Toshi aiming for the podium in his home event
Toshihiro Arai, the leading Japanese International rally driver, has been selected to enter the 11th round of the World Rally Championship (WRC) Rally Japan, to be held from Friday, September 1st to Sunday, September 3rd this
year in the Tokachi district in Hokkaido, in an Impreza WRC2006, Subaru's latest World Rally Car.
Arai, who clinched overall victory in the 2005 Production Car World Rally Championship (PCWRC) to become the first Japanese World Champion recognised by the Federation Internationale de L'Automobile (FIA), decided to make the official entry in the 2006 WRC round in his home country, driving the latest World Rally Car model. Preparations in terms of financing, organisation and driving skills have been underway since the beginning of the year and everything is now in place.
World Rally cars, positioned at the top of all the rally categories running on various road surfaces, are built exclusively for competition based on production cars and modified to compete in WRC. Subaru's 2006 model World Rally car is called the Impreza WRC2006.
While Arai was getting ready by raising sponsorship for his entry, he voluntary participated in development tests held by Subaru World Rally Team (SWRT), Subaru's works team, at Sardinia, Italy in April and in the UK in June.
While familiarising himself with the new model's operation he also practiced driving it at competitive speed. He enters the Japanese rally under the name of his own team, Subaru Team Arai, although SWRT will provide full service support during the rally week.
The co-driver supporting Arai and reading pacenotes for him at the Special Stages in the rally will be Tony Sircombe of New Zealand, who has been his constant partner in PCWRC since 2002.
Arai was handpicked for Subaru's young international rally driver development programme, and from late 1990 he participated actively in international rallies in the UK. He competed in many rallies in the WRC with Group N or World Rally Car spec Imprezas. Driving a World Rally car in 1998, his 4th place in Acropolis and 6th place at Safari brought his team the first ever Japanese victory in the FIA Teams' Cup.
Arai joined the Subaru World Rally Team, Subaru's works team, from 2001 to 2002 where he drove World Rally Cars. At Cyprus in 2001, he once again clinched 4th position overall. This coming September, he will be back behind the wheel of a World Rally Car after an interval of four years. In Rally Japan, held since 2004, Arai drove his Group N Impreza to consecutive wins in the Group N category. Including Rally Hokkaido, the forerunner of the Rally Japan, he has now won three years in a row, so he is completely familiar with the terrain and course characteristics.
"After all the preparation work, I was finally able to officially announce my entry in Rally Japan with a World Rally car,” mentioned Arai. “In addition to sponsors such as Sanden supporting me in PCWRC, we also managed to get a number of other companies as sponsors for the Japanese rally. I've been able to drive and develop the car at two tests ahead of the rally, and found that its drivability has greatly improved in comparison with the 2002 model. The car's development is still ongoing and further improvements are being made, which I'm really looking forward to.
“This being my home rally, I believe I have the edge over the best drivers in the world. Although I'll be up against Petter (Solberg), Sebastian (Loeb), Marcus (Gronholm) and Chris (Atkinson) there, I'm determined to show my true ability and get onto the podium,” concluded Arai