Cyprus: Subaru World Rally Team preview

Cyprus Rally, 19-21 April 2002 The Event The 2002 World Rally Championship resumes next weekend when round five takes teams to the Mediterranean Island of Cyprus. The event is based in the countryside around Limassol on tough, rocky stages...

Cyprus Rally, 19-21 April 2002

The Event
The 2002 World Rally Championship resumes next weekend when round five takes teams to the Mediterranean Island of Cyprus.

The event is based in the countryside around Limassol on tough, rocky stages that are similar in character to those seen in Greece. The demanding terrain, combined with summer temperatures, make the event a tough one for cars and drivers.

Rally Cyprus is made up of three legs, 20 special stages and 323 competitive kilometres. There will be just one service point throughout, based on the promenade at Limassol. And this paddock-style service point will also act as the start and finish point for each day.

In addition to the WRC competitors, Cyprus is the third round of the 2002 Production Cup Series, and in total 66 cars are expected to cross the start ramp on Thursday 18 April.

The 555 Subaru World Rally Team will be entering cars in Cyprus for Tommi Makinen and Petter Solberg. They will drive the Impreza WRC2002 and both will be eligible to score Manufacturers' points.

Toshihiro Arai and co-driver Tony Sircombe will also be competing in Cyprus. The pair will be driving a privately run four-door Group N Subaru Impreza WRX as part of their production cup challenge.

Driver Quotes
Tommi Makinen has competed in Cyprus twice since it became part of the WRC in 2000. Driving a Mitsubishi on both occasions, he finished fifth in 2001 but retired after an accident in 2001.

Petter Solberg has limited experience on the Cyprus Rally. He competed for the first time in 2001, and retired when a fire destroyed his car on the first leg.

Tommi Makinen: "I am pretty confident and very much looking forward to the first proper gravel event of the season. We had a good gravel testing session last week in Spain and some more pre-event testing to do. We did quite a lot of work on the test and I think we have made improvements on the car for gravel conditions. We worked quite a lot with damper, transmission and suspension settings. Kaj and I are feeling very good and going into Cyprus the car is feeling great to drive."

Petter Solberg: "Our aim in Cyprus is to look even better on gravel than before and to improve on the performances we have made so far this year on tarmac. Everything is working well and we have had a positive testing session on which we made some improvements with the suspension settings. We also have a Cyprus pre-event test this weekend, which should help us even more to be completely prepared. All the indications are showing we have made the biggest steps on gravel than we have for a long time. My feeling is that we have a good chance to achieve a good result, and with a little bit of luck, we will be right there. I am really looking forward to the next few events, as they have traditionally favoured the Subaru and the Pirelli's. I know that the team is very excited going into these events. However, I am also looking forward to Germany and Sanremo later in the year now that we have proved we can be competitive on asphalt."

In the period since Rallye Catalunya the team has been concentrating hard on its testing programme and three separate events have been run in the past three weeks.

Petter went straight from Spain to a tyre test in Norway on 26th and 27th Feb. The following week Petter and Tommi took part in a five-day gravel development test in Spain and today both drivers are in Cyprus for the pre-event test.

Team Principal David Lapworth said: "We've certainly made the most of the available time and I think we've fitted in an extraordinary amount of work. We started off in Norway with a test tailored to Pirelli's needs. It was a chance to experiment with some of their long term R&D projects as well as trying out some general ideas for the future in terms of tread patterns and constructions. It was a productive exercise, Petter covered over 500kms in the two days and some of the results were very interesting.

"From there we moved to southern Spain for a gravel development test. Again, this was a longer-term test with the focus on the forthcoming events rather than one particular rally. Basically everything that we have in the pipeline for the next three or four rallies was tested - including some components we hope to use on the Safari. During the five days we tried numerous new ideas, from engine work to dampers and suspension settings, and by working with the excellent feedback we're getting from Petter and Tommi we're further improving the balance of the car.

"This test was something of a milestone for us. It's one of the six development tests we'll run this year, but in terms of the number of radical ideas we evaluated, and the amount of data we were able to collect over 750kms or so, it was probably the most important test of the season. Something else that has become apparent this season is the remarkable way Tommi and Petter work together as a testing partnership. They're both very highly motivated individuals and have worked tirelessly to push our development forward. But more than that, they seem to have the same objectives in terms of the way the car should perform. Petter quickly adopts the improvements Tommi makes and vice-versa - this lack of overlap is unusual but is a great benefit to us and means we've been able to forge ahead with our programme."

The Car
David Lapworth: "This is the first gravel rally of the year. We've done a lot of work since Rally GB on the car and the gravel set-up. Many components have changed - the anti-roll bars and transmission settings are all different for instance, and we've focussed a lot of time during testing on improving the way the car handles on narrow twisty surfaces.

"So this will be the first benchmarking of how successful that work has been and I'm certainly looking forward to seeing how we compare with the competition.

As far as the conditions go, I'm expecting Cyprus to throw plenty of rough and twisty conditions at us. Perhaps this year it won't be as hot as it has been in the past, but the stages are slow and I still expect it will be the hardest event of the year for components like dampers and engines that rely on airflow for cooling."

Between the Rallies
The 555 SWRT drivers have had the longest break between rallies since the beginning of the season but still managed to keep themselves busy.

Petter Solberg took part in a two day test in Norway straight after returning from Rallye Catalunya. After this he travelled to a resort in Northern Norway with David Lapworth, some of his engineers from Prodrive and some family members for a week of skiing.

Tommi on the other hand stayed on in Spain for a holiday before heading to the Spanish development test the following week. Petter joined the test after his skiing trip.

On Tuesday this week Petter Solberg attended a party to commemorate the first birthday of his official Supporters Club in Norway which now has 2600 members. 200 fans turned up to meet their hero and he was presented with a giant birthday cake at the occasion, which was featured on Norwegian television! At the same event Petter was presented with a medal of distinction by the Royal Automobile Club of Norway for the way he promotes the sport of rallying in Norway.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Toshihiro Arai , Petter Solberg , Tony Sircombe