Subaru Prays For Rain

Subaru's WRC team principal David Lapworth left for the Rally New Zealand hoping that rain will affect the course so as to give his lead driver Petter Solberg the best chance of competing for victory

Subaru Prays For Rain

The rally is one of the fastest on the calendar, run at a low altitude on a course comprising a hard base covered with loose gravel. The combination can make for spectacular stages for fans, but it's not always ideal for the drivers.

"Running first on the road at this event is generally a disadvantage," said Lapworth, who will have to witness current points leader Solberg doing just that, "as the stages are covered with loose gravel, sand and dust. The first few cars through are unable to cut through the loose surface to the hard base underneath, and they lose grip.

"As they wheel-spin and slide through corners they clean a driving line for those following - the difference between the first and eighth car on the road can be as much as a second per kilometre.

"However, rain can neutralise or even reverse the process - a little rain will bind the loose gravel and dust together and stop the road from cleaning so quickly, while a lot of rain can make the base more slippery for cars further down the field. As the surface is cleaned away, it leaves a slippery top section, which is actually slower.

"So, as Petter's running first on the road, we're hoping for rain on the first day of the rally."

On the other hand, second driver Chris Atkinson will be further down the grid, so if Solberg is disadvantaged the young Australian could shine, a point which was not lost on the team boss: "Chris completed the event last year in a Group N car, so has some experience in New Zealand.

"It's limited compared to the top drivers however, so the underlying approach will be learning more about the rally, the tyres and the set-up of a World Rally Car rather than thinking about where he's going to finish."

Given the uncertainty, Lapworth has dampened down expectations for his team: "Looking to the drivers, from a championship point of view we know we should be happy to come away from New Zealand with perhaps six points and the lead, or something very close to the lead, in the Drivers' Championship.

"On the other hand, we like to go to an event to win, so if we're lucky with the weather and we don't lose too much time on the first day, then no doubt Petter will change his strategy accordingly."

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