Full house for the C2 Junior Experience !
The C2 Junior Experience breaks new ground at the third round of the FIA Junior Rally Championship in Sardinia. To mark the occasion, there will be a full house of Citroens competing on the event, with three C2 Super 1600s and five C2-R2s.
Throughout the 348 competitive kilometres, the C2 Junior Experience drivers will discover (or in some cases, re-discover) the unique countryside of Sardinia. The island event replaced Sanremo as Italy's round of the World Rally Championship four years ago, and the route takes in some spectacular scenery before the finish at Porto Cervo a well-established haunt of the international jet set. Sardinia is the second gravel round of the Junior Championship to be held this year. "The rally shouldn't be as rough as Portugal, but its specific characteristics mean that punctures are always a risk," explains Yves Matton, Citroen Sport's customer competitions manager. "Some of our drivers are already used to this type of terrain: the key to finishing this rally and doing well will definitely be to avoid punctures."
The Citroen C2-R2 drivers will welcome a new colleague into their midst in Sardinia, Bryan Bouffier. Having excelled in several of the junior rally formulae over the last eight years, the Frenchman will make his debut in the FIA Junior Championship with the PH- Sport team. Yves Matton added: "We're very pleased that Bryan is joining us in the C2 Junior Experience with a Citroen C2-R2. He's a driver with a bit of experience now, as he has been a Peugeot factory driver four times. Sardinia will be his first World Championship rally, but he has plenty of gravel experience that will help him on this event. With that knowledge of both asphalt and gravel behind him, I think Bryan could be on for a very good performance. Once more, the C2 Junior Experience is accomplishing its main goal of taking young drivers into the World Championship. That's a source of great satisfaction to all of us here at Citroen Sport."
Sardinia will be a step into the unknown for Bryan Bouffier and also Raphael Auquier, who was second in the R2 category in Portugal. Stefano Benoni and Gilles Schammel are competing on this rally for the second time, with their firm aim being to reach the finish in Porto Cervo. Shaun Gallagher is also competing in Sardinia for the second time: he is naturally keen to maintain his lead of the R2 category and to continue his progress in the Junior Championship.
"We're hoping for some good results in Sardinia" continued Yves Matton. "From Portugal, all of our young drivers have shown how keen and hungry they are to win. We know that they are all able to score points in the overall junior classification, like Shaun Gallagher did with his C2-R2. As for the drivers who will be using the C2 Super 1600, we would like to see them fighting for the class lead at the finish". Conrad Rautenbach, Aaron Burkart and Martin Prokop, in the C2 Super 1600, know this rally well as they have all done it more than once. Rautenbach is the most experienced of them, having taken part in every one of Sardinia's World Championship rallies with a best result of second last year. Yet with 52% of the route being brand new for this year, the race for the podium will be anything but straightforward.
Quotes ... before the Sardinia Rally
Raphael Auquier (B) Cedric Pirotte (B) (Citroen C2-R2)
"It looks like consistency is going to be the most important thing on this rally, and that is something I am good at. I think I am going to approach the event in very much the same way as I approached the Rally Portugal, where I was very happy with second place in the Citroen C2-R2 standings. So my objective in Sardinia will be the same one I had in Portugal: to get to the finish. I will only up the pace a bit where it's possible, in order to see where we are compared to everyone else."
Stefano Benoni (I) Enrico Cantoni (I) (Citroen C2-R2)
"I was disappointed with the start to my season in Portugal and I hope that Sardinia will go better for me. I'm pinning all my hopes on these rallies still to come, starting with Sardinia, as I think me and my co-driver can get a very good result there. Sardinia will be the place for me to put all my misfortunes in Portugal behind me, and to hope that I finish amongst the top R2 drivers in front of the Italian public."
Bryan Bouffier (F) Matthieu Baumel (F) (Citroen C2-R2)
"I am very happy to be taking part in my first World Championship Rally as part of the C2 Junior Experience with a Citroen C2-R2. It's going to be an event where we will all just have to wait and see what happens, but my minimum goal is to get to the finish. Equally, it would be good to finish well up in the R2 category as well as in the Junior Championship. I've got enough experience now on gravel to target a good performance, which is what I am very much hoping for."
Aaron Burkart (D) Michael Kolbach (D) (Citroen C2 Super 1600)
"I would like to be in the first five at the end of this rally, even though I know it will be difficult against the number of top drivers here who are renowned gravel experts. I've already taken part in the Sardinia Rally twice, but this does not give me a big advantage as more than half of the stages have changed now."
Shaun Gallagher (IRL) Clive Jenkins (IRL) (Citroen C2-R2)
"I think that this rally will be just as difficult as Portugal was. I'd like to continue my progress by scoring more points in the overall Junior Championship, but I think that will be difficult in Sardinia as all the C2 Super 1600 drivers will be there as well and that will be a big fight. The goal as always is to get to the finish preferably in one of the top places if possible."
Martin Prokop (CZ) Jan Tomanek (CZ) (Citroen C2 Super 1600)
"I feel sure that myself and my co-driver are fully back on form again after our big accident in Portugal. Now we're ready for the Sardinia Rally and physically in good shape. It's a rally that I know a little bit as I've taken part in it for the last two years. My objective is to score some points in the Junior Championship to get back up the points order, and above all I'd like to have a bit more luck than I did the last two times!"
Conrad Rautenbach (ZW) David Senior (GB) (Citroen C2 Super 1600)
"Sardinia is a rally that I particularly like as the roads are quite similar to those in South Africa: hard and rocky. My second place there last year was especially tough to achieve. The best thing we can hope for this year is obviously to win, but that's not going to be easy with so many strong rivals out there. It's a big challenge for us, but we're well-prepared after winning the Super 1600 class of the first round of the British Championship, and also winning the Rally of Uganda in the African Championship."
Gilles Schammel (LU) Renaud Jamoul (B) (Citroen C2-R2)
"We've been very careful in our preparations for this Sardinia Rally. We've done some testing, and I've also been to a gravel driving school in Estonia where Urmo Aava was one of the instructors. The Sardinia Rally is not entirely unknown to me as I did it last year. I think the conditions suited us, and we had a good result by finishing second of the Fiesta runners. But as this rally is extremely hard on the cars, my main goal is to get to the end with no mechanical problems and above all no punctures. Hopefully we will be able to compare ourselves to our key rivals in Sardinia, which wasn't the case in Portugal."
-credit: citroen C2