11 November 2004
The 2004 PCWRC championship has been the most hotly challenged production car series ever and as we reach the last event of the season here in Australia, SUBARU have three drivers challenging for the premier position in Niall McShea, Alister McRae and Toshi Arai.
Rally Australia is always an event of surprises and upsets. Nobody can seriously dare to predict the outcome but the fast flowing stages and the slippery "ball-bearing stage surfaces" which certainly play to the Impreza's excellent handling and traction characteristics.
As the last event of the season, this year the conditions should, for the first time, be predominantly drier and warmer than in previous years.
Most of the SUBARU drivers have had test days here though they have been in separate locations to the events stages. The exceptions to this among the SUBARU runners are Toshi, Niall and Nasser who all tested together on a very good section of road encompassing all the features of the event. This has allowed them to obtain a great car set-up for this weekend, they announced. Alistair McRae completed over 160kms testing on his own and similarly felt he has really got the ideal set-up for the car.
The TopRun drivers Marcos Ligato and Mark Higgins have had a short test and are both very happy with the car, hoping to capitalise on this event and show that the TopRun-developed Imprezas are a real match for the rest of the field.
Well, it's been a great and tough year in the PCWRC competition, and the Impreza has often shown its pace right at the front of the field. With three SUBARU drivers in with a chance against Jani Paasonen in a Lancer, it's anyone's guess which way it will go. We wish all the competitors good luck. May the best man win!
Toshi has a small chance of a championship victory and must start and finish this event as the very fastest car in the field. There are no compromises in his car set-up and we can expect to see a maximum attack throughout the rally. Nothing less than a category win will give him any chance for the championship here in Australia. Toshi is in great spirits having just tested the 2005 spec C Impreza and reports that next year's car is a significant step forward in the areas of chassis and engine performance.
Niall McShea - Car #34
This event marks the end of a very tough but successful year for Niall. He is lying second in the series - only 2 points behind category leader Jani Paasonen. However, he needs to finish three points clear as Jani would win any tie-break if the pair finish the season on the same score. It will be a tough call but Niall has shown he is up for the fight. Expect to see fireworks from Niall as he pushes himself and the car to the limit for the entire event.
Marcos Ligato - Car #35
Marcos has shown great pace on gravel this year but a power loss in NZ and an accident on his home event robbed him of two potential category victories. He aims to rectify that here in Rally Australia! Marcos can be blindingly quick and if he can temper his enthusiasm and focus on his pace, he will be the man to beat.
Alister McRae - Car #39
Alister's testing here has gone very well here on his "home event". Alister's wife is from Western Australia and he has a house on the River here in Perth where they spend some time every year. This is one of his favourite events and he is expecting to be able to match and beat his competitors here. That is exactly what he needs to do to clinch the series. Both Alister and the RED team have worked very hard to obtain the best car set-ups available, and as usual have spared no effort in getting everything perfect to allow Alister to challenge for the championship victory. Currently only three points off the leader, Alister will be aiming to settle for nothing less than category victory to give him the best chance of the series' crown.
Mark Higgins - Car #42
Mark's great showing in Corsica after his drive-shaft failure clearly demonstrated that the team and the driver have got the car well and truly competitive in 2004. Mark is looking to repeat his pace shown in Corsica and challenge right at the front of the field. While Higgins has yet to show his pace consistently on gravel this year, he really is expecting to do that here. If he can dispel his 'gremlins', we can expect him to be chasing with the leading pack.
Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah - Car #44
This is Nasser's first Rally Australia and this event is as different to his natural rally environment as the Snows of Sweden were! He target here is to primarily learn the event in preparation for the 2005 PCWRC series. Certainly Nasser has shown great improvements in pace this year as he has learned the WRC environment and gets to grip with the high level of experienced drivers in the competition. Nasser has been a great competitor this year and is certainly capable of challenging at a high level next year.
Fabio Frisiero - Car #45
Fabio is once again firmly aiming to score more points on his last event in the series. He is as yet uncertain of his plans for 2005 but we do hope to see him back as his enthusiastic attitude and determination are greatly valued by his fellow SUBARU drivers.
Joakim Roman - Car #37
Joachim is unable to start this event due to personal reasons.