The Event The Rallye d'Italie, round eleven of the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship, begins on Thursday 19 September from the Italian Riviera town of Sanremo. The Sanremo rally, as it is more commonly known, is the final all-asphalt event of...
The Rallye d'Italie, round eleven of the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship, begins on Thursday 19 September from the Italian Riviera town of Sanremo.
The Sanremo rally, as it is more commonly known, is the final all-asphalt event of the season and 57 cars are expected to cross the start ramp next week to tackle the mountain roads of the Ligurian Alps. It has been the setting for classic battles since it became a World Rally event and is famed for technical stages which feature tight hairpins, smooth high-speed straights and narrow, twisty sections.
The rally will see drivers battling over 386 competitive kilometres run as 18 special stages. Like last year, the event will be based around a central service park at Imperia, 40 kilometres along the coast from Sanremo while rally HQ will stay at the Hotel Royal in central Sanremo for the whole event.
The 555 Subaru World Rally Team will run three cars in Sanremo. Regular team drivers Tommi Mäkinen and Petter Solberg will be joined by Achim Mörtl, who is the team's third points nominated entrant. Achim made his debut on last month's Rallye Deutschland.
Tommi has competed in Italy eight times since 1990, each time in a Mitsubishi. He has a good record on the event having won it twice consecutively in 1998 and 1999. Team-mate Petter Solberg has completed the event three times and is looking to continue his recent encouraging form on asphalt.
Tommi Makinen: "I am testing at the moment here in Italy and so far everything is going well. We have one new tyre left to test and we have made a few changes to the set up which should take us forward a bit. I am looking forward to the rally. Obviously my hope is to win but I am not sure how far we are away from that. I think it will be very similar to Germany in that the Peugeot's and Citroen's will be our main obstacle."
Petter Solberg: "I tested on Tuesday and Wednesday this week and the car is feeling very good. We have not made any big changes on the tarmac set up since Germany but we have made a step forward with the tyres, getting them to last longer on tarmac surfaces. I like Sanremo, it's a tough rally but I have done it a few times now, have built up my experience and enjoy the technical nature of the event. I have been quite fast on the tarmac rallies this season so I am hoping to be able to do the same in Italy - we just have to wait and see."
Achim Mortl: "It was a disappointing debut for me in Germany, but on the positive side I did get some valuable time behind the wheel of the Subaru, and I'm hoping that this will lead to a better result in Sanremo. The key for me will be to take things steady, to take the time to become familiar with the handling characteristics of the car and the tyres, and then to increase the speed in line with my confidence. It should be a good event, I'm looking forward to it."
The Challenge / The Car
555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth:
"After the variety of asphalt surfaces that we experienced in Germany, Sanremo takes us right back to a classic smooth surface event. It's a technical rally for the drivers, but from a team point of view the two things that will make the most difference next week will be the weather and tyres.
Typically this rally presents us with a mix of fine weather with intermittent showers and temperatures in the mid-twenties, but the weather in the hills is famously unpredictable and changes with little warning. To help us anticipate the stage conditions from our position in the Imperia service we employ a weather crew to keep us updated. This information is of crucial importance when we're looking to make tyre selections - especially as these have to be made a long time in advance.
As far as tyres are concerned, the Sanremo road surface is far less abrasive than Germany, and gives our latest Pirelli's a different kind of challenge. Here I think it's going to be more about tyre performance than tyre endurance, but we've been encouraged by what we've seen in testing and are looking forward to putting the set-up into practice next week."
Between the Rallies
Following Rallye Deutschland Tommi, Petter, Achim and Toshi Arai all travelled to a military base in Germany where they participated in the team's annual drive day for VIP guests and sponsors. They took turns driving guests in a Subaru Impreza WRC2002 around a 2.5km tarmac stage and even had time to race each other in a spot of indoor go-karting (pictures available in the gallery section at www.swrt.com).
After a small amount of time at home, Tommi and Petter then took part in a gravel development test in Finland in preparation for the New Zealand and Australia rallies. Together with test driver Pasi Hagstrom, the duo notched up a total of 918kms between them in a Subaru Impreza WRC2002 test car. The work was mainly concentrated on suspension and transmission set-ups. (see separate test report posted in the news section at www.swrt.com).
Tommi, Petter and Achim are currently involved in a Sanremo pre-event test. Petter was at the wheel on Tuesday and Wednesday with Tommi taking over duties for yesterday and today.