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Subaru, Ford ready for 2006


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The works Subaru and Ford teams are all set for the start of the 2006 World Rally Championship season, following their final tests of 2005. Both outfits have been working in the south of France on asphalt performance, with former champions Petter Solberg and Marcus Gronholm leading the teams' respective efforts.

The two remaining factory-backed outfits are set to head the fight for the drivers' and manufacturers' titles in 2006, with Citroen, Peugeot and Skoda focusing on privateer squads next season. Reigning champion Sebastien Loeb and privateer star Manfred Stohl have also been testing on asphalt in recent weeks for the Kronos Racing Citroen team and the Bozian Racing Peugeot outfit respectively.

Subaru was forced to shorten its six-day test after asphalt ace Stephane Sarrazin crashed on the first of his three days, but the team is "quietly encouraged" that it has made progress on its asphalt performance for the Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo season-opener after Solberg's time in the car. The outfit is planning another asphalt test in January, in addition to a snow test in Scandinavia for the Uddeholm Swedish Rally.

Ford conducted a five-day test in the same region, with new signing Mikko Hirvonen heading the effort for the first three days and Gronholm taking the wheel for the remaining two days. The outfit has another asphalt test planned in early January, but works Ford team boss Malcolm Wilson said he was happy with the progress made.

"I have to say we're very encouraged by our performance," Wilson said. "Marcus is very happy with the car and was giving us positive feedback after the first two or three runs. The idea of this test was to find out where we were on asphalt pace and get ideas for the test after the New Year. We're happy with how things have gone."

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