Subaru's Petter Solberg intends to dominate this weekend's Finnish Rally, the fastest gravel WRC event of the year, in an attempt to narrow his 17-point deficit on title leader Sébastien Loeb.
Subaru's Petter Solberg intends to dominate this weekend's Finnish Rally, the fastest gravel WRC event of the year, in an attempt to close his 17-point deficit on title leader Sébastien Loeb.
The defending world champion retired from the Argentinean Rally due to engine problems, but he is confident, though, that he can set the pace in Finland and has placed his faith in co-driver Phil Mills to aid him in his task.
"Argentina is behind us, and I'm just looking forward to Finland," Solberg said. "It's a very good rally to drive. The stages are wide and fast, so you need to a lot of confidence and to go flat-out from the start. It's the only way to win, and so that's my plan. I'm lucky that Phil and I work so well together. Accurate pace notes are very important, due to all the jumps and hidden corners, and I have every confidence in Phil and I as a team."
Solberg's confidence has been matched by team principal David Lapworth, who says the Norwegian has what it takes to beat the local Finnish experts Marcus Gronholm, Harri Rovenpera (Peugeot) and Mikko Hirvonen (Subaru) on home soil. He admitted, however, that the team would also watch how Loeb faired, and would adjust its strategy to match his performance.
"This is an event that Petter wants to win," he said. "He did well last year and beat (Peugeot's) Richard Burns (for second) in a fantastic battle on the last day, so his primary target for 2004 will be to win. That said, we'll obviously keep an eye on Loeb and adapting our strategy as we see fit."
Loeb has admitted that Finland is not one of his favourite rallies, however, and has hinted he could be looking for a points finish from the start. As the current points leader, he faces the penalty of starting Friday first on the road ahead of Solberg, and both will lose time as they sweep the stages of loose gravel.