Tour de Corse – Subaru preview
- 9th October 2007, 9:08am
After a quick trip east from last weekend’s event in Catalunya, the Subaru World Rally Team has arrived on the Mediterranean island of Corsica for the French round of the World Rally Championship.
Corsica, situated off the south-eastern coastline of France, is well known for its picturesque, unspoiled countryside, which is dominated by forests and mountains. On the abrasive asphalt road surface tyre wear is high, and the rally is amongst the most punishing of the year. The narrow roads hug the sides of the mountains, and drivers are often faced with sheer rock face on one side and steep drops on the other.
Absolute precision is crucial at this event. Similar to Catalunya, drivers need to adopt a clear racing line throughout the stage to carry speed through the corners. There is no margin for error and the concentration levels are at their highest as drivers wind their way through the ‘Rally of a Thousand Corners’. Characterised by the hard acceleration and heavy braking that comes with each twist and turn on the island roads, the g-forces generated are the highest in the championship.
The Corsican weather can be as dramatic as the landscape. Within an hour bright sunshine can give way to heavy rain as warm sea air meets the cool mountain breeze. There can be heavy localised showers – it’s not unusual for drivers to leave the service park in dry conditions and come across rain at the stage start or during the stage, so weather crews have a very important role.
The thirteenth round of the World Rally Championship is based in Ajaccio, a port on the west coast of the island. This year’s event will be busier than usual, including 16 special stages as opposed the 12 used last year, while more than half of the route will be completely new for all the crews. The rally will also venture further south than in recent years, going as far as the city of Sartene, about 50km south of Ajaccio. Legs one and two will each feature six special stages, while Sunday’s final leg includes just four.
The event kicks off with a ceremonial start at the Place Foch in Ajaccio on Thursday night, with the competitive action starting on Friday 12th October at 0838hrs with the 18.10km Monti Rossu – Pila Canale stage.
The Subaru World Rally Team has entered three Impreza WRC2007s for the thirteenth 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 17.
Richard Taylor, Subaru World Rally Team managing director: “Corsica is a very different rally to Spain, and the nature of the stages cannot really be compared. We feel that our car will work well there and suit the surface better. We learnt quite a bit from Rally Catalunya and look forward to applying that in Corsica, where our objective will be to get all three drivers in the points.”
Paul Howarth, Subaru World Rally Team operations director: “While Corsica is the second round of this asphalt double header, we approach both rallies very differently. While on the face of it they may seem similar, the road surface in Corsica is very different to that of Spain. It is much more bumpy and rough, and the asphalt older and more abrasive. Although the roads are narrower, speeds remain high as there is a lot more grip. There is always a possibility of rain on the island so tyre choice will be critical. The nature of the event is different too as there are fewer corners, and they are all slower and shorter. There will not be any of the long corner loading on the tyres we experienced in Spain.”
Petter Solberg: “We finished the last leg in Spain by making some changes I felt made the car a lot better, so I hope we can take this knowledge to Corsica and start well. The surface is very different, but like Spain the weather can play a large part with the chance of unpredictable showers. Tyre choice will be very important, so there is more to the rally than just fine-tuning setup. But the surface in Corsica suits the car so I hope we will be fast from leg one.”
Chris Atkinson: “With Spain only last weekend, Corsica is the second asphalt rally in two weeks which is great for us. It is tough having two events next to each other, as we pretty much have one day off in two weeks, but for the last few weeks I’ve been training harder to counter this. In general October is a tough month which means I have been exercising more to build myself up. On the plus side, it means you can develop more of a rhythm between the rallies. I’m hoping for a good result and a strong end of the season.”
Xevi Pons: “I am looking forward to France next weekend and hope we can be fast there. The Impreza WRC2007 is quick on that type of surface, so I hope we can have no problems and a good weekend. Spain was a busy weekend for me with media interviews and live TV slots; it was a fantastic experience! Following that Corsica will be quieter, but I hope that means I can focus 100 per cent on my driving and deliver a good result for the team.”
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