Citroën is aiming for a sixth victory on the trot!
In 2005 and 2009, Citroën Racing achieved the amazing feat of scoring six victories on the trot in the FIA World Rally Championship. In Greece, Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena and Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia will be aiming to equal this record with the Citroën DS3 WRC. A win in Greece will help the Citroën World Rally Team to consolidate its position as leader in both the manufacturers’ and drivers’ championships.
The Acropolis Rally, one of the traditional events in the FIA World Rally Championship, is back on the calendar this season. In its current layout the Greek Rally is no longer the formidable challenge it was in the past. It still has the toughest car breaking sections of the whole season, and any driver who plays a percentage game has little hope of winning it.
“There’s absolutely no reason why we should change our approach,” insists Sébastien Loeb who has just scored his sixty-fifth win in Argentina. “We’ve got a small lead in the championship. But thirteen points isn’t much of a cushion. In Greece, like everywhere else, we’re going to push hard right from the start as each second counts.”
Since the beginning of the season four of the six rallies have ended with under twelve seconds between first and second: “Even if we’ve scored five consecutive victories on gravel, the gaps are very small. You have to go pedal to the metal from the green light!”
The Acropolis is now more of a typical sprint event than in the past, but it’s still THE car breaking event of the season: “The roads are very tough on both the cars and drivers. The heat also adds to the trying conditions. In certain portions, you have to avoid stones to spare the car and tyres. Sometimes you’re thrown around in the cockpit like a ping-pong ball!”
“You have to be very intelligent,” adds his team-mate Sébastien Ogier, who is currently lying third in the drivers’ classification. “The cars, the tyres and the crews all suffer in Greece. You have to watch out for the mechanical components even if the DS3 WRC has been reliable and robust since the start of the season. Each rally is a new test.”
In 2009, on his only outing in Greece, Ogier put on a stunning performance finishing second in a world championship event in only his eighth drive in a WRC car: “It was my first podium at top level. It’s a great memory and I can’t wait to be back. We’re more motivated than ever to get out there and win and forget what happened at the end of Rally Argentina.”
The Acropolis Rally will kick off on Thursday 16th June with a starting ceremony at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens. The race proper will get under way on Friday morning. The route consists of eighteen stages on either side of the Corinth canal including a night one on Saturday evening. The Power Stage, shown live on TV, will be broadcast on Sunday 19th June at 14h11 (GMT +3).
Three questions to Olivier Quesnel
Greece will mark the halfway stage of the season. How would you sum up the rallies so far?
“Overall, it’s been very positive. Since the start of the year, we’ve raced in six rallies and five have ended in a Citroën victory! The work done by the whole team from the first drawings of the Citroën DS3 WRC up till today have borne fruit. Loeb has opened up a small gap in the drivers’ classification, and Citroën leads the manufacturers’ championship. It would be difficult to ask for more.”
The work done by the whole team from the first drawings of the Citroën DS3 WRC up till today have borne fruit.
Have Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier fulfilled the hopes you’ve placed in them ?
“Loeb is Loeb. He never gives anything away, as the most recent rallies have proved. He is as motivated as ever and is still the world champion. Little by little he’s opened up a small lead in the drivers’ classification and there are still three asphalt rallies to run. Sébastien Ogier had a difficult end to Rally Argentina but that mustn’t overshadow what he achieved beforehand. During the Argentinean event he pushed his rivals into making mistakes, and took first place even though he didn’t know the stages on the second day. Despite his incident he bagged the points for third place. His victories in Portugal and in Jordan, where he led from start to finish, amply prove that he deserves all our confidence and our backing.”
In the past few years, Citroën hasn’t been all that successful in Greece. Is it a special challenge for the team ?
“It’s sure that the Acropolis isn’t an event in which Citroën has scored that many wins, but it’s not an impenetrable bastion! We won in 2005 and 2008 with Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, and we have the same ambitions this year. Loeb, obviously, but also Ogier, who finished second on his only outing in 2009, are both serious victory contenders. We’re sure they have what it takes to win with the Citroën DS3 WRC! Our testing to prepare for this very specific event went off well, so it’s looking pretty good overall.”