From Subaru Press [ 26/10/2004 ].
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This week the Subaru World Rally Team will travel to Spain for the penultimate round of the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Catalunya. Beginning on 28 October with a ceremonial start in the coastal resort of Lloret de Mar, the event follows the Tour De Corse as the second consecutive Mediterranean asphalt rally. The Subaru World Rally Team will enter two cars in Spain, driven by Petter Solberg (co-driven by Phil Mills) and Mikko Hirvonen (co-driven by Jarmo Lehtinen). Petter Solberg has contested the event three times before and finished in the points twice. His young Finnish team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen, has taken part once before and finished fourteenth.
Since Corsica: A star-studded couple of days for Petter Solberg. After attending the launch of his eagerly anticipated biography in Norway, he's off to present an award at a prestigious Scandinavian Music Awards Ceremony. Meanwhile, on Friday Mikko Hirvonen will be attending a promotional drive day at Tommi Mäkinen's Rally Centre in Jyvaskyla.
Rally Catalunya is a good event. It's really well organised, with good crowds, a good atmosphere and nice wide, flowing roads. We'll go there and try to do the best we can. Despite the Championship having been decided, I'm still motivated and want to get the highest result possible. I'm still in the fight for second place in the overall driver standings and am looking forward to defending my position. However, having seen Markko Martin's performance in Corsica, I know he'll be pushing hard for a good result in Spain too and I think he'll be the man to beat.
I learned a lot about the car and tyres on asphalt in Corsica and picked up my pace as the event went on. I think that will help for Spain, the surface is much consistent there, and although that is perhaps not so good for us, we've definitely learned things that we can take forward and use here. I understand more about which tyres suit which conditions now and think it will be a good rally. It's more fun when the roads are a little wider and you can cut the corners, and you have to ensure that you have a perfect racing line through every bend so you don't lose too much time. I'm looking forward to it.
Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth
The roads in Spain are smoother and wider than those in Corsica and there are lots of opportunities for the drivers to take a driving line through all the bends. Without such cuts, you would probably run the car closer to a race-car set-up, making it lower and a little bit stiffer, but you have to compromise. Drivers sometimes drop half a car off the road as they go through corners. The set-up therefore ends up being fairly similar to the one that's used for Corsica. Road position is not as important on this rally as on others, but as the stages can get dirty for those further down the order, the trend is for cars to become a little slower. However, it doesn't change massively between one car and the next, so assuming that you're 13th on the road and are fighting with the guys who are 11th to 15th, it's not so much to worry about.
Weather wise, there can be a wide variation at this time of year. It could be cold and frosty early in the morning on the high stages, but by mid-afternoon it could be 25°C with warm sunshine. There's also a tendency for it to be a bit foggy and there were massive storms before the event last year, so you never know quite what to expect. The changeable weather can also mean that different cars face different conditions on the same stage. There's 30 minutes between the first and fifteenth car on the road, so you could have a situation where the first car goes through in the dry and the 15th goes through in the wet. That's when you see people start to leap up the overall leaderboard.
We learned a lot in Corsica, but in two weeks there's only a certain amount that you can do. We can certainly make the best of what we've got and have already made some changes to the set-up. We also learned about which tyres to choose for different conditions and how the new tyres and car work together. All those lessons will be applied in Spain and we'll go there to do our best. I think a lot will hang on the first day and how the weather works out.