Subaru will reach two big milestones this weekend in New Zealand in the eleventh round of the World Rally Championship.
The event will mark the 15th anniversary of the Japanese marque's maiden win in the WRC, with the late Colin McRae having taken the one and only win for the Legacy on Kiwi soil back in 1993.
The Legacy was then replaced by one of the most iconic cars in WRC history, the Impreza, which will celebrate its 200th WRC start on the event in the hands of Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson.
“I've got some great memories of Rally New Zealand,” team principal David Richards said. “It's an event that is historically very significant for the team, producing our first ever WRC win. More recently we've had a busy few weeks of testing and rallies, and as a result our drivers are feeling increasingly more confident with the new car.”
The event will be the fifth for the latest incarnation of the Impreza, which made its debut on the Acropolis Rally back in June. Although Solberg took a fine second place in that event, the Impreza WRC 2008 hasn't yet been able to take the fight to Citroen and Ford as Subaru seeks to bring an end to a barren run that has seen the team fail to win an event since 2005.
Having finished the weekend in Germany strongly, Solberg said he was hopeful of a strong weekend, although the switch back to gravel would mean the feeling in the car would be totally different to on Rallye Deutschland.
“I like New Zealand as it is fast and flowing, and you really have to have the confidence to commit to be quick,” Solberg, who won the event in 2004, said. “At the end of Germany I was feeling really good, it was a definite step forward. But now we are back to gravel so it's totally different, so we work on what we had in Finland and see where we go from there. I hope we can keep the same feeling from Germany and then I think we'll be quite strong.”
Atkinson meanwhile will be taking part in the closest thing to a home event this season with Australia not featuring on the WRC calendar in 2008 and while he too admitted he was looking forward to the weekend, he said it was vital for the team to find more speed from the car to challenge for victories.
“I'm really looking forward to New Zealand but we need to find a little more speed if we're going to compete with the likes of Seb, Mikko and Jari-Matti,” he said. “We have some good ideas from Finland, so if everything works out, I think we could be strong there.
“As with last year it's the closest to my home rally this season so I'm looking forward to getting there, meeting all the guys who are coming over from home, and closing the gap to those in front.”