Alister challenges for PWRC lead in Corsica
Oct 10, 2004
Jardine Lloyd Thompson World Rally Team driver Alister McRae heads to Corsica for the Rallye de France from October 15-17, the penultimate round of the Production Cup World Rally Championship.
The Scot and his co-driver David Senior are currently second-equal in the points standings, nine points off the championship lead. Crucially, though, their chief championship rival, Jani Paasonen, is using the event as his dropped round, meaning that if McRae wins the event he will take over the points lead.
The event is notorious in the championship for being one of the ultimate driver challenges. The asphalt roads twist through the Corsican mountains and punish even the slightest mistakes heavily, usually leading to a high retirement rate. In addition, the road surface is particularly abrasive, leading to high tyre wear and forcing drivers to drive with conservation as well as all-out attack in mind.
The RED World Rally Team that runs and prepares the car McRae drives has been hard at work between rallies, introducing a series of set-up changes including engine updates. The team will test again in the build-up to the rally to confirm their settings and keep the momentum behind McRae’s championship charge.
Q+A Alister McRae
You finished third on Rally Deutschland, your most recent outing on asphalt. Is Corsica likely to suit you and the car better?
In Germany it was clear that the Subaru was struggling a little bit compared to the Mitsubishis. It was only fractions of a second, but it was enough to give them an edge. Everyone at RED has been working hard to address that.
What areas have you improved on the car?
The most obvious step we have made is with the engine. It is only a minor step forward, but it significant enough to give us all cause for optimism. We spent some time running at the Anglesey circuit in Wales testing the engine, and it was encouraging.
You are nine points behind championship leader Jani Paasonen, but he is using Corsica as his dropped score. Is it realistic to think you can win in Corsica and take the championship lead into the final round in Australia?
Ideally, that’s the goal. To come away with the championship lead would be a significant boost and pile the pressure on everyone else, but I am also aware that the championship will still be looking pretty good if I finish on the podium. I’m going for the win and I’ll work out my plan of attack as things pan out.
Who will be your chief rivals?
As ever, it’s going to be incredibly tight among the top five. In Germany we had a bit of a battle with Niall McShea to be top Subaru, although small differential problems held me back there. Then there’s Mark Higgins, who won the Production category in Corsica last season, driving for RED. Other than that, I expect Dani Sola and Toshi Arai right up there, putting the pressure on the front.
Is Corsica an event you enjoy?
I was last there in 2002 with Mitsubishi and I have always enjoyed the stages. There is a lot of variety in the corners and it is an incredible challenge. The event has real character, but I must say that Australia is the best event of them all – so I am desperate to get the most out of Corsica and then head out there with a shot at the title.
Will the format, running just two stages each day and then repeating them, suit you?
I’m not too sure about it. Putting all the spectators in just two stages might be asking for problems and delays, although I’m sure the organisers have planned for that.
From a Production class point of view, it would also have been better if we had run more, shorter stages. On a Production car the brake wear is always an issue, so they are going to take a lot of punishment.
Will you make any last-minute preparations?
We will be testing in Corsica in the run up to the event, just to confirm our settings and see if there are any more development tweaks. I must say, the whole team has been working incredibly hard to make sure we get every last bit of performance out of the car. After our class win on the non-championship event on Rally Great Britain, everyone’s focus has switched to getting the maximum out of Corsica.
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