WRC

Subaru 1999 Driver Line-up

Subaru's domination in the FIA World Rally Championship is set to continue with the signing of an all-star line-up for the 1999 series. Four-time World Champion Juha Kankkunen and Belgian asphalt ace Bruno Thiry will join Richard...

Subaru's domination in the FIA World Rally Championship is set to continue with the signing of an all-star line-up for the 1999 series. Four-time World Champion Juha Kankkunen and Belgian asphalt ace Bruno Thiry will join Richard Burns in a three-car assault that will pose a formidable threat to the opposition. With the clear intention of retaining their status as the leading manufacturer, Subaru is set to take the Championship by storm with the combination of youth, vitality, experience and talent. Juha Kankkunen is unquestionably one of the most successful rally drivers in the history of the sport. In a quite outstanding career the Finn has won twenty-one World Championship rallies and has four World titles to his name, more than any other driver in the nineteen-year history of the Drivers Championship. Partnered by fellow countryman Juha Repo, the Finns have mounted a serious assault and been significant players in this years fight for the title. Seven points-scoring positions from ten outings, including six on the podium, currently put them fourth in the World Championship with three events remaining. Kankkunens surprise move to Subaru will undoubtedly shock the establishment, but the signing of this two-year agreement, commencing in Monte Carlo in the all-new 1999 Subaru Impreza World Rally Car, is one that could well see the Finn take his fifth title. "I still feel fast and confident that I can win rallies and want to be in the best car in the world. For me, Subaru has the best and this is mainly the reason why I decided to change teams. I think there is every reason to think that next year I can win my fifth title," claimed Juha. "I am looking forward to a new start in a new car. For sure there are little tricks to learn each time, but the first stage I contested in the Escort, I set equal fastest time. I dont think it will be a problem!" To strengthen their position in a series that goes from snow and ice to gravel and asphalt, Subaru is delighted to have secured the services of tarmac ace Bruno Thiry. While all three of the 1999 Subaru drivers will be regular World Championship campaigners, the combination of expertise in the team will provide an unrivaled opportunity to score maximum points in the all-important Manufacturers Championship. Bruno Thiry and co-driver Stéphane Prévot are no strangers to the cockpit of the Subaru Impreza. In 1997 the Belgian pairing took victory in a Prodrive Impreza World Rally Car in the Rallye du Condroz and finished second overall in a 1996 Group A Subaru Impreza 555 in the 24hrs dYpres. 1998 has however been a season the Belgian would prefer to put behind him. Despite some impressive performances, Bruno has been dealt more than his fair share of bad luck and is now looking forward to a season of renewed success with Subaru. The thirty-six-year-old driver from Les Awirs has an immaculate driving style and the ability to help steer Subaru to yet another World Rally Championship title. "For me this is very new and exciting and I am very pleased to join the famous Subaru team," said Bruno. "It will be the first time I have driven for a different team since 1994 but now I feel it is the right time for a change. I am ready and very motivated to take this challenge, and to have the chance to work with a team like Subaru, who are three-times World Champions, is magnificent." Commenting on their powerful line-up for the 1999 season, Ryuichiro Kuze and Takemasa Yamada of Subaru Tecnica International said: "We are very proud about the drivers we have secured and have much confidence that we can retain our status as the leading manufacturer in the important World Rally Championship. We and our partners at Prodrive are undertaking much technical work at the moment and although we will still use our Impreza model next year, we will have a completely new car for the start of the new season. I have much confidence that our challenger in the hands of Richard, Juha and Bruno will continue to be the car to beat and that we will be celebrating many more victories." Adding to his sentiments, David Lapworth, Technical Director for the 555 Subaru World Rally Team commented: "I said we had a surprise up our sleeve! We have always been confident of securing a team that would keep us at the top and Im delighted with the combination of youth and experience well have for next year. Three new drivers and a brand new car will make it a fresh and exciting challenge for the whole team. This combination of skill is the same strategy that took us to our three World titles and one that I know will reap rich rewards again. "With at least two or three new manufacturers entering the Championship next year competition is going to be stiff and, for any of the teams, regularly getting into the points will be an achievement. The whole series is moving into a bigger and better era and I for one am looking forward to us being a significant player in what is going to be a very interesting season." The 1999 FIA World Rally Championship kicks off in Monte Carlo in January where the Subaru World Rally Team will be launching their new challenger for the season. With one of the most formidable combinations of driver skill and mechanical technology, Subaru is confident of victory from the outset.

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