Back-to-back baptism as new Impreza put to second test
Only a week after the punishing Acropolis Rally, the busiest period of the season is brought to a close by the Rally of Turkey, the final event before the summer break. It is the sixth gravel event in a row at the start of this season, and the conditions will provide no gentle wind-down on what is only the second World Rally for Subaru’s Impreza WRC2008.

Last seen on the world stage in 2006, the Rally of Turkey makes a comeback this year with an almost identical route to that of two years ago. Nineteen rock-strewn stages will take competitors through 360 competitive kilometres (slightly longer than previously) across the Anatolian mountains to an altitude of almost 1800 metres above sea level.

From its October slot in 2006, this year marks a switch to mid-June and the height of the Mediterranean summer. Consequently, none of the torrential rain that marred the event last is expected this season. Rather, the temperature is expected to top 30 degrees Celsius with high humidity typical of the region. Not unlike the conditions in Greece, crews will once again face strength-sapping heat whilst the new Imprezas will be put to another demanding test having barely had time to cool down.

After a successful debut on the speed tests just north of Athens, Turkey will be only the car’s second competitive outing. With the WRC2008s of Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson having travelled directly from Tatoi to the land of the Bosporus, the crew have limited opportunity to work on the cars between the two events, having learned a great deal from the machine’s first outing.

With the sort of rough and rocky stages on which the new car delivered a result in Greece, the team will be hoping for much the same again. As development continues in the early days of Subaru’s latest chapter, the engineers and technicians are working tirelessly to eek out every last drop of performance with each passing day.

The Rally of Turkey is based in the centre of the town of Kemer, 40km south of the holiday destination of Antalya on the shores of the Mediterranean. The eighth round of the World Rally Championship is set to kick off with a colourful ceremonial start in front of the Akdeniz University, followed by a high-speed head-to-head spectator stage in the establishment’s grounds.

The Subaru World Rally Team has entered two Impreza WRC2008s for the Rally of Turkey, where the same cars will be used as were in Greece. Petter Solberg and Phil Mills will drive Impreza number five, and team-mates Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot will climb aboard sister car number six.

Solberg and Mills have demonstrated good form here in the past, finishing on the podium twice with third in 2004 and second the following year. It is Atkinson’s third attempt at the event, following his best result of sixth position here in 2006. It is also his first time alongside co-driver Prévot, meaning the duo will be faced with rewriting their pacenotes over the two days of reconnaissance.

Team quotes
David Richards, Subaru World Rally Team Principal: “We shouldn’t underestimate the challenges that Turkey will bring for our new car and I fully anticipate that it will be equally as tough a test as Acropolis. Both Petter and Chris have however demonstrated what this new car is capable of, so we are confident of another step forward in the learning process. Our main aim is to continue development of the car on events where progress tends to be far swifter but also far more public!”

Paul Howarth, Subaru World Rally Team operations director: “After Greece we had four days back at base before heading off to Turkey, and with a brand new car it doesn’t give us much time. We haven’t been to Antalya for two years, but I think it’ll be just as difficult as Greece. We’re hoping that this time we won’t get any rain, after the absolutely horrendous conditions last time there. Petter goes very well there, and the stages seem to suit Chris as well. They are very demanding roads, and probably narrower in general than we saw in Greece so it will be just as much about staying on the road and getting to the finish.”

Driver quotes
Petter Solberg: “I’m looking forward to going back to Turkey as the stages have suited us well in the past. We were fast there in the old car, and we’ve shown what the new car can do in Greece, so I’m very excited to see what we can do again, to keep pushing and for the results to start coming. I have a good feeling with the new car, so if we can get the whole package working with the roads there, it could be very good. There’s more to come from the car, so I’ll drive my best with no mistakes and see if we can be a little bit quicker than in Greece.”

Chris Atkinson: “Turkey will be difficult again as every stage is so varied. It’s also soon after Greece which was a tough rally so it won’t be easy. Ok, it’s only the second rally for the new car, but we have learned a lot already and I hope can take this into Turkey to take the little steps forward we’re after. We need to get some more drivers’ points, so I’ll be pushing. For this week I’m just trying to relax though so I can arrive ready.”

Between the rallies
In the week between Greece and Turkey, Solberg, Mills and Prévot spent time at home whilst Atkinson travelled with friends to the Greek island of Mykonos for some time out.

The Impreza WRC2008s and the team trucks travelled directly to Turkey, meaning SWRT’s Banbury base was without the frenetic buzz of activity that reigned prior to the car’s debut last week.

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