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GP Week : Issue 21
S UBARU World Rally Team Technical Director David Lapworth is under no illusion about the challenge facing Prodrive as the second half of the 2008 season approaches. Two new WRC 2008 cars have been built for Finland, prepared to a more aggressive specification than in Greece and Turkey. “When we knew we would go to the rougher rallies in Greece and Turkey with the new car, we switched to a more conservative approach. The car suddenly went higher and stiffer, heavier underguards were fitted. Our test work until the time of that decision (taken in April) had been more adventurous, thinking about Finland and the other smoother rallies in the second half of the year”. Specification for the ‘S14’ for Finland will therefore be close to that which Markko Martin had been developing the car four months previously. “We discovered that there was no problem to get the car down to the minimum weight limits for 34 Greece, but we were a little over the weight limit because we carried quite a lot of spares, and for those two rallies with their specific characteristics it wasn’t worth adjusting the ballast to suit. “In Greece I guess we were 10kg over our target weight. On account of the reduced undercar protection, the car in Finland is probably going to be 15kg lighter than in Greece and Turkey – where we intended to be in terms of actual weight and weight distribution.” So far the SWRT team has run the S14 cars in about 4000km of testing, including nearly 700km specifically for the Finland Rally. Testing regulations have not made this work easy, even more so after the moment the car was homologated. Full testing restrictions now apply. Even before homologation, the team was only allocated a limited number of Pirelli control tyres, on top of the existing physical limitations of timescale, resources, budgets and running a parallel competition programme. And now, the number of permitted sessions of testing are restricted. “We would have liked the chance to do more testing – I am sure Citroen did a lot more testing before they launched the C4 WRC,” says Lapworth. Citroen did not have the distraction of running a world championship programme when they were developing the C4. “Anyway we had to maximise the quality of testing, not just the quantity. We concentrated on five-day monthly sessions with Markko Martin driving, giving ourselves the maximum chance to react to previous testing, make new development parts, work out new solutions”. Mechanically the S14 cars proved agreeably reliable on their first two rallies. Atkinson’s electrical problem in Greece was due to a loose wire leading to the starter button and the system was revised before Turkey. The main problem in Turkey was rock related damage, and since then more work has been done on undercar protection. Happily there was no need for fundamental redesign! The basic strength of the car gave very little trouble, and experience in Greece and Turkey accelerated development work ready for the second half of the season. The challenge for Finland was to focus attention on reaching the car’s performance target: “It will probably take us a couple of rallies to reach this point. For Finland, smoother roads and higher speeds mean you have to work on grip generally, attain the higher speeds and accommodate the jumps.” There has been a new direction in damper development, with more work being done in-house at Prodrive. “There has been continuous evolution on dampers. Good steps have been made for Finland and further steps coming over the next couple of rallies in time for New Zealand.” Future homologations are large on the agenda. There will be various new items specially relating to brakes and tarmac suspension for Germany – there is a list of items planned for