The new Citroen DS3 R3 off to the Cevennes
Having racked up a third class victory on the Rallye Terre des Cardabelles recently, the Citroen DS3 R3 will return to asphalt for the 53rd Criterium des Cevennes in France, running under the `Reseau Citroen France' banner. Once more the car will be up against a top-quality field on a legendary event, with the sole aim of scoring another momentous success.
The rally, which is held in the Languedoc area of France, is a huge celebration of motorsport that brings together thousands of rally fans. Its popularity is no coincidence. With 215 kilometres of stages around Vigan and 166 competitors taking the start, the penultimate round of the French asphalt championship is an unmissable event for anybody into rallying.
The route, characterised by a seemingly unending sequence of corners, is well-known for being both complex and challenging. The rally gets underway with a night stage on Thursday evening, but it will be the awesome Tourgeille stage that is set to be the real test of the rally. Made up of 42 competitive kilometres and run twice, it requires the utmost concentration and commitment.
For the Citroen DS3 R3, the Criterium des Cevennes marks a new chapter in its rapidly growing motorsport history. In order to rise to this unique challenge, the car will benefit from the experience of Stephane Sarrazin, co-driven by Jacques-Julien Renucci. The Frenchman, a renowned specialist on asphalt in all its forms, is aiming to claim the honours in the two-wheel drive category, competing on home territory.
Jean-Francois Lienere, in charge of Citroen Racing's customer competition department, commented: "The Citroen DS3 R3 is about to compete on its third rally in France. Once more it is back on the French Championship at a very high level, with the goal of doing as well as it did on the Mont Blanc Rally, where it won Group R. It will face a challenging route and some very twisty stages, which could become extremely tricky if some rain is thrown in as well. Stephane Sarrazin's experience will be very useful to us on roads that he knows and likes, thanks to the quality of the route and the organisation."
The rally gets underway on Thursday evening. The crews will drive across the start ramp at Montpellier before reaching Saint Bauzille de Putois, where there will be a short service halt. They will then head for the 12-kilometre Ferrières-Pompignan stage, run at night, which should contain a few unique surprises.
Three questions for ... Stephane Sarrazin
You'll be driving this rally at the same time as learning the Citroen DS3 R3 in competition for the first time. How are you going to approach the weekend and what are your objectives?
"The goal is for us to get up to speed gradually and gain confidence with the DS3 R3, which I know a little bit already as I've had the opportunity to drive it in testing. Although I felt comfortable with the car straight away, I really don't want to take any risks, as it's been a long time since I've driven a two-wheel drive car. I noticed straight away that the DS3 had huge potential and I can't wait to see what it is like under rally conditions."
The Criterium des Cevennes is renowned as one of the most spectacular but also one of the most difficult of the whole French Championship. What do you make of it?
"I'm certainly not going to disagree with any of that. I first came to watch this rally when I was a kid and really it's from there that my passion for rallying began. It's a very special rally, where the atmosphere is electric like nowhere else, but it's also one big party. I love the twisty and narrow roads, which can become really tricky as well, depending on what the weather is doing. It's perfect territory for the Citroen DS3 R3, which has everything it takes to succeed on this type of surface."
In both rallying and circuit racing, you've driven a number of top cars. What do you think of the Citroen DS3 R3?
"The DS3 R3 is a little racing car with all the attributes of a much bigger one. It's agile, easy to drive, and extremely efficient. I was actually surprised by its power and roadholding. The torque from the engine is impressive and that will be a huge bonus for us on the roads of the Cevennes. The DS3 R3 is a brand new car but it's already well-developed and I know that we're going to enjoy ourselves a lot with it throughout the weekend."