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Tirabassi set for first outing with Subaru.

Brice Tirabassi will make his debut for the Subaru World Rally Team on the Rally RACC Catalunya Costa Daurada next week, the latest round in the World Rally Championship.

Tirabassi will compete in a third factory run Subaru Impreza WRC 2008, alongside the works entries of Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson.

The Frenchman, who has competed in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge this year, is hoping to learn the ropes in Spain, ahead of his second outing in the car in Corsica a week later.

"I am very happy to be taking part in these two events with a team of this level," said the 2003 Junior World Rally champion. "I don't have much experience of driving a World Rally Car, but I know both events quite well so I am looking forward to getting going.

"I like Spain, so I hope this means I can focus more easily on learning the team and the car. My objective in Spain is to understand the car better and find the limit, and carry all this into Corsica the week after."

Subaru operations director Paul Howarth meanwhile has admitted the whole team will have a fair bit to learn on the twelfth round in the series, as most of the development work with the new Impreza has been focused on the gravel events, which dominate the championship.

"With our focus on gravel development, we haven't been able to do a pre-event test here so there'll be a bit to learn," he confirmed.

"There are lots of long, long corners in Spain on very smooth tarmac so grip is good and speeds are generally quite high. This means the lateral loads on the cars and tyres are also very high. The rally is all about rhythm, and very early on it will be obvious if anyone hasn't got settled."

Subaru technical director David Lapworth however reckons that the outings in Spain and France will enable them to make a significant step forward with the car on the 'black stuff'.

"These two tarmac rallies in two weeks will boost us massively, as we learned a great deal just from Rally Germany [the last asphalt round]," he added. "We'll be using a combination of Markko [Martin]'s base setup from his early tests and improvements we have been able to make after Germany to take another step forward on tarmac.

"We are very happy with testing so far, and the conditions in which Markko did all the early tarmac testing are far more similar to the roads in Spain than those in Germany so it should suit us better. We have had limited testing here though as a result of our focus on gravel development to date, so at the same time we must be realistic about how far through our refinement process we are with the new Impreza WRC2008."


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Brice Tirabassi [Pic credit: Citroen Communications]
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