The event Two weeks after Rally Ireland, the last asphalt round of the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship, the Subaru World Rally team will head to Wales for the final rally of the season, and the team's second 'home' event. Wales Rally Great...
Two weeks after Rally Ireland, the last asphalt round of the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship, the Subaru World Rally team will head to Wales for the final rally of the season, and the team's second 'home' event.
Wales Rally Great Britain is one of the classic events of the WRC calendar, and the varied nature of the gravel roads, coupled with the traditionally unsettled Welsh weather, also make it one of the toughest. Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, Wales Rally GB gets underway on Thursday 29 November with a ceremonial start in the capital city, Cardiff, before moving 65 kilometres west to a brand new rally base at the SA1 waterfront complex in Swansea.
The undulating forest tracks of South Wales always provide a stern challenge for drivers, and December's wintry weather is bound make conditions even more difficult. The first stage of the rally, Port Talbot, is a revised version of the former Margam stage. Together with Resolfen and Rheola it forms the opening loop of stages which are run twice on Friday. Resolfen features many surface changes and takes the crews 600m up Rhigos Mountain, so fog and ice could be a factor during the first run through the stage on Friday morning. Rheola is no place for a mistake: it is fast, but contains some huge, intimidating drops off the side of the road. The stage also includes the fan-friendly Walters Arena section near the end.
While leg one takes place in the valleys of south Wales, the crews travel north to the fringes of the Brecon Beacons for leg two. It includes two runs through a trio of well-known tests: Crychan, Halfway and Epynt, before the day ends with the 1.1km Cardiff Super Special held inside the Millennium Stadium. In front of an expected sell-out crowd, the evening also hosts a Rally GB tribute show that will include the Championship winning 1995 Subaru Impreza WRC of Colin McRae and the 2001 variant in which Richard Burns clinched the 2001 Drivers' Championship.
The third and final leg comprises two runs through Brechfa and Trawscoed. These two long stages take place on a hard-packed surface, but while the former test is fast and features some long, cambered corners, the latter is much tighter and strewn with hairpins.
The rally consists of 17 stages, which total 359.54 competitive kilometres. The longest stage is Sunday's 28.89km test at Brechfa (SS14/16). The first car is due onto the finish ramp in Cardiff's Cathays Park at 15.10 (local time) on Sunday 2 December.
The Subaru World Rally Team will enter three cars for Wales Rally GB. Petter Solberg and Phil Mills will drive Impreza WRC2007 number seven. Chris Atkinson and Stephane Prevot will drive Impreza WRC2007 number eight, and Xevi Pons and Xavier Amigo will be in number 17.
Richard Taylor, Subaru World Rally Team Managing Director: "Rally GB, the closest to the team's Banbury base, has traditionally been a strong event for the team, and Petter has won on these stages three times in the last five years. The team is testing in Wales this week and we aim to achieve a set up which will be good in the tricky conditions and that will give all three of our drivers the opportunity for a good result."
Paul Howarth, Subaru World Rally Team Operations Director: "Although the route of Rally GB is familiar to all our drivers, it remains one of the toughest of the season, with plenty of opportunities to make mistakes. This year some of the high-speed stages will be run in the dark and it's on those sections, and in any fog, that we'll see the drivers who have confidence. That's what this rally is all about, and when the going gets tough I expect one or two individuals to stand out. Mechanically, this rally requires a set-up that gives the driver maximum confidence, traction and high speed stability. It's a tricky mix to get right, but we have a four day pre-event test to find the optimum set-up for our three entries."
CAR NUMBER 7
Petter Solberg: "Rally GB is the final round of the championship and we have always gone well there, so we'll be pushing as hard as ever for a good result. If it's typical Rally GB weather, wet with lots of mud on the stages, then those are the conditions I think we can go well on. It's the team's home event so they have lots of experience of the tricky conditions, and we are testing this week to work on setup. Phil lives close by so we always get lots of support."
CAR NUMBER 8
Chris Atkinson: "This year I have more experience of driving on slippery and icy surfaces going into Rally GB, whereas last year it was new and I had a lot to learn. Testing this week is going well and I hope to find a set-up that will work on the rally. It's especially important to find good stability on the fast and slippery gravel. Rally GB is the last of the season so we will push for a good result and hope to finish the year strongly."
CAR NUMBER 17
Xevi Pons: "I am looking forward to GB next week. Okay, like Ireland it will be difficult and slippery, but we have some testing planned and I have more experience of driving in Wales so I hope we will have a good weekend with no problems. I finished fifth in Wales last year, but this will be my first time with the Subaru World Rally Team. It is the team's home rally, so I hope we can have a good finish to end the year."
Between the rallies
Following Rally Ireland, the drivers returned home briefly before flying to the UK the week before the rally for testing in Wales. Petter Solberg and Phil Mills tested for two days, and the duos of Chris Atkinson/Stephane Prevot and Xevi Pons/Xavier Amigo tested for a day each on gravel roads in mid-Wales.