The Subaru Impreza WRC2005 will make its asphalt rally debut next week when the FIA World Rally Championship moves to Germany for round 11 of the series, Rallye Deutschland. After nine consecutive loose surface rallies, Rallye Deutschland is ...
The Subaru Impreza WRC2005 will make its asphalt rally debut next week when the FIA World Rally Championship moves to Germany for round 11 of the series, Rallye Deutschland.
After nine consecutive loose surface rallies, Rallye Deutschland is the first all-asphalt event since Monte Carlo, and the first of three such events scheduled for the remainder of the season. Based in the countryside around Trier, the oldest city in Germany, the rally presents crews with some of the most specialist stages of the year.
The event is made up of two old German national rallies rolled into one, and each Leg has a very distinctive character. Stage conditions vary between the narrow vineyard roads of the Mosel region with its long, fast straights and 90-degree corners, the smooth roads of Saarland and the bumpy, rough concrete tracks of the Baumholder military ranges. Designed for tank training exercises, the army roads are unlike anything else in the Championship. Flanked by huge, unforgiving concrete kerbstones, the wide asphalt sections are abrasive and dirty, while a fine dusting of sand makes them exceptionally slippery when wet. The military area was the scene of several high-profile accidents in 2004, so this time the route is being re-designed to make it safer. With this year's rally scheduled in August, when weather conditions are likely to be changeable, the event's mix of road surfaces is expected to prove a tough challenge for drivers and tyres alike.
The only WRC event held in central Europe, Rallye Deutschland is especially popular with fans. Last year more than 200,000 flocked to the stages to watch their favourite drivers in action and this year should be no different. The rally comprises three Legs, 355 competitive kilometres and 19 timed special stages. There will be a single service area at Bostalsee, which is 60km from Trier. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp at 1630hrs on Sunday 28 August.
Subaru will enter a three-car team on Rallye Deutschland. The three Impreza WRC2005's will be driven by Petter Solberg (co-driven by Phil Mills) Stephane Sarrazin (co-driven by Denis Giraudet) and Chris Atkinson (co-driven by Glenn Macneall). On this event Petter and Stephane will be eligible to score points in the 2005 FIA Championship for Manufacturers.
Petter has competed in Germany three times before. His best result came in 2003 when he finished eighth. An encouraging start to the rally last year was brought to a dramatic end on Leg two, when his car crashed into one of the concrete blocks that line the military roads. Returning to the WRC after his last rally in Greece, Stephane Sarrazin made an impressive Rallye Deutschland debut in 2004, finishing ninth overall in a privately entered Impreza WRC. Next week will mark Chris Atkinson's debut on the rally.
"Last year's rally was a very frightening one for Phil and I, and I hope that the changes that have been made to the stages will improve things for all the competitors this time. The team has worked very hard on the tarmac specification car; there are lots of little improvements all around, and I'm looking forward to getting out on the roads next week. Pirelli too have worked hard and have come up with some additional tyre options for us. At this stage in the season things are tough, and there's a lot of pressure on us but I'm remaining positive. My aim for the rally is to get on the podium, but of course I'll push for better if that looks possible. We'll have to wait and see how the whole package works on Friday."
"Rally Germany will be interesting as it's the first WRC rally that I will start for a second time. I enjoyed my first attempt last year and the stage times were pretty good, so I'm keen to see what I can do this year with the full backing of a manufacturer team. I tested the WRC2005 Impreza on tarmac at the end of June and again this week and it feels very good. Of course we won't know how quick we are compared to the others until Friday morning, but I'm feeling very positive and ready to give my best effort. I still have a lot to learn about the car, but next week I hope to be able to score some points for the team - that's my objective."
"This will be my first attempt at a proper WRC tarmac rally and I'm expecting it to be a steep learning curve. This year's all about learning and gaining experience, but this rally is going to be a bigger challenge than normal. On this occasion, my stage times are not the primary consideration, instead I'm aiming to achieve a good understanding of the car and set-up and complete the route. The roads are notoriously difficult, with constantly changing surfaces and I'll be trying my best not to get caught out. I've done only one small tarmac rally before, that was in China in a Group N Subaru, but that's the limit of my experience. I think the most difficult thing will be predicting the grip levels on the different surfaces. But I've been studying the video footage from previous years and am keen to get out there. I'm looking forward to the open, flowing roads of Leg three the most, from what I've seen they look closer to the conditions on the other tarmac events of the season."
The Car / The Challenge
Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth
"Germany is the first of three pure tarmac events this year and is significant for us as it's the first time we'll compete with the Subaru Impreza WRC2005 on this surface. Compared to the model we used in Monte Carlo, the WRC2005 has all new tarmac suspension and we also have the benefit of more tyre options from Pirelli which we'll evaluate at our pre-event test this weekend.
A difficult aspect for the drivers in Germany is that the three days are all very different in nature, both to each other and anything else in the Championship. They don't flow as they do on a traditional asphalt rally, which makes it hard for drivers to get into a rhythm. In Germany it's full throttle, hanging on, hanging on some more, then brake and turn, while on a classic asphalt rally the roads tend to flow more from one corner to the next and it's much easier to get a feeling for the braking points and the balance of the car. In Germany there are lots of dead straight sections that provide no feedback at all. It can be hard for drivers to get any feeling for the level of grip, or the balance of the car and that makes it much more difficult.
We expect the competition in Germany to be extremely tough. After all, this is the closest Sebastien has to a home event, and with three consecutive wins here it's obviously a strong rally for Citroen too. We'll do all we can to keep them under pressure. We're now well into the second half of the season and Petter has some work to do if he's to catch Sebastien. We have to get some good results now and Petter's strategy here is to push wherever possible. We need to win some rallies. For Stephane, this rally represents the first proper chance to show what he can do. Monte Carlo was a difficult rally to attempt with a new car but he did very well and, where the conditions allowed him to be more adventurous, he set some good times. He's done some testing in the new car and so he's more familiar with it and if we look at what he did last year, we have to think that he's going to be very impressive. Chris is the driver with the least experience of the event, so for him it's going to be all about learning."
Between the Rallies
In the two weeks since Rally Finland, each of the team's three drivers has been kept busy with a variety of promotional work, fitness training and testing ahead of Rallye Deutschland. Travelling furthest on this occasion was Chris Atkinson who flew to Montreal on 15 August to be the special guest at an Impreza launch event organised by Subaru Canada. During his three-day trip, Chris attended a variety of public and media functions and gave high-speed rides for VIP guests in an STI version Impreza at a circuit close to Mont Tremblant on Thursday. Stephane Sarrazin was the first to travel to Germany, as he prepared for a day of testing on roads close to Trier on Thursday. Petter is scheduled to test on Friday and Saturday and Chris will also attend, flying in directly from Canada.