Just two weeks after the Rallye de France, the WRC moves on to Sardinia for the penultimate round of the season.
Having already secured the Manufacturers' and Drivers’ titles*, the Citroën Total World Rally Team and the Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena crew could relax and take it easy at this rally.
A WRC event since 2004, the Rally Italia Sardegna has earned itself a reputation as a demanding rally, with a course on relatively rough gravel and sandy roads, concentrated in the north of the island.
After six years of being held in the spring, the Italian round is being held again this year in the autumn, which may well affect the road conditions.
Winners on four occasions from seven starts, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena have enjoyed a good rate of success at this rally.
Last year, when strategies were still affected by the issue of sweeping, they produced one of their finest performances of the year to claim a win that proved decisive for the outcome of the championship.
In 2012, the Franco-Monegasque crew are certainly under no pressure to perform well here. Having wrapped up the title at the Rallye de France, Seb and Daniel will very simply be looking for a 76th career WRC win.
It is true that they are accustomed to this situation: in 2010, after winning the WRC title in Alsace for the first time, they then went on to win the final two rounds of the season, in Spain and Wales.
“When I line up at the start, my goal is to achieve the best possible result, and therefore to win,” confirmed Sébastien Loeb. “I want to enjoy myself when driving and to push so that I make the most of what will be one of my last World Championship rallies.
Sardinia is a tough event, and I remember having had some great scraps here against rivals who have always been very quick on this surface. We have seen in the last few rallies that we’re not head and shoulders above the rest, so we’ll have to fight hard if we want to win!”
“This year, finally, I would love to win,” assured Mikko. “Although third position would be enough to make sure I finish as runner-up in the World Championship, I’d rather do it in style.
We have done an awful lot of work with the team to try and match my driving style to the set-up of the DS3 WRC. After having made a breakthrough on tarmac at the last rally, I hope to improve further on gravel.”
“We have just experienced one of the highlights of our professional lives at the Rallye de France,” recalled Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal.
“But there are still two events left to complete, and the pressure is by no means off for them.
Although it is not part of the mindset of the people who work at Citroën Racing, I asked the team not to ease off. Our goal for this rally is clear: we will be aiming for our sixth one-two finish of the season!
As ever, our crews will be free to run the race as they see fit. I hope Mikko will be able to fight for the win. He deserves it, because we owe him a lot for the two titles we have won this season.”
(*) Subject to publication of the official results
THREE QUESTIONS FOR… SÉBASTIEN LOEB
Before looking ahead to Sardinia, let’s look back at the ninth WRC title you won in Alsace. That must have been a very special moment for you? “I had experienced it two years ago and I wanted to experience it again.
It was even more intense this time, given that it was my last world title... in rallying, at least. Daniel and I have often said to one another that we have to make the most of these moments, because we won't experience anything like it again.
On the other hand, it is my decision to stop, so I don’t feel bitter. I know that other big challenges lie ahead. There were quite a few emotional moments, especially on Sunday when we went through the places near to where I grew up.
I was taken aback by how many people turned out to support me throughout the whole week in Alsace, during reconnaissance, the stages and at the podium.
It is mad how popular rallying has become in Alsace and I would suggest that this is certainly not the last time I will be taking part at this event!”
What is your mindset for the last two rounds, now that you have won your ninth Drivers' title and Citroën has won the Manufacturers’ Championship for the eighth time? “When I compete in a rally, my aim is to win it. Otherwise, I might as well stay at home!
The same goes for the entire Citroën team. It’s certainly true that after winning the titles, the tension has eased somewhat. There was a widespread sense of relief after we won in France, because everybody was waiting expectantly for it to happen.
We still had to do it though, and nothing was easy in the car. In Sardinia, we’ll feel less pressure and we’ll be able to enjoy ourselves. It’s so nice and rare to be able to compete in a rally without having to worry about managing things. Once again, we’ll enjoy it if we win!”
Is that the kind of mindset you will have when competing in rallies next season? “As far as I’m concerned, the story finished in Alsace when we won the two titles.
The two remaining rallies are a bonus. In 2013, we are going to enter a few rounds of the WRC and we’ll be aiming to win more rallies. But the pressure will be different.
2013 will nonetheless be a busy year, as we'll need to work on the WTCC project in addition to this partial WRC programme.”
Source: Citroën Racing