The Subaru World Rally Team will head to the northerly Japanese island of Hokkaido for the last long-haul rally and the penultimate round of the 2008 World Rally Championship season. It is the first time that the new Impreza WRC2008 will be seen in its homeland. Whilst still in Hokkaido, this year sees the rally base moved from Obihiro to Sapporo, meaning new gravel stages and a whole new challenge.
“We come to Rally Japan this year with a new car and big expectations on what is effectively our ‘home event’” said David Richards, Subaru World Rally Team Principal. “The change of location for the rally may well prove to be a leveller between the front runners but it’s always been an event that throws up surprises and there’s every chance that both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles could be settled on this rally.”
Rally Japan is Subaru’s home event, and will be where the fans are most feverish about the team and the new Impreza WRC2008. Even before Subaru gained global recognition with their early world rallying triumphs, the brand has held a special place in the hearts of Japanese fans. Like previous editions of the rally though, this year will be no easy ride.
Rally Japan has traditionally been a punishing event; a rally of attrition. Since the inaugural event in 2004, the event has been won by four different manufacturers and four different drivers, including Solberg’s victory in that opening year. This year marks the first time the rally has been run outside of Obihiro, and whilst the stages are totally new to all but Japanese National Championship competitors, the stern challenge remains.