A fully-deserved podium finish for Simon Jean-Joseph and their Citroen C2
The second and last leg of the 34th Croatia Rally third round of the 2007 European Rally Championship (ERC) saw Simon Jean-Joseph and Jack Boyère finish 3rd overall at the wheel of their C2 S1600. The Citroen pair also took the laurels in both the Group A and Super 1600 standings.
Today's action took crews to the north of Zagreb for 130.53km of stages which took the form of a loop of three tests to be contested three times each, with a stopover at the service park between each group.
After losing time early on Friday following a puncture on SS3, the Citroen C2 Super 1600 pair started the day in 6th place. "The first stages of today's loop 'Laz' (10.46km) and 'Samci' (9.30km) are very fast and not really to our advantage," explained Simon Jean-Joseph before the morning's re-start. "On the other hand, the 23.75km 'Sljeme' test should suit us much better."
The Martinique-based driver was extremely fired up at the prospect of continuing his fight-back up the leaderboard over Saturday's three loops. However, the morning didn't get off to an ideal start when a sparkplug problem caused his engine to misfire on SS10 and SS11. "Because of the tight timing, Simon and Jack only got a chance to change the faulty component before the start of the loop's third and final stage," said Alexis Avril, the Technical Manager of Citroen Sport's Customer Competition Department. With the engine firing perfectly once more, the C2 S1600 crew went on to post the third fastest time on SS12 to close the gap with those they were chasing and start seriously homing in on the podium.
The second loop went much better for the Citroen pair. "I was a little too much on the defensive first thing this morning," admitted Simon, "but I pushed much harder second time round. The handling of my C2 and my BFGoodrich tyres enabled us to set the fastest time on the longest of the three stages on which we were far more in our element, as we thought we would be. We have gained one more place and we've got another 44km of stages to try and gain one more..."
'Jean-Jo' kicked off the last three stages of the weekend in 4th position, just 6.7s off a possible podium finish. After virtually level pegging with the driver ahead of them on SS16 and SS17, they lined up for the start of the ultimate test with a deficit of 6.2s to make up. The tension was palpable but the Frenchman succeeded in turning the tables on his rival to squeeze him off the podium by a margin of 1.6s! "We gave it absolutely everything we had," he beamed at the finish. "A heavy shower fell just before the start making the stage extremely slippery. That didn't make our task any easier but in the end we succeeded! It's obviously a shame that we lost time yesterday with a puncture but I am very happy with the weekend's result. It's a terrific reward for the efforts of everyone in the team. We had great fun with the C2 which is an extremely well balanced car and truly awesome on asphalt."
"The Citroen has once again demonstrated that it's a potent package on both dry and damp asphalt," echoed Citroen Sport Customer Competition Manager Yves Matton. "Here in Croatia, we knew we had the potential to challenge for victory and the times posted by Simon and Jack confirm that. In the end, they managed to make up some of the ground they lost yesterday and Simon has shown that he is a driver who never gives up. The conditions were particularly delicate, but that didn't stop him from staging a great comeback, including a total of three fastest times to his credit. He deserved to finish on the podium which also sees him score valuable ERC points."