The penultimate round of the 2013 World Championship, Rally Catalunya serves up an extremely varied menu to the competitors taking part. With the rally including night and day stages, on tarmac and gravel, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crews will need to produce something special to challenge for the win. Winners in Germany and runners-up in France, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio will be looking for another big result in front of their home fans.
The drivers and teams must therefore be versatile and responsive to adapt to the various conditions, especially if the weather turns at some point or other during the weekend! This will be the key to success for whoever is to succeed Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, winners here of the last eight rallies and who have now exited the WRC scene…
Among the leading contenders, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio are undoubtedly close to the top of the list. After winning in Germany, the Spanish crew finished as runners-up at the Rallye de France. “Obviously, I would dearly love to win this rally, more than any other. I made my World Championship debut here, I won my first race in the JWRC and I secured my first podium finish in the Xsara WRC,” recalled the Torrelavega driver. “But it won’t be easy to manage the race. The overall leader at the end of the tarmac stages will be first on the road the next day, sweeping the racing line for everyone else. It’s a shame, because that will undoubtedly lead to strategies being adopted to avoid that situation.”
After finishing on the podium in Germany and Australia, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen were off the pace at the last event. Lacking in confidence on the muddy roads of Alsace, the Finnish duo hopes to get back among the front-runners in Catalonia. “The conditions we usually get in Spain are fairly consistent and that should help me to get back to a good performance level,” admitted Mikko. “To some extent, not being first on Saturday evening won’t be a handicap. Sunday is when we’ll need to push hard to try and secure the win!”
Following on from their recent appearance at the Cyprus Rally, in the Middle East Rally Championship, Khalid Al-Qassimi and Scott Martin get back behind the wheel of the DS3 WRC of the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team. “I’m beginning to get to know this rally very well. And sometimes I haven’t done too badly here, like in 2010, when I finished seventh. I hope I can score points here again this season,” confirmed the Emirati.
Abu Dhabi Racing will also be represented by Mohamed Al-Mutawaa and Mohamed Al-Sahlawi, who will be competing in DS3 R3s. Al-Mutawaa also took part in Rallye Deutschland, where he claimed a podium-finish in the Citroën Top Driver standings.
Many observers will be monitoring the progress of Robert Kubica at this rally. Competing in his DS3 RRC, the Pole will be attempting to clinch the WRC2 title.
THREE QUESTIONS FOR… DANI SORDO
Winner in Germany, runner-up in France: you’re on a good run at the moment…
”I’ve always been there or thereabouts on tarmac, so there was no reason for that to be any different this year. Having said that, we haven’t had any proper tarmac conditions as yet this season, with ice and snow in Monte-Carlo and quite a lot of rain and mud in Germany and France. I hope the weather will be a bit better in Catalonia. I think I’ll feel confident there and I’ll be on the pace again.”
The word ‘confidence’ comes up again and again. What makes you feel confident – or not – in your DS3 WRC?
“It’s true that I have felt lacking in confidence on gravel this season. I suppose I mean that I can’t tell how much grip there is and so I don’t know how the car is going to react. When the balance of my DS3 WRC is right, when I feel good and when I have good pace notes, I know I can carry a lot of speed into a corner, like you would in track racing. This is essential for me to set good times and be able to fight for the win.”
How would you describe this event?
“This rally will be special in all aspects. We are going to tackle the first stages at night, a situation that we are no longer used to. I’m really disappointed that there is no reclassification at the end of the second leg. What is the point in pushing hard, building up a good lead, if you then find yourself first on the road, sweeping the line for your rivals on the Sunday? The gravel stages are so slippery that the leader won’t be able to prevent his challengers from making up ground on him.”