The 2003-spec Subaru Impreza WRC rally car was designed specifically for loose surface events and should be ideally suited for the New Zealand Rally, team principal David Lapworth says.

The 2003-spec Subaru Impreza WRC rally car was designed specifically for loose surface events and should be ideally suited for the New Zealand Rally, team principal David Lapworth says.

The rally begins at 7 am on Friday morning and drivers will battle it out on the nine special stages that make up leg one. The day's action will take place in the countryside around the Paparoa Service Park, to the north of Auckland. Paparoa remains the base for leg two, which features a further seven stages, one of which is the epic 59-kilometre test at Parahi.

Leg three moves south of Auckland and the remaining six stages are based around the Te Kauwhata Service Park. The winning crew is expected to cross the finish ramp at Manukau Sports Bowl at 3.30 pm on Sunday.

All of the events 22 loose-gravel, high-speed stages are located on New Zealand's North Island. Rally Headquarters are based at Auckland's Sky City complex, which at 328 metres is the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere.

"As far as the car is concerned, the car’s set up has some similarities to Finland - but is far less compromised. In New Zealand we don't have to factor in the big jumps or the occasionally rough ground. It's a performance event so we're effectively building a gravel-racing car. Turkey was a rally of attrition, but that won’t be the case in New Zealand. Having said that, if you don't push hard here, then you're unlikely to win,” Lapworth said at the weekend.

"Each of the last three rallies has been special in its own way, but New Zealand is the first classic gravel rally of the year and a guide to form for the next four or five loose surface events. We've developed this year's car with just this kind of event in mind," he added.

Tommi Mäkinen and Petter Solberg will drive for the 555 SWRT on this year's Propecia Rally New Zealand. Both will be eligible to score manufacturers points for Subaru. Mäkinen has competed in New Zealand ten times previously, winning the event once and achieving two further podium positions. Solberg's best finish was on his first outing there in 2000 when he was fourth.

Solberg recently completed three days of testing in the UK, one of which was dedicated to establishing the set-up of the Impreza for New Zealand. “I've been in contact with my engineer every single day since Turkey. NZ is a really good gravel event, I know the stages quite well now and have a good road position on Leg One, so hopefully it should be a good event for us," he said

Mäkinen added: "It's difficult to know what conditions to expect as it is such a different time of year but the team are prepared for anything and I think we have a good set-up on the car. It's the first time we'll be running the car on fast gravel so it should give us a good idea of its capabilities."

Original article from Car