Rally Catalunya: Subaru preview

Just one week after the Tour de Corse, crews will start another WRC asphalt event, Rally Catalunya, based in southern Spain, from 27-30 October. For the first time this season two FIA World Rally Championship events will be run 'back to back' and...

Just one week after the Tour de Corse, crews will start another WRC asphalt event, Rally Catalunya, based in southern Spain, from 27-30 October. For the first time this season two FIA World Rally Championship events will be run 'back to back' and this will also be the first time this year that the same engines and chassis will be used for two consecutive rallies.

The Subaru World Rally Team had an encouraging Tour de Corse, achieving its best asphalt finish of the year with Petter Solberg third and Stéphane Sarrazin fourth. Stéphane's result equalled his best-ever WRC finish, which he recorded last year in Spain on his WRC debut.

Although this year will be the 41st Rally Catalunya, next week marks a significant change to the format of the event. After years of being based in the Costa Brava area, the rally moves to the Tarragona region, with a single service area at the PortAventura theme park. Many of the special stages take place in the mountains around the host town Salou, with some sections previously used in 2001 and 2002 making a reappearance. Two stages, the Querol and El Montmell passes, use roads that have not been part of World Championship rallying for ten years.

Although Spain and Corsica are both sealed-surface events, the two are very different in character. While Corsica is twisty and narrow, the roads in Spain are much wider, faster and more flowing. Catalunya is likely to be the fastest asphalt event of the season. The majority of the Spanish asphalt is newer and smoother than the more abrasive Corsican surface and this event is the closest the WRC gets to a race track rally. Getting the right line into a corner is crucial and cutting corners is commonplace as drivers look for every advantage.

With its late October date, the weather could be bright sunshine and blue skies or lashing rain and fog, anything is possible. The rallying action kicks off with the ceremonial start in PortAventura on Thursday night, with the competitive action starting at 0828hrs the next day. The rally comprises 15 stages, with six on Legs one and two and three on the final day. Only one stage is used once, Pratdip on Leg one is also the longest of the rally at 28.35km. The podium finish will be in Salou on Sunday at 1330hrs.


The Subaru World Rally Team will enter a three-car team on Rally Catalunya. The three Impreza WRC2005's will be driven by Petter Solberg (co-driven by Phil Mills), Stéphane Sarrazin (co-driven by Denis Giraudet) and Chris Atkinson (co-driven by Glenn Macneall). On this event Petter and Stéphane will be eligible to score points in the 2005 FIA Championship for Manufacturers.

Petter had a largely trouble-free run on this event in 2004 to finish fifth, just behind his current team-mate Stéphane Sarrazin, who made his WRC debut at the event in a privately entered Impreza. Catalunya will be another new rally for Chris Atkinson who starts his third-ever sealed surface event after Germany and Corsica.

Team Partner News

The team is pleased to announce that all its entries on next week's Rally Catalunya will feature the distinctive yellow and white logos of Coronita Cerveza. Coronita is the local market brand of Mexico's largest brewer, Grupo Modelo, and Spain is their largest territory outside of the Americas. The logo will be featured on bootlid, front wings and bonnet as part of the one event partnership.

Driver Quotes

Petter Solberg
"I think Spain will be a very interesting and exciting rally. The new roads look very good and it's always fun to try out fresh rally stages. Coming so soon after Corsica I'm still feeling positive about the way the latest tyres and suspension set-up worked. The guys at Subaru and Pirelli have worked very hard and together we've made a significant step forward in the asphalt performance. We achieved our objectives there, and I hope that we can deliver another good result in Spain. I'm looking forward to it."

Stéphane Sarrazin
"Prior experience is so important in the WRC, but the fact that this rally is largely new to all competitors should help me in Spain. It's much more of a level fight and that's better for me. My performance in Corsica has given me a lot of confidence about the car and tyres, when I push I know I am capable of getting good times. I prefer the smoother roads in Spain and I think that I can improve on my Corsica result - maybe another step up the podium - who knows."

Chris Atkinson
"Catalunya will be another now event for me, and another opportunity to learn more about the car and tyres in some unfamiliar conditions. From what I know of the event, we're going to be facing some very different stage conditions to the ones we saw in Corsica. They're a lot quicker and we'll be taking a lot more cuts, but I think we learned some useful things last week that will help us get off to a good start."

The Car / The Challenge

Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth:
"The rally this year is new for most people, even though it's been on the calendar for a long while. Even those roads that have been used in previous years are different as they have been resurfaced. It is effectively a new rally for everybody, which will make it very interesting. The rally of the past barely changed so the drivers were very familiar with the stages. This is a new start for everybody and a fresh challenge.

The speeds will be a bit lower than when the event was run in the north as the roads are a bit twistier, but the stages are still more flowing and wider than in Corsica. Leg one will use older roads, but Legs two and three will be run on quite good, smooth, newly resurfaced roads around the hills. This makes the event less physically demanding on the drivers than the Tour de Corse as Spain has a more constant level of grip and far fewer hairpin bends. There's also less tree cover than in Corsica, meaning that the roads could well be less slippery.

The other interesting point about Spain is that at this time of year the weather is likely to be unpredictable. There is a risk of early morning showers, but you've got every chance of a lovely sunny weekend. Then again, you've also got the risk of it being cold and wet and foggy -almost anything can happen weather-wise.

An FIA regulation will be piloted on this event where the same engine and chassis must be used for two consecutive rallies. On an asphalt rally, it's not so much of a big deal as there is generally less wear and tear on the car than in gravel events and it won't be too much of a problem for us as we didn't pick up much damage. For other teams, however, it may be a struggle to get the cars ready in time.

The goals for us here are exactly the same as for the Tour de Corse; finish on the podium. My strategy is to photocopy the plan for Corsica, changing only the title and date! The drivers were happy with the car and the tyres in Corsica and everyone performed well. The risk of changeable weather will make it very interesting and we could be changing the plan through the event but the goal is for podiums for Petter and Stéphane. Chris will continue his learning curve. We've seen he's a quick learner, so there's every chance he could record some good times."


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Stéphane Sarrazin , Petter Solberg , Chris Atkinson