The Event The FIA World Rally Championship moves from the grassy Pampas of Argentina to the dramatic Mediterranean landscape of Sardinia for round seven of the 16-event series. Rally d'Italia-Sardegna, starting on 18 May with a ceremonial start...
The FIA World Rally Championship moves from the grassy Pampas of Argentina to the dramatic Mediterranean landscape of Sardinia for round seven of the 16-event series. Rally d'Italia-Sardegna, starting on 18 May with a ceremonial start in Porto Cervo, will be the third gravel rally of the year after Mexico and Argentina.
The stages are run in the hills around the port of Olbia on the Costa Smeralda coast to the north east of the island. The roads are narrow and twisty, with a medium-soft gravel surface covering a hard-packed base, putting crews running first on the road at a disadvantage as they sweep the surface for the following cars. This year, the stages could be very slippery as several tests have been resurfaced in the weeks preceding the rally.
This year 52% of the route is completely new. Stages from 2005 have been reworked to include sections from 2004, plus three new stages have been introduced, namely Leg one's Siniscola speed test and Campovaglio and La Prugnola in Leg three. Campovaglio will feature in the event for the first and only time this year, however. The road is due to be asphalted after the close of the rally.
The same chassis, engine and transmission must be used for both Sardinia and the following event, Rally Acropolis in Greece. The two events differ in character - Sardinia's tight turns and narrow roads produce relatively low average speeds, whereas the Greek route is wider, smoother and faster.
Following the ceremonial start in the exclusive tourist resort of Porto Cervo on Thursday 18 May, the competitive action starts on Friday morning at 0846hrs with the Terranova stage to the south of Olbia. Each Leg will feature three stages repeated twice and will cover a total competitive distance of 344.94 kilometres. The event will be concluded when the winning car crosses the finish ramp in Porto Cervo at 1415hrs on Sunday.
The Subaru World Rally Team will enter two Impreza WRC2006s in Rally d'Italia Sardegna. One car will be driven by Petter Solberg (co-driven by Phil Mills) with the other by Chris Atkinson (co-driven by Glenn Macneall).
Subaru has a good record in Sardinia. In 1994 Piero Liatti scored the Group A Impreza's first international victory on the Costa Smeralda Rally, a round of the Italian and European championships at the time. In 2004 Petter Solberg led Rally Sardinia from start to finish to take his sixth career win. He finished second on the event in 2005.
Chris Atkinson starts his second Sardinian event. Last year he climbed as high as third overall, winning one stage.
"I was very happy with my drive in Argentina. Okay, things could have been even better but I think we're getting there. We tested in Greece last week and we're making small steps in performance, plus the reliability is improving a lot. We have to prove now that when everything goes well, we can win. This is what the whole team wants, everybody. We need to win."
"Sardinia is a challenge as it's very technical and narrow and you have to drive cleanly to do well here. It's a good drivers' rally and I really enjoy it. Over half the route is new this year so a lot will depend on making good pace notes on the recce. My goal is a top five result. We set some good stage times last year and were running as high as third at one point, so there's no reason why we can't achieve this target."
The Car / The Challenge
Subaru World Rally Sporting Director, Luis Moya:
"Sardinia has been a good event for the team. We've won there before and we test extensively on the island so we are very familiar with the conditions and challenges of the rally. Petter's target, as ever, is to finish as high as possible. He's quite capable of finishing in the top two on this event and maximising the amount of drivers' points he scores. Chris' aim is to be consistent and deliver an acceptable pace with zero errors. Chris has tested in Sardinia before and he's just come back from a two-day test in Greece so his confidence in the car is high. We know he has the speed to finish in the top five."
Subaru World Rally Team Director of Engineering, Steve Farrell:
"Sardinia and the following Rally Acropolis are paired events and for the first time this year, the chassis, engine and transmission must be used for two consecutive rallies, although one gearbox can be changed in Greece. Running the same car in the two events shouldn't be too much of a problem for us, however, as we've had a good run of reliability in the last four rallies. The challenge will be that the two events each require different set-ups. Sardinia is narrow and twisty whereas Greece is much faster so the engineers and drivers will be looking at the car in close detail to analyse how we can find the best compromise.
We had a four-day test in Greece where we tried to prepare as much as we could for this rally. Petter's experience was invaluable. He was able to consider the set-up for the narrow, looser roads even though we were in Greece where the road conditions are different. We looked at tyres and differential settings in particular and the improvements we found should give us a faster package to take the challenge to Loeb.
The pace we showed in Argentina was good and we're confident that, given the right conditions, we can be up there fighting for a win."
Between the Rallies
Petter Solberg completed two days of testing in Greece working on general development and set-up for the next two rallies. Petter's also spent some time with his family and took son Oliver to see his new international school in Monaco.
Like Petter, Chris Atkinson tested for two days in Greece. After the test he returned to the UK to work on set-ups for Sardinia with his engineers. The Australian has spent a lot of time working on his fitness, out running and cycling several times, and is flying to Sardinia early to continue his physical training programme on the island.
The swrt.com media feature for Sardinia is why the team visit the island for one month per year--
Testing times in Sardinia
The Subaru World Rally Team visits the small Mediterranean island of Sardinia for an average of 30 days each year. As it plays host to just one round of the WRC, the figure might seem high, but Sardinia has an important part to play in the team's testing and development programme and will be the setting for at least four week-long tests in 2006.