Subaru team principal David Lapworth says Petter Solberg will still be the driver to beat on the gravel course of this weekend's Rally of Argentina, but the Norwegian's team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen, should take the opportunity to start performing to his potential.

Subaru team principal David Lapworth says Petter Solberg will still be the driver to beat on the gravel course of this weekend's Rally of Argentina, but the Norwegian's team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen, should take the opportunity to start performing to his potential.


Citroën's Sebastién Loeb has traditionally struggled on gravel due to the team's early focus on asphalt events with the Xsara. However, the young Frenchman notched up 33 points on this year's off-road rallies, just three less than Subaru's Solberg (36).


Lapworth is wary that there aren't many gravel events left on this year's WRC and that the trio of asphalt events that should play into the hands of Loeb are approaching. As such, he's keen to ensure that Solberg gathers maximum points on the remaining loose surface events to pass Loeb in the drivers' championship.


"Sebastien was very good in Turkey, but I still think that Petter's got the edge on the gravel events, so we need to focus on that and go to Argentina to win," he said. "We intend to push from the beginning, but we will also be keeping one eye on the mirror to see what happens to the other drivers, such as Sebastien."


Meanwhile, Lapworth said Subaru rookie Mikko Hirvonen's learning period was over, and that it was time for the young Finn "to start focusing on his overall speed".


Hirvonen has been allowed to ease his way into the team in the opening seven rallies of the season, but as the Finn moves onto events of which he has more experience, the pressure to get high points finishes will be applied more intensely.


"For Mikko, this is an event that he has done before, and has experience of," said Lapworth. "From now onwards we'll be starting to look less and less at mileage and experience, and more at different aspects of his skill and speed."


Hirvonen has made a considerable step forward in speed over the last three events in Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, but has admitted that his real speed will be shown on faster gravel events such as this weekend's rally and next months' Finnish Rally.


"The stages in Argentina tend to be much faster than those on the last few rallies and, although I feel that my performance on the slower sections has improved, I still feel most at home on the fast stuff," he said. "I'm really looking forward to the start of this rally."