Rd.1 Uddeholm Swedish Rally

Production Car World Rally Championship
 
8 to 11 February 2007

PREVIEW

2007 P-WRC is GO!
Large Entry Means Unpredictable Outcome on Swedish Season-Opener

7 February 2007
Copyright © STI 
The 2007 Production Car World Rally Championship (P-WRC) kicks off this weekend on the outskirts of Karlstad, Sweden with a brace of SUBARU entrants tipped as hot favourites for victory over the snow-covered and icy stages. Often host to the opening round of the championship, this year marks a return of the snow rally to the start of the Production championship after last year's Monte Carlo debut. With temperatures staying solidly in freeze mode and a bed of 20-30 centimetres of snow on the ground, there appears little chance of a lack of the white stuff for the coming weekend. Temperatures on the stages are expected to hover around the -8 to -10-degree mark for the duration of the event, something competitors will be glad of.

Prior to P-WRC events, STI Group N Project General Manager George Donaldson organises a test for the category's competitors on roads that closely match the event's characteristics. The opening round of this year's championship is no different, entrants tackling specially-chosen roads on the Monday, helping them acclimatise to the conditions expected on the rally.

As for SUBARU-equipped competitors, reigning champion Nasser Al Attiyah is here, along with the previous season's champion Toshi Arai. Other P-WRC regulars include Mirco Baldacci, accompanied by his younger brother Loris, both running spec C Imprezas this season. Sometime factory driver Kristian Sohlberg is also on hand, and is expected to be very, very quick on this, his home event.

Other serious contenders include Finnish star Anton Alen (son of rallying legend Markku), fresh from a great performance on last week's Arctic Rally, He was incredibly quick up there, mirroring his staggering results on last year's 1,000 Lakes (Rally Finland) and the RAC Rally (Wales Rally GB), where he won Group N after a titanic struggle on both those events; first with Patrik Flodin in Finland, and then on the RAC with Oscar Svedlund. Svedlund is not registered for P-WRC full time this season, but is nominated for points here on his home event. The Swede will be running a Tommi Makinen Racing-prepared car. The eight-strong STI-equipped runners are rounded out by Russian Alexander Dorosinskiy, once again sharing a campaign with Sergei Uspenskiy.

Another P-WRC entrant, Patrik Flodin, will compete in Sweden in a World Rally Car, getting his Production season started in Mexico in four weeks' time.

With temperatures staying so far below zero, the rally is shaping up to be extremely cold and very icy; which promises to make the event quite fast.

Pre-event test notes:

Monday's test was conducted on tremendous roads, all completely indicative of conditions expected over the weekend. There was a very fast road, covered in ice and fully representative of the rally. Reigning champion Nasser Al Attiyah reckoned he had a fantastic day's test: "Although I would like to come here and challenge for a win, my strength is in the hot, arid events. I don't feel it would be a valid effort with specialists like Anton Alen, Juha Hanninen, Oscar Svedlund and Toshi Arai all competing. I'm going to give it a strong push, but I'm not expecting to come away with the win. My championship really starts in Mexico, that's where I can stamp my authority and expect a big points-finish."

Copyright © STI 
Toshi Arai is here for the first time on Michelin tyres (after making the switch from Pirelli rubber at the end of last season) which meant the pre-event test was spent tyre-testing. Things went very well, Arai reportedly completely happy with the car set-up. He flew on the test roads, running very aggressively throughout the test day. Toshi will be pushing right at the front, hoping his survival skills are good enough. He's not going to settle for anything less than the full challenge.

Kristian Sohlberg also had a great day's test, getting right into the the sharp end of the car's abilities. He first spent some time getting acclimatised - a process he thought was just fantastic. "There were few adjustments except for those carried out by the suspension experts from Tein. said Sohlberg: "I really enjoyed the car, it handles fantastically."

George Donaldson - STI Group N Project General Manager:

"Our drivers were very enthusiastic during the test. We had a great test road where they could do everything they wanted - right up to endurance runs. I believe Kristian Sohlberg did about 150 kilometres in total - partly for him to get used to the car, and partly to check the endurance of all the different settings. He reported himself totally delighted with that, and is quite enjoying working with his new team. Kristian's especially looking forward to actually getting in a full championship this season - something he hasn't managed to do for a number of years. He has to re-learn his old strategies because he could well be up for the title. One or two wins are less important than getting secure points on every rally.

"For Toshi Arai it was business as usual - the former champion typically relaxed and smiling, happy. He loves the roads here and it's great to see him back out, still sporting car #31. Nasser Al Attiyah is just back from the Lisboa-Dakar Rally where he missed out on a podium - due entirely to road penalties. A podium performance in the desert and now coming to Sweden. Wouldn't it be great so see him on the podium here! He's well up for the challenge.

Copyright © STI 
"Alexander Dorosinskiy is competing on part of the championship this year, his driver partner once again Sergei Uspenskiy - who will picking up some of the entries on a select group of events. Alex was very happy to get third position in New Zealand last year, but he's looking for a much better performance on a personal basis. Coming from Russia, he's used to snow rallies and the conditions here. Although it's his first time in Sweden, we can expect a much-increased performance from him - compared to the front-runners that we saw in New Zealand.

"Late championship entrant Anton Alen will start the rally as well as Oscar Svedlund, the ASN-appointed 'Joker' entry for this event, also running a SUBARU.

"Mirco and Loris Baldacci - we've now got the brothers this year, that's very exciting. Loris, very much the youngster, is quickly learning to become a good driver and Mirco, he's absolutely established: Very much a front-runner last year, we hope to give him the collateral to maybe finish the job this season. He's unquestionably one of the potential champions. Other SUBARU-equipped drivers include Leszek Kuzaj, another competitor who makes his start in Mexico - along with American sensation Travis Pastrana.

This weekend's Swedish Rally is the first in a string of events that could well prove to be the most competitive P-WRC season ever.