555 Subaru World Rally Team - Corsica Preview Tour de Corse, 8-10 March 2002 The Event The Tour de Corse, round three of the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship, begins next Friday 8 March when 67 cars cross the start ramp in the town of Ajaccio...
555 Subaru World Rally Team - Corsica Preview
Tour de Corse, 8-10 March 2002
The Tour de Corse, round three of the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship, begins next Friday 8 March when 67 cars cross the start ramp in the town of Ajaccio on the French island of Corsica.
The three-day rally is the first proper asphalt test of the season and will see the drivers competing on almost 400 kilometres of twisty, mountainous tarmac roads that place huge demands on braking components, tyres, suspension dynamics and driver concentration.
The island event can be prone to the vagaries of its coastal weather, but this year running six months earlier in the calendar than usual, it is likely to present teams with even more varied weather conditions. Weather crews will do their best to advise of the conditions in the mountain stages but teams will have to prepare for almost anything from dry roads right through to the possibility of snow.
The stages for 2002 stay the same as last year, and with cars only ever straying about 40km from the Service Park, the rally is the most compact in the WRC calendar. There will be a single service point in the town of Ajaccio at the Campo Dell'Oro airport complex. In addition to the WRC entries, Corsica is the second event in the Production Car World Championship series. Of the 26 drivers registered for the series, 21 have opted for the chance to score points on this event.
For the Tour de Corse, the 555 Subaru World Rally Team will be entering Impreza WRC2002 cars for Tommi Makinen and Petter Solberg. Both will be eligible to score Manufacturers' points for Subaru.
Tommi Makinen has contested the rally six times in his career - each time with a Mitsubishi. So far he has only finished once inside the points and once just outside. He is hoping for better fortunes on his Corsican debut with a Subaru.
His teammate Petter Solberg is a relative newcomer to Corsica and has only entered the event twice before, on both occasions in an Impreza. However, his form impressed in 2001 when he finished fourth before magnanimously taking a time penalty to help his teammate Richard Burns collect more points at a crucial time in his championship quest.
Tommi Makinen: "I'm sure I have a very good car, the best I have had for a long time, and I'm really looking forward to the rally. The weather will be difficult, it will not be so easy to predict what we will be driving on. It's only a little island, but on one part it can be dry and on another full of rain. We've done some testing on the tarmac, and I think I have a good feeling for the car and the surface, but there will always be a small question until the first day. But I've got a positive attitude, I like to drive on tarmac very much and with the correct set-up this can be one of my favourite events."
When asked if Corsica would be a tricky event after the accident last time Tommi said: "No. I don't look at it that way at all. You can't be driving and worrying about maybe having an accident. I simply don't think about it. Accidents do happen, but they can happen anywhere in the season, not just in Corsica."
Petter Solberg: "I am very excited about Corsica. Last year although I officially finished fifth, I actually finished fourth and the trophy I have says fourth. So I really believe that I can do very well on the event. We have done some work and made a lot of improvements with the tarmac set ups of the Impreza even since Monte Carlo. Corsica is also the debut event for the new evolution of the Impreza. There will not be many actual changes to the essence of the car, only improvements and evolutions, so it will not be difficult to adjust.
Risto Mannisenmaki update
Tommi's regular co-driver Risto Mannisenmaki is continuing to make an impressive recovery after the accident in Corsica last season, but he will not be making a return to the WRC in Corsica as he had hoped earlier this year.
The team's sporting Director George Donaldson explained: "Risto is focussed on getting back to peak-fitness. His doctors say he's doing this as fast as possible and they're impressed with his recovery. Nevertheless he suffered a serious injury and the simple fact is that his recovery will take time. We're in agreement with Risto that he will not get back into the car until his level of fitness meets or exceeds the level it was before the accident. The next step for him is a physical examination around the time of the Corsica rally, this will determine whether he can join us for the pre-event test in Spain the following week."
The latest homologation of the Subaru Impreza, the WRC2002 will make its debut in Corsica. But according to 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal and Technical Director David Lapworth, the car is more about evolution than revolution:
"The car features a few small revisions to the aerodynamic package, in particular a revised front splitter that is lower and more durable than on previous models. The splitter has the effect of generating more downforce at the front of the car.
There are also some small changes to the engine, including a new flywheel, throttle-body and some minor changes to the IHI turbo-charger. A revised and more efficient exhaust manifold has also been designed and this gives us a bit more power.
Our current car was introduced in two stages, some of the mechanical components were first used in 2000, while the complete car with the four-door body shell made its debut last year. So it's still a young car, and as we saw in Monte Carlo it's an extremely competitive package with plenty more development potential."
Between the Rallies
Petter Solberg explained that even though the gap between Sweden and Corsica is one of the biggest of the season, he has not been in Norway very much at all. He participated in three separate tests - gravel development in Andorra, tarmac development in Spain and a tyre test in Wales three days ago. In the little time he spent at home he has been building up his fitness by visiting the gym in his hometown of Spydeberg and has invested in a trials motorbike bike to keep the adrenaline flowing between events. He and his girlfriend Pernilla Walfridsson, managed a few days of downhill skiing in the Norwegian mountains of Norefjell before taking a family visit with their five month old son Oliver to the Prodrive headquarters in Banbury.
But in the battle to become 555 Subaru World Rally Team action man of the month Tommi Makinen has the edge this time. Presumably still bursting with positive energy after being crowned the most successful World Rally driver ever, Tommi has been indulging his passion for speed in every spare moment between testing. Not content with plenty of skiing at his winter cottage in Finland, and tearing around on his motorcross bike, Tommi and a few friends embarked on a two-day 1000km mission to get to Russia on their snow-scooters. This was no easy task, but astride his 700cc machine, with a top speed of 180kph, the seemingly laid-back Finn completed the challenge in one piece!
Data File - The Season So Far
Number of Starts
1: Peugeot 7
2: Skoda 6
2: Ford 6
4: Citroen 5
4: Hyundai 5
4: Mitsubishi 5
7: Subaru 4
Fastest Stage Times
1: Gronholm 6
2: Solberg 5
2: Loeb 5
4: Makinen 3
4: C McRae 3
4: Burns 3
1: Ford 2
1: Peugeot 2
3: Subaru 1
3: Citroen 1
Did Not Finish
1: Hyundai 80%
2: Skoda 50%
2: Subaru 50%
4: Citroen 40%
5: Ford 17%
6: Peugeot 14%
7: Mitsubishi 0%