Constantly improving since the start of the season, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul will be competing at Rally Finland in the Citroën Junior World Rally Team’s DS3 WRC. After taking part in Rally Estonia as part of their preparations, the Belgian crew hopes their experience will help them to master the Finnish jumps. Due to his commitments at the London Olympic Games, Nasser Al-Attiyah will be replaced by Chris Atkinson in the Qatar World Rally Team car. With Stéphane Prévot still his co-driver,the Australian has high hopes of doing well on stages that he really loves.
In spite of the six-week break between Rally New Zealand and Rally Finland, Thierry Neuville has not been taking it easy. The highlight of his preparations for the resumption of the World Championship came at Rally Estonia, which gave him the chance to drive on similar roads to those he can expect in Finland. After finishing second, behind Mads Østberg, the Belgian was fairly pleased with his performance: “I started cautiously and then gradually picked up the pace and won a few stages at the end of the rally. It’s fairly difficult to make direct comparisons with Mads, because he didn’t have the same tires as we use in the WRC. But in any case, this positive experience helped me to prepare in racing conditions. So, we achieved our goal in that respect.”
Consistently in the points since Rallye de Portugal, Thierry knows that he is about to tackle yet another legendary event in Finland: “It’s a bit like New Zealand, I’ve been dreaming about taking part in this rally since I was a kid. I'm not expecting it to be easy this weekend, and I know that most non-Nordic drivers have struggled the first time they drive on the stages of the ‘1000 Lakes Rally’. I’m not setting myself any excessively ambitious targets, I’m just going to learn about this rally at my own pace and, if possible, avoid making any mistakes that would cut short the experience!”
Rally Finland will not feature Nasser Al-Attiyah this year. The Qatari had already missed out on the New Zealand trip to concentrate on preparations for the London Olympics Games. As he will be competing in the skeet shooting competition (clay pigeon shooting), Nasser will not be able to take part in the Finnish round of the WRC. Whilst his fellow WRC drivers will be busy with reconnaissance on Monday 30 July, he’ll be heading for the Royal Artillery Barracks to take part in the qualifying round. The final is scheduled to take place the following afternoon.
Consequently, the #7 Citroën DS3 WRC will be driven by Chris Atkinson, accompanied by co-driver Stéphane Prévot. The Australian and the Belgian are pleased to be rejoining Citroën after taking part in the 2009 Rally Ireland in a C4 WRC. “I am very pleased to get this opportunity and really enthusiastic about competing again at Rally Finland,” commented Chris. “I’ve already taken part in this rally five times and I finished on the podium last time I was here in 2008. Although I have moved away from the WRC, I’m still actively involved in rally and have been competing in the Asia-Pacific Championship. I hope I can get on the pace with the DS3 quickly, which seems currently to be the best WRC. The four works drivers seem very determined to fight it out for the win, but I hope I can mix it with the leaders!”
After three relatively long rallies in terms of timed stages, Rally Finland keeps to its compact format. Following three stages held on Thursday afternoon, the rally will be contested over two long days, the finish scheduled for Saturday.