Abarth factory driver Anton Alen has vowed to bounce back from his torrid first half of the season and is aiming for a win on the next Intercontinental Rally Challenge round, next weekend's Rally Russia.
The 26-year-old Finn tested his Grande Punto in Italy earlier this week and is confident the car will be good enough to carry him to another Russia victory, following his first IRC win with the Italian marque in 2007.
So far this year, Alen has run as the leading Abarth on every event he has started, but mechanical problems -- and an accident in Brazil -- have combined to limit him to a single finish on the Rally Azores.
"You have to keep believing you can win rallies, otherwise what's the point of competing?" said Alen. "I firmly believe we can win again. OK, Skoda and Peugeot have made some good steps with their car, but our car is also coming. There was nothing major in the test we just did, but the car felt good and I'm really ready for Russia.
"I like this event. It's not far from the border with Finland, so the shape of the roads is quite similar to the ones I'm used to at home. It's going to be another big fight, though. Skoda drivers Juho Hanninen and [Jan] Kopecky will be setting good times and [Abarth teammate Giandomenico] Basso also made good times there last year."
Alen finished second in Russia in 2008, just missing out on back-to-back wins when his Punto was slowed by a puncture.
In addition to his Russian outing, Alen is also hoping to boost his season with an outing on Rally Finland, where he could also drive the works Abarth.
"That deal is only 50-50 at the moment," he said. "It would be good to do the event, obviously it's one that I like, but we have to find more budget."
Alen also has a strong record in Finland. He won a hard-fought Group N category there on only his second visit to his home round of the World Rally Championship in 2006.