fine fourth in Portugal. Burns has had one outing and one retirement in Spain, and is more determined than ever to prove his worth in the Carisma GT. Bruno Thiry returns to the World Rally Championship scene in Spain following an absence from the series for the last two events. Recovered from his reconnaissance accident in Kenya, the Belgian has finished third (1996) and seventh (1993) in four Spanish outings and doubtless will be happy to be back behind the wheel of the Escort World Rally Car. Teamed up with four-time World Champion Juha Kankkunen, Thiry and Ford World Rally will seek to continue their impressive record of having both cars finish each round so far this year. The 1998 Rally of Spain covers 19 special stages and 401 competitive kilometres and will follow the same route as last year. Run to a cloverleaf format, the rally starts and finishes in the coastal town of Lloret de Mar and will, as ever, be watched by thousands of enthusiastic spectators in Barcelona and Tarragona provinces. Four different drivers have won each of the opening rounds of the 1998 FIA World Rally Championship and, while the 555 Subaru World Rally Team has an enviable record on the Costa Brava, the intensity of the action is sure to guarantee a nail-biting finish to the Rally of Spain.

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Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Freddy Loix , Richard Burns , Didier Auriol , Nicky Grist , Fabrizia Pons , Piero Liatti