Period of Test: 15-16 and 18-20 May 2003 Location: Chateau Lastours and Andorra Surface: Gravel Purpose: General development test Weather: 12-30Âºc, sunny but windy Drivers: Petter Solberg, Tommi MÃ¤kinen, Pasi HagstrÃ¶m Total kms:...
Period of Test: 15-16 and 18-20 May 2003
Location: Chateau Lastours and Andorra
Purpose: General development test
Weather: 12-30ºc, sunny but windy
Drivers: Petter Solberg, Tommi Mäkinen, Pasi Hagström
Total kms: 805kms
Located in the Les Corbières region of France, the Château Lastours estate features some of the roughest gravel roads in Europe, and provided the perfect test ground for Petter Solberg and Tommi Mäkinen on the first two days of the latest 555 Subaru World Rally Team development test.
Speaking after the test, Petter said, "The weather was just right - sunny and in the mid twenties - and we had a brilliant test stage. It was very similar to the roads in Greece so was perfect for preparing for the event. In some places I think it was even rougher than the conditions we are expecting at the Acropolis. It was a really good opportunity to get the set-up right with the new suspension - we got it working a lot better than in Argentina. We also did some work on the differentials as we need a very different set-up for the next event."
Tommi drove on the second day and said, "Like Petter, I worked mostly with the new suspension, although I did try some different tyres. It was important to get it ready for Greece. Château Lastours is good because it's like Greece at its worst, and it means we can see how the car behaves in difficult conditions. The suspension system worked well, we had no problems, it worked well in Argentina and we have tested it for a few more days so I think it is looking good for Greece. There are still some things I would like to improve but we need some time to make those changes, and I think we should make a further step forward in Cyprus."
After a rebuild day, the team moved to the mountainous tracks and trails of Andorra for the final three days, with test driver and 1999 Finnish Rally Champion, Pasi Hagström, at the wheel. Pasi, along with Italian driver Paolo Andreucci, are playing an increasingly significant role in the 2003 development programme, as both bring to the team a vast knowledge and skill of the testing process.
Pasi used two separate stages around a golf course in Andorra. The roads were not as rough as those at Château Lastours, but provided a good base to prepare for the forthcoming rallies in Greece and Cyprus. The stages featured a variety of twists and bends, and to simulate the types of conditions the team will encounter, speeds were kept relatively low. Encouraging developments were made with the engine cooling system, vital when outside temperatures on the events can reach 40ºc. Also, the main drivetrain components were extensively tested and consolidated on similar terrain and in similar weather to that expected in Greece and Cyprus.
The 555 SWRT are next in action on next month's gruelling Acropolis Rally of Greece, which begins in Athens on 5 June and continues with action based around the town of Lamia from 6-8 June.