LOEB AND SARRAZIN SWAP CARS
Citroen C4 WRC / Peugeot 908 HDi FAP
On the initiative of Peugeot Sport, Citroen Sport and Total, which is a partner of both teams, Sebastien Loeb and Stephane Sarrazin were today given a chance to sample each other's cars, namely the Citroen C4 WRC and the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP.
Thursday November 27 turned out to be a bright, sunny day as the respective motor sport departments of Automobiles Peugeot and Automobiles Citroen welcomed more than 100 journalists from France and much of Europe to see how the two champions fared in these two exceptional machines.
The day's action kicked off at the HTTT Paul Ricard circuit near Le Castellet, in the south of France, with Stephane Sarrazin completing an initial series of five laps with Sebastien Loeb sitting alongside in the specially-converted cockpit of the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP which had been fitted out with two seats for the occasion.
After these familiarisation laps, the five-time World Rally Champion* Sebastien Loeb then took over at the wheel of the endurance prototype for a first run of five laps by himself, followed by a second sequence of 10 laps of the full circuit. The times he posted were a little more than a second off those recorded by Stephane Sarrazin.
"Driving the 908 HDi FAP was great fun and I am delighted that Stephane and I were given this opportunity to test our respective cars. What is always impressive about sports prototypes and single-seaters, of course, is their speed and the amount of downforce they generate, but I have to say that I was struck by the amount of torque delivered by the Peugeot's diesel engine. I was a little surprised by the restricted visibility you get from the closed cockpit, but I soon felt confident enough to start pushing a little harder and I savoured every minute of the experience. The time passed so quickly and I didn't want to give the car back afterwards, but I fully appreciate how fortunate the two of us have been today."
Led by the Citroen C4 WRC with Sebastien Loeb at the wheel and Stephane Sarrazin sitting in the right-hand seat, the group then headed for a 3km gravel stage organised in the nearby Domaine de Riboux, some 15km from the circuit. After a few last words of advice from Sebastien Loeb, Stephane Sarrazin completed the test 12 times divided into two runs, setting times similar to those posted by Sebastien.
"Maybe we could swap places for an event? Sebastien could take my place on an endurance race and I could drive his car on a rally! I'm obviously joking, but it's been a tremendous thrill to drive the C4 WRC today. Compared with the rally cars I have driven in the past, I was impressed by its overall balance and more especially by how easy it was to set up into the corners. It really is a very efficient machine, and very predictable; you immediately feel confident enough to start pushing hard quite quickly. It was great, and I would love to have carried on a little longer!"
At the end of the day, the two drivers headed off for the start of the Rallye du Var, the final round of the French Rally Championship. Both of them will be taking part in the event: Sebastien Loeb and his wife in a Citroen C2 Super 1600, and Stephane Sarrazin navigated by Jacques-Julien Renucci in the new Peugeot 207 RC Rallye which will serve as zero car.
* Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA