Catalunya: Subaru preview

555 Subaru World Rally Team Rallye Catalunya The Event Next Thursday 21 March, eleven days after crossing the finish ramp in Corsica, drivers will begin the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the 38th Rallye Catalunya. The...

555 Subaru World Rally Team
Rallye Catalunya

The Event

Next Thursday 21 March, eleven days after crossing the finish ramp in Corsica, drivers will begin the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the 38th Rallye Catalunya.

The event is the third of five tarmac rounds in the 2002 championship and is renowned for its smooth, demanding stages and crowds of fanatical spectators. The asphalt event in north-eastern Spain is also a firm favourite with drivers.

Covering a total distance of almost 2000km, the event has 400km of special stages, and with the exception of the Safari Rally is the longest event in the WRC calendar. There are three legs comprising 18 stages, with the start and finish based at the Mediterranean holiday resort of Lloret de Mar. The event is also the second round of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship, and in total 75 cars are expected to start.

The event is based around two service parks. The Universal Studios theme park 'Port Aventura,' close to Tarragona, will host the teams on Friday 22 March. The location will change to the sports stadium in the town of Manlleu for Saturday and Sunday. Rally headquarters will be in the Hotel Olympic Park in Lloret. The character of the Rallye Catalunya stages differs throughout the event. For the southern stages of leg one, the roads are abrasive and bumpier than those in the north which are driven on legs two and three.

The six stages of leg one are based 200km down the coast from Lloret de Mar in the countryside around Port Aventura. For legs two and three (the remaining twelve stages of the event), the action takes place 100km north of Lloret around Manlleu.

The 555 Subaru World Rally Team will be entering two cars in Rallye Catalunya. Both Tommi Makinen and Petter Solberg will drive the latest homologation of the Impreza (the WRC2002) and both will be eligible to score Manufacturers' points.

Driver Quotes

Tommi Makinen:
"We had a very good testing session and I think we managed to improve on some small areas which will make the car a little bit faster. We are pretty confident for Spain but like all the tarmac events, it depends a little bit on the weather conditions. Unfortunately we have not had a chance to do any wet condition testing so we do not have much knowledge about the tyre and wheel set-up on difficult conditions but I don't think we are far away. Spain has always been a favourite event for me and I'm looking forward to it.

"This year will see a big difference as the rally roads have changed a lot from previous years. There will be a lot of new roads for everyone to learn. I'm sure it will level out the playing field so the specialists do not have so much of an advantage. It will be important to ensure the set-up of the car is absolutely correct."

Petter Solberg:
"We have already made good improvements since Corsica in the testing we have done this week. The car feels very good and Pirelli just keep raising their game and making more improvements with the tyres on tarmac set-ups. We are another step closer now than we were in Corsica. I'm looking forward to Spain, even though it's a rally on which I don't have a lot of experience. I did it for the first time last year and unfortunately I only lasted until stage three. That made me learn that it's a rally that I have to really respect. My plan is to take it steady over the first couple of legs to make sure that I get to the end. To begin with I am not going to push too hard and try to beat the Peugeots and Citroens but put myself in a favourable position to attack them towards the end of the event."

Between the Rallies
Tommi flew directly from Corsica to Spain for pre-event testing. He tested on Tuesday 12 March, notching up 260km in the Subaru Impreza WRC2002. He is currently spending a few days at home before flying to Spain to prepare for the pre-event reconnaissance on Monday.

Petter Solberg has had three days at home in the last three weeks. Like Tommi he flew straight from Corsica to Spain for some pre-event testing. He took over testing duties from Tommi on Wednesday 13 March and completed 280km on the twisty tarmac test roads.

Risto Mannisenmaki update
Tommi Makinen's regular co-driver Risto Mannisenmaki is continuing to make an excellent recovery following last season's accident in Corsica. This week he spent a day testing with Tommi and the 555 Subaru World Rally Team and although he won't be competing with Makinen in Spain, he is well on the way to achieving the necessary levels of fitness. 32 year old Kaj Lindstrom will deputise once again on the coming event.

After an encouraging medical check-up last week, Risto joined the Spanish pre-event test on Tuesday and tried the Subaru co-drivers seat for the first time. He spent around seven hours in the car with Tommi and the pair covered over 250kms together.

