25 Jul 08
Subaru World Rally Team principal David Richards says that thanks to the new Impreza WRC2008 his team will start next week’s Rally Finland in better shape than it has in recent years.
The British based team has been flat out over the summer break developing the latest evolution of the Impreza, which made its competition debut on the Acropolis Rally at the end of May.
Building on the earlier work carried out by the team’s test driver Markko Martin, Peter Solberg and Chris Atkinson have each driven the Finland spec car for two days, fine-tuning it in preparation for the ninth round of the series.
Buoyed by the performance of the car on the Finnish tests, Richards says he feels confident about his team’s prospects on the rally this year - although he isn’t underestimating the challenge of the Finnish competitors. “From the days of Markku Alen, Hannu Mikkola and Ari Vatanen the local drivers have excelled here and I expect this year to be no different, but I’m sure that Petter and Chris will be fast in the new WRC2008 as it is well suited to fast and flowing roads” he said. “Our work since Turkey has been fruitful and I’m confident that we go to Finland in our strongest position in recent years.”
Paul Howarth, the team’s operation director, added that even though the event is not particularly tough on tyres, the car’s performance had been ‘positive’ using Pirelli’s new soft compound rubber - which all teams will use for the first time in Finland.
Petter Solberg and his co-driver Phil Mills have competed in Finland seven times in Subaru WRC machinery, and having finished fourth, third and second over the years, they are hungry for a win. After a miserable time in Finland last year, which culminated in his withdrawal from the event with a recurrent transmission problem, Solberg says he is looking forward to returning to Jyvaskyla with the new car. “Finland is a good event, and one that we’ve gone well on in the past,” he said. “I hope we’ll have good pace there and can get another strong finish in the new car. The team have been working hard since Turkey and doing lots of testing, and we all feel that good steps forward have been taken.”
Currently third in the drivers’ championship, Chris Atkinson has tackled Finland four times before and took his best result (4th) in 2007 on his first attempt at the event with Stephane Prevot as his co-driver. “I definitely want to get back into competition, so I’m looking forward to Finland,” said Atkinson. “We’ve done a lot of testing since Turkey and the guys have learned a lot, so I hope we can make some good steps in fine-tuning the car. We’ve seen some good and close battles here in the past, and I hope we can be up there this year. It’s a great event. It’s one of my favourites and definitely the rally everyone wants to win most.”