12 Mar 09
The team, led by Pirelli Star Driver supervisor Phil Short, were met in Pisa by Ralliart Italia personnel. They transferred to a hotel south of the city, in the town of Fattoria Mocajo, where they saw the cars they would be driving for the first time. Ralliart Italia will provide six Mitsubishis for the programme this season: five rally cars and one spare. For this event, the team also provided a full-specification Lancer Evolution X test car.
After a debrief with the team and Short, the five crews went out to recce the 2.5-kilometre test road. They were permitted two recce runs, in keeping with WRC regulations. After that, the crews then drove 25 kilometres each (10 runs at the stage)on Friday afternoon and the same on Saturday morning. Following the first of their two test sessions, the drivers all went into a debriefing session with the two Ralliart Italia engineers who will accompany the entire programme for this season. The weather was largely dry for the test, although there had been heavy rain in the region in the previous week.
On Sunday morning, Martin Semerad and Nicos Thomas, along with their co-drivers, flew to Milan and on to this week's Cyprus Rally, the latest round of the FIA World Rally Championship, while the rest of the team flew home. Jon Williams flew back to Britain with his co-driver, where he will remain until after Rally de Portugal.
More learning - but this time with dirty hands.
On Saturday afternoon, once the second part of the test was completed, the crews all took part in a workshop on the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. The crews were taken through how to work on the key components on the cars they will drive this season. With limited servicing time permitted on all rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship a solid working knowledge of how to keep their cars mobile under at all times will be vital for the Pirelli Star Drivers this season.
All of the crews showed a good depth of mechanical understanding, with Jon Williams being the only one of the drivers who hadn't driven or worked on this kind of Group N rally car previously.
Jarkko Nikara said: "I was first in the car, so I have to say, I was a little bit nervous driving like this before all of my new team mates. The engine on the Mitsubishi felt very strong, I was very pleased with the way it went. The one thing which I felt was the anti-lag system was quite strong - when you're not used to driving a turbo car, this can take some getting used to. The suspension was perfect, the car felt great."
Martin Semerad said: "I found the car a little bit unpredictable to start with. I think this could be down to the hard tyre on some fairly damp conditions. I also think it's partly down to my technique - I need to work on that. But, what a week! It's been incredible. I had never really done anything like the training we did in Scotland earlier, which was so useful, and then to come out here on the test was great. The cars all look fantastic. It's going to be a very exciting season."