SWRT head into summer break confident of development programme At the finish of the Rally of Turkey, Petter Solberg and Phil Mills sealed sixth position overall, keeping the Subaru World Rally Team in third position overall in the Manufacturers'...
SWRT head into summer break confident of development programme
At the finish of the Rally of Turkey, Petter Solberg and Phil Mills sealed sixth position overall, keeping the Subaru World Rally Team in third position overall in the Manufacturers' Championship. As importantly, with two incredibly tricky rallies completed in the new Impreza WRC2008, the team are confident about now putting the many lessons learned into practice during the six-week break in the WRC calendar.
Both the Acropolis and Turkish rallies have been demanding to the extreme for what is still a very new car. As was the plan, the crew now have a six-week gap without a WRC event in which to consolidate knowledge from these first two rallies. Having identified various areas for fine-tuning, the type of which are only truly demonstrated in the heat of competition, the feverish pace of work will continue in the UK in preparation for Finland in August.
"We've successfully completed the first stage of our development programme for our new car and are really happy with the progress we've made to date" said David Lapworth, SWRT Technical Director. "We are in a very good position to really take advantage of the season break and accelerate the second phase of the programme, which is using the competitive experience we now have with the car to improve it step-by-step. We will also conduct asphalt testing for the three sealed surface events in the second half of the season. With a brand new car we've shown promising performance, and we're feeling confident of our competitiveness for the rest of the year."
Having successfully introduced the Impreza WRC2008 to the ultra-competitive world stage, the focus now shifts to realising the machine's vast potential. Glimmers of this have shone brightly already, demonstrating the degree of pace capable of winning stages already.
Indeed, on the longest stage of the Rally of Turkey, at a gruelling 31km, Solberg attacked hard to overcome a start-line stall and become the fastest man for much of the latter section of the stage. This was followed by a series of turns of stage-winning pace from the Norwegian, pushing to see what was achievable on the treacherous loose gravel roads.
Similarly, feeling bolstered by changes in the midday service, Chris Atkinson and Stephane Prevot recorded the third fastest stage time on the penultimate test.
"This weekend has not been bad at all, no real problems" said Petter Solberg. "On lots of stages we've had fastest splits and been faster than anyone else which is very good. The car is very reliable, and it's been a difficult past two rallies but the engineers have learned a lot and have a very good strategy plan. The guys know exactly where to work on the car now so I think it will be no problem to find a lot more in this car. It definitely has so much potential, so we just need to work to make the most of that. We still have some work to do to make it fast on every stage"
"Ok, it's obviously disappointing to have had the small delays that we have had this weekend, but the team are learning all the time with the car" said Chris Atkinson. "It's not been an easy rally and the roads are very abrasive, but it's a good challenge. The long stages today were particularly tough, but we're out there testing so it works well. Petter's car had a perfect run, so it's just bad luck for us. Now we have a six-week break so we're confident of some big steps forward and looking good for Finland."
Rally Finland is the next challenge for the WRC on 31 July -- 3 August. One of the most spectacular rallies of the season for both drivers and spectators, it demands absolute commitment and bravery, and is the one event that every driver wants to triumph over. Starting with the Killeri spectator stage on Thursday evening, the rally totals 24 stages and a shade over 342 competitive kilometres. Incorporating four new stages, notable by its absence is the most famous stage in the WRC -- Ouninpohja. The record set by Solberg and Mills in 2004 still stands, at an average speed of 130kph. Before heading to the rally town of Jyvaskyla, the calendar has its six week summer break, although SWRT will be busy with testing and attendance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July.