Risto said: "I spent all day in the Subaru with Tommi, from about 9am until 5pm, we were doing a lot of endurance work, and did one section that was 40kms long, so there was a good chance to test my fitness over a rally stage distance. On the whole everything was fine, quite comfortable, but I did have a small pain in my leg, and was a bit tired the following day - so let's just say I'm not yet 100%. It was positive though overall. At least I know that I can do it, but there's still more to come and I need to recover a little bit more until it's absolutely right."

The team's Sporting Director George Donaldson said: "Things are definitely moving in the right direction for Risto. The test was encouraging, but we're all agreed that we won't take any risks - he won't get back in a rally before he's 100% ready. That's for Risto's benefit as well as our own - we simply cannot risk Tommi's title challenge by taking any chances, and we'd be foolish to put any time pressure on Risto's recuperation. I'd like to see him do another two pre-event tests with us before he starts his next rally. All being well he'll be in the car again at the beginning of April, and at this moment I think he's on track to take part in Argentina, - we'll just have to wait and see."

The car - a centenary celebration for the Impreza!
Rallye Catalunya is an important anniversary for the 555 Subaru World Rally Team as it marks the 100th WRC event that the Subaru Impreza has competed on.

* The Impreza made its WRC debut on the 1000 Lakes rally in Finland in 1993, where it replaced the Legacy, which had been rallying since 1989. In that first season the car was known as the Impreza 555, and on its maiden event it narrowly missed out on a win with world champion Ari Vatanen at the wheel.

* The Impreza's first WRC victory came on the 1994 Corsica rally with Carlos Sainz. In 1997 the WRC version of the Impreza was launched and won its first event, the season opener in Monte Carlo.

* The car is now in its seventh evolution. The Subaru Impreza WRC2002 made its debut in Corsica 2002.

* The Impreza has been driven by no less than twenty world class drivers, seven of which have won the World Drivers Championship (see following table).

* Between 1995 and 2001 the 555 Subaru World Rally Team has picked up five world championship titles with the Impreza (two drivers - Colin McRae in 1995 and Richard Burns in 2001, and three manufacturers - 1995, 1996 and 1997).

* In its 100-event WRC history, the Impreza has scored 33 outright wins, giving it an impressive win ratio of one in three. <pre> Driver Impreza WRC Starts Driver Impreza WRC Starts 1 Colin McRae* 52 11 Possum Bourne 3 2 Richard Burns* 47 12 Ari Vatanen* 2 3 Piero Liatti 26 13 Tommi Makinen* 3 4 Juha Kankunnen* 24 14 Simon Jean-Joseph 2 5 Kenneth Eriksson 19 15 Markku Alen 1 6 Petter Solberg 19 16 Mats Jonsson 1 7 Carlos Sainz* 16 17 Didier Auriol* 1 8 Markko Märtin 10 18 Juha Kangas 1 9 Toshihiro Arai 10 19 Jarmo Kytolehto 1 10 Bruno Thiry 6 20 Alister McRae 1

*Denotes drivers world champion

Data File - The Season So Far

Number of Starts 1: Peugeot 10 2: Skoda 9 2: Ford 9 4: Hyundai 8 5: Mitsubishi 7 6: Subaru 6 7: Citroen 5

Fastest Stage Times 1: Gronholm 8 1: Panizzi 8 3: Solberg 7 4: Loeb 5 4: Burns 5 6: C. McRae 4 7: Makinen 3

Podiums 1: Peugeot 5 2: Ford 2 3: Subaru 1 3: Citroen 1

Did Not Finish 1: Hyundai 63% 2: Subaru 50% 3: Skoda 44% 4: Citroen 40% 5: Ford 22% 6: Peugeot 10% 7: Mitsubishi 0%


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Toshihiro Arai , Richard Burns , Didier Auriol , Petter Solberg , Alister McRae , Juha Kangas , Kenneth Eriksson , Risto Mannisenmaki , Ari Vatanen , Markku Alen , Piero Liatti , Simon Jean-Joseph , Markko Martin , Kaj Lindstrom
Teams Citroën World Rally Team