Citroën is determined to keep up its winning momentum!
Mexico, Portugal, Jordan, the Citroën DS3 WRCs have succeeded on gravel in the last three rounds of the World Rally Championship. The Citroën Total World Rally Team crews are determined to keep up the winning momentum in Rally Italy- Sardinia, the fifth round of what has been a hotly-disputed world championship so far. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, leaders of the Drivers’ Championship and Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, who have won the last two rallies, have a number of aces up their sleeve!
Our aim is to win even if this forces us to open the road in the next rally. It’s a hotly contested season and every point’s important.
Rally Italy was not on the 2010 calendar and it is back again this year with a few innovations. The nerve centre is still in Olbia on the north-eastern coast of Sardinia, and the service park will be based in a new terminal, which has not yet been opened, in the Isola Bianca port. The route has also undergone a few modifications with the addition of stages around Oristano. The new layout is accompanied by the moving of the service park to Siamanna – in the centre of the island – on the first day of the event.
With over a third of the championship already run, the first four crews are covered by only eight points! Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, who won in Mexico and have scored podium finishes in Portugal and Jordan, took the lead in the ‘Drivers’ rankings in the Middle East. The seven-time world champions are no strangers to this position, which forces them to open the road on Friday at the start of the 131,06 timed kilometers section.
“When you’re well placed in the championship you’re badly placed at the start of the following rally,” quips Loeb. “Being first certainly isn’t the most advantageous position. We won’t be masters of our destiny as the other crews will know our times and they can pace themselves accordingly.”
Loeb has already won in Sardinia three times so he has in-depth knowledge of the requirements of the layout: “The event requires 100% concentration as it’s a very tricky route. Your notes have to be very accurate and you have to drive very cleanly. We’ll see how and when the race begins to pan out but we have to be in the right group to be able to fight our corner till the end.”
Ogier, who is starting in third place on the first day, will be right in the thick of the victory contenders: “Some are better placed than us, others aren’t. Friday’s starting position is still an important parameter on gravel, but a rally lasts three days. At least five of us can win. Sometimes, victory can be won or lost because of a tiny detail or a tenth of a second.”
“There’s still a long way to go in the world championship and it’s not the right moment to start calculating,” points out Ogier. “Our aim is to win even if this forces us to open the road in the next rally. It’s a hotly contested season and every point’s important."
After the starting ceremony on Thursday 5th May in Molo Brin, Rally Italy will start on Friday morning. At the end of 339,7 timed kilometers it will finish in the early afternoon on Sunday in Olbia.
Three questions to Sébastien Ogier
Victories in Portugal and Jordan! A hat trick in Italy?
“This string of successes has come at just the right moment as it’s put us right back in the running for the title. Our early-season results are looking much better because of these two wins on the trot. But nothing’s really changed. We were quick and always in the running for victory in the previous events. Only a mistake in Mexico cost us a lot of points. In Portugal and Jordan where we were under pressure to score a good result we managed to win. We haven’t changed our approach nor have we suddenly found a new tweak! In Sardinia, we’ll have to try and keep up the good work.”
With the tyres and engines, new parameters have modified the odds during the season. Has this changed your approach?
“The reliability of the Citroën DS3 WRCs is a major asset in this closelyfought World Rally Championship. Since the start of the season we haven’t had any mechanical problems serious enough to eliminate us. We’ve done a lot of testing to reach this level and it’s important to underline all the work carried out by the team in this respect. From now on, we have to finish the year with two engines as laid down in the regulations. It doesn’t really change all that much for a driver. I won’t drive any differently than in the opening rallies. Maybe it’s the engineers who’ll be a bit more stressed! Where the new Michelin tyres are concerned, they seem much more puncture-proof and they modify your way of driving a little. You can hit the apexes a bit harder without being afraid of puncturing on a stone!”
Although Sardinia was not on the WRC calendar, you went there last year. Is this an advantage for you?
“Our race didn’t last very long but I was able to take part in reconnaissance. According to Julien, my codriver, we won’t have any special advantage in relation to the other crews. The new layout has kept only one stage. We’ve just had a very positive session in Sardinia. It was very important to be able to do some testing before starting the rally. The Citroën DS3 WRC just keeps on getting better and better in every area. We’re working on all aspects to make the car go quicker and quicker!”