SWRT complete successful asphalt debut with new Impreza
After three days, nineteen stages and 352 kilometres of competition on the ADAC Rallye Deutschland, the Subaru World Rally Team successfully completed its asphalt debut with the new Impreza WRC2008, both cars finishing firmly within the points.

The leaderboard remained static since the end of yesterday’s stages, meaning Petter Solberg and Phil Mills retained fifth place and team mates Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot claimed sixth, positions they held since the mid-point yesterday.

Crucially, the team were able to learn a great deal about the performance of the new Impreza on tarmac and are now in a much better position ahead of the two remaining tarmac rallies, rounds 12 and 13 in Spain and Corsica.

“We came here with very little experience of the car on tarmac, yet Petter and Chris have scored good points, and we now have a very clear direction for our continued asphalt development” said David Lapworth, Subaru World Rally Team technical director.

Today’s stages saw a return to the type of very narrow vineyard roads first seen on the opening day of the first asphalt rally for the Impreza WRC2008, which has now contested just four events since its launch on the Acropolis Rally at the end of May.

Four of today’s speed tests were characterised by fast roads leading into tight junctions, demanding a staccato dance of heavy braking and hard acceleration. In search of the best racing line, drivers cut corners by placing their cars on the grass on the inside of the slow junctions, bringing gravel and dust onto the racing line making it increasingly slippery.

The final test, bringing a spectacular close to the rally, was a spectator stage run in the centre of Trier. The Circus Maximus Trier test represented a fitting tribute to the popularity of this event by bringing the action of the WRC to the heart of the Germany’s oldest city.

Solberg and Mills had a completely trouble-free run, yesterday working themselves into the comfortable fifth position overall that they maintained to the finish. Feeling increasingly confident aboard their number five Impreza, true to form they kept pushing to the very end of the rally, recording the third fastest stage time on the day’s penultimate test and setting the equal fastest time on the final stage.

“We had no problems at all this weekend which is very good. The very positive thing is that things have improved through the rally, you know” said Petter Solberg. “We started with ok speed, and it got better through the rally. You have to remember we’ve only done two days’ testing with the car, so I’m really very happy with it. I think we’ve found the direction we need to get the maximum from the car, so it’s good.”

Atkinson and Prévot closely shadowed their team mates all weekend, and consolidated their sixth position overall to add more valuable points to their season tally. Despite losing time with a stall at the start line of the day’s opener and suffering damaged rear suspension three kilometres into the test, the duo had earned a sufficiently comfortable gap to stay ahead of the pursuing crews.

“There were large gaps today so we weren’t taking any silly risks” said Chris Atkinson. “Ok it’s not been a bad weekend and there are a lot of things we can take forward from it. This morning was a little frustrating, but we tried to find out some new things today that will help us continue fine-tuning the car and improve our performance which is the main focus.”

Making for an unusually dry Rallye Deutschland, the weather on the final day remained fine throughout. After a cold start, at a mere nine degrees Celsius, the temperature soon picked up to a high of 17 by midday. Amid wildly varying surface conditions, the weather was one element of the mix that remained consistent.

Next event
New Zealand is next up for the WRC on 28-31 August. Based again at Mystery Creek in the North Island, competitors will tackle 16 stages stretching 354.80 kilometres. The stunning gravel roads are like rollercoasters that carve through the lush green countryside that skirts the coast around Raglan. The weather there in the last weeks has been stormy and changes have already been made to some of the stages as a result. The roads flow between off-camber corners, and the trick is to find the right rhythm as soon as possible. Mistakes on the fast corners usually lead to cars travelling a long way off road, and wayward crews will be lucky to escape damage.

Final Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena 3h26m19.7s
2. D Sordo/M Marti +47.7s
3. F Duval/P Pivato +1m20.0s
4. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +1m30.1s
5. P Solberg/P Mills +2m35.3s
6. C Atkinson/S Prevot +4m45.9s
7. H Solberg/C Menkerud +5m36.2s
8. U Aava/K Sikk +5m37.8s
9. J-M Latvala/M Anttila +6m17.2s
10. T Gardemeister/T Tuominen +7m16.8s

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