Catalunya Rally: Subaru preview
- 30th September 2007, 7:47pm
After a month-long break following the trip down under for Rally New Zealand, the Subaru World Rally Team is heading to Europe for the first installment of an asphalt double header.
For this year, the date of Rally Catalunya – Costa Daurada has been moved to the latter half of the season, as was seen from 2003 to 2005. Last year it was round four of the calendar, meaning that the Spanish fans haven’t experienced a WRC event for 18 months, so expect the roads in the hills of Tarragona to be lined with enthusiastic action-starved supporters. That will be good news for local heroes Xavier Pons/Xavier Amigo, who will be competing in their fourth event in a Subaru Impreza WRC2007 and for the first time with the team on home soil.
Apart from running the weekend before Corsica this year, the event has changed little compared to the previous two years, although some of the special stages have been tweaked to offer a new challenge to the competitors. Most of the special stages are based in the mountains of the Tarragona region, about 120km south west of Barcelona.
The smooth, wide roads of Rally Catalunya make it the fastest sealed surface rally of the year. The majority of the Spanish asphalt is new and smooth and this event is the closest the WRC gets to a circuit race. Cutting corners is commonplace as drivers look for every advantage, and dirt dragged onto the road often leads to slippery and unpredictable conditions for those running further down the order.
Absolute confidence in the car and pace notes is critical to commit to the flowing high-speed stages, and grip levels can really be exploited to carry speed throughout the corner. For this rally ride-height is reduced allowing the cars to sit closer to the ground to reduce their centre of gravity, and the suspension is set much stiffer to reduce body roll and maximise cornering speeds.
Rally HQ is based at PortAventura, one of the largest theme parks in Europe, located near the seaside holiday town of Salou. The event will comprise of 352.87km and ten stages, of which eight will be used twice, making a total of 18 speed tests. Six stages use exactly the same route as last year, with two stages – Coll del Grau and Le Serra d’Almos – being entirely new this year. The latter of these is actually the reverse of Thursday’s shakedown route.
The ceremonial start will take place in Salou on Thursday October 4 at 1930hrs, while the cars will climb the finish ramp for the podium ceremony in the same location at 1500hrs on Sunday October 7.
The Subaru World Rally Team has entered three Impreza WRC2007s for the twelfth round of the 2007 World Rally Championship. The pairing of Petter Solberg and Phil Mills will drive car number seven, Chris Atkinson/Stephane Prevot will drive car number eight, while Xevi Pons/Xavier Amigo will be in car number 14.Quotes
Richard Taylor, Subaru World Rally Team managing director: “Last week's asphalt test in Spain was encouraging and allowed us to continue to fine-tune the car and build on the improved pace we saw on the last tarmac event in Germany. With a very smooth surface the conditions in Spain suit us well, and we hope to take advantage of recent developments to finish with Petter, Chris and Xevi in points-scoring positions. Being Xevi's home rally, he has a substantial fan-following in Catalunya and will be pushing for his best result in a Subaru in front of his home crowd.”
Paul Howarth, Subaru World Rally Team operations director: “During the Spain asphalt test we managed to do a lot of running with each driver to work on the sealed surface setup that was competitive in Germany. Spain is a slightly lower grip rally than Germany, but as setup is generally the same we are expecting good pace. Weather conditions and choice of BFGoodrich tyres will be tricky to get right but crucial to performance.”
Petter Solberg: “The asphalt test last week in Spain was generally positive for us and gave us the chance to continue development of our asphalt performance. We have made some more progress with the handling of the car, and are eliminating problem areas. I hope that we can take another step forward in Spain. As a team we know the pace is there on asphalt, so I am hoping for a good result next weekend.”
Chris Atkinson: “I’m looking forward to getting back to asphalt again in Spain. The test here went well, and we have had the chance to do a lot of fine-tuning. We were quick in Germany, and after the test I feel more comfortable still with the car. We’re going well on asphalt, and I hope we will continue this pace in Spain. Being a very smooth surface, you can lean on the car more through the corners, so high-speed confidence and stability is important. I’m looking forward to it and think we can continue improving the speed of the car with more stage wins.”
Xevi Pons: “It’s a very exciting time for both myself and Xavier as it is our first Rally Spain with the Subaru World Rally Team, and I am hoping for a great showing in front of the fans. I am sure their enthusiasm and excitement will help us with a strong result. I know the fans are looking forward to the rally, and to thank them for their support I want to do well at home.”
Between The Rallies
The team has been testing twice since Rally New Zealand, spending two sessions of three days fine-tuning setup in Spain. Last week all three drivers had a day each on asphalt, and this week Petter and Chris have been gravel testing. Congratulations to Xevi Pons who got married to Sandra on Friday 21st September.
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