Imprezas 6th & 7th after day one

Imprezas 6th & 7th after day oneFrom Subaru Press [ 01/08/2008 ].
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At the finish of the opening day of Rally Finland, round nine of the World Rally Championship, the Subaru World Rally Team duos of Petter Solberg / Phil Mills and Chris Atkinson / Stéphane Prévot brought their Impreza WRC2008s across the line in sixth and seventh respectively.

There are a number of factors that make Rally Finland unique, not least that it is one of the highest average speed rallies in the championship demanding flat-out blind faith in the car, and remains so despite efforts by the organisers to slow crews this year. When the Subaru Impreza WRC2008s regularly hit speeds of over 180kph along the forest roads, over crests and jumps that send the cars airborne mid-corner, anything other than absolute confidence and commitment is punished exponentially in the stage times.

Both Impreza WRC2008s started the spectator superspecial stage on Thursday evening strongly, with Atkinson and Prévot recording the equal third fastest time in car number six, and team mates Solberg and Mills coming home fifth fastest aboard their number five car. The Norwegian had also been joint-fastest on Thursday’s shakedown stage. On the first full day of rallying today, the team’s pace through the fast, flowing stages was sufficient to see both cars into points-scoring positions.

Both SWRT entries fought within striking distance of a podium position during the morning’s opening stages, but as the day progressed the outright pace to match the frontrunners eluded the team. The pre-event test with the then two-rally-old Impreza WRC2008 indicated a good level of performance, evidenced in part on Thursday, but a lack of driver confidence in the balance of their cars in these conditions today was not reflective of the performance potential.

“We came here following a strong test anticipating we would be fully competitive, and although we are currently in solid points-scoring positions, our pace is not what we expected” said David Richards, Subaru World Rally Team Principal. “However we must continue to focus on maintaining a systematic approach to the development and fine-tuning of this new car as its full potential indicated by our simulations and testing is clearly not evidenced by the current performance.”

“We’ve been driving well today, I really feel we’ve been driving well, but we’re not fast enough yet” said Petter Solberg. “In Finland, it’s so fast and you need to have so much confidence in the car. We don’t have that feeling here yet, so it really shows in the times. I was feeling good before the weekend, after the test, but we don’t have that same feeling here so it’s disappointing for everyone.”

“We pushed hard today and that’s all we could do. The balance was ok, we had a small problem in the middle loop of stages that the team fixed by the afternoon, but the speed just isn’t there quite yet” said Chris Atkinson. “It’s frustrating for us and for the team, but we keep pushing.”

Including the spectator stage on Thursday evening, day one put competitors through eleven stages and 131.70 competitive kilometres. The stages formed two distinct loops, the first some 35 kilometres to the south of the Jyvaskyla service park, and the second 80 kilometres due west to the town of Keuruu.

Tomorrow’s route
Day two of Rally Finland is the busiest of the event, consisting of ten stages, only two of which are run twice, and a total competitive distance of 168.25 kilometres. The stages take competitors 60 kilometres south west of the Jyvaskyla service park through the town of Jamsa before turning north and finally east as the cars complete the loop and return at the end of the day. There are a lot of new sections of stages, as well as four entirely new tests. Saturday also includes part of the famous Ouninpohja stage, but in reverse.