The C2 Junior Experience gets underway
The Rally Norway marks the start of the 2007 FIA Junior Rally Championship, and consequently that of the C2 Junior Experience. Of the eight drivers who have signed up so far, only two Aaron Burkart and Shaun Gallagher will compete in Norway.
Aaron Burkart (C2 Super 1600 Team Prinz Rallye Technik) and Shaun Gallagher (C2-R2 World Rally Team Ireland) will therefore be the only C2 Experience drivers to take part in the inaugural Rally Norway, which will not feature a huge Junior presence.
"Norway is the only snow rally on the calendar," explains Yves Matton, Citroen Sport's Customer Competition Manager. "So you need a certain amount of experience in order to tackle this event. Thanks to his recent participation in the Arctic Rally, Burkart should feel comfortable in Norway from the start, and consequently he can target a very good result. As for Gallagher, he is embarking on his first event with the C2-R2 on snow. So it's realistic for him to need a bit of time to settle in. His goal is to finish and score some precious points, in the absence of several drivers who have decided to start their championship campaigns in Portugal."
As well as the fact that it remains solely on European territory this year, the other novelty in the 2007 Junior Championship is that drivers have to choose 6 out of 7 events on which to score points (Norway, Portugal, Italy, Finland, Germany, Catalunya and Corsica) as opposed to the 9 possible options that were in place last year.
More than a third of this year's field is made up of Citroën drivers, in both the C2 Super 1600 (Conrad Rautenbach, Martin Prokop and Aaron Burkart) and the C2-R2 (Stefano Benoni, Shaun Gallagher, Gilles Schammel and Raphael Auquier). This enthusiastic take-up is a source of real satisfaction for Yves Matton. "With 8 registered cars, including the PH. Sport one, we make up nearly 40% of the junior field which is a great success story for us. It just goes to show the fantastic interest there has been in the C2 Junior Experience from young drivers around the world."
The Citroën C2 Super 1600 requires a certain amount of experience to drive effectively, which the four drivers at the wheel of this car have accumulated from their previous campaigns on the FIA Junior Championship. The C2-R2 by contrast allows less experienced but equally talented drivers to make their mark at this level. The "C2 Junior Experience" is perfectly integrated into the overall Junior competition, with no separate classification. The impressive prizes that are awarded to the drivers at every rally will be given according to their overall positions on each of the rounds that they have selected. If at the end of the year a Citroën driver taking part in the "C2 Junior Experience" wins the Junior title, then he can claim a truly fantastic prize : two rounds of the 2008 World Championship in a Citroën WRC. The runner-up will be given one round of the World Championship with the car, while the third-placed finisher will get to test it.
Furthermore, one free World Championship rally will be given to the best-placed driver who has competed in the "C2 Junior Experience" with a C2-R2. Yves Matton says: "At the end of the 2007 FIA Junior Championship, we will give the highest placed Citroën C2-R2 driver a free drive on the final rally of the year in an identical car. We have been able to broaden the scope of the initial prize with the help of Bernard Piallat from the PH Sport team, but also thanks to the support of our loyal partners, Total and BFGoodrich".
Quotes before the Rally of Norway:
Aaron Burkart (Citroën C2 Super 1600)
Born 20/09/82 Single Lives in Berlin (Germany)
"The C2 Junior Experience is an excellent initiative from Citroen Sport. This year, I want to consolidate the progress I made last year, and my aim is to finish in the top five of the championship. I hope to score points as often as possible, so it's down to me now to steer clear of mistakes..."
Shaun Gallagher (Citroën C2-R2)
Born 07/06/80 Single Letterkenny, County Donegal (Ireland)
"I don't have a lot of World Rally Championship experience. I've only done the Swedish Rally (2004) and the Wales Rally GB (2003 and 2005). It's an excellent opportunity for me to drive the Citroën C2-R2 this year. I think the C2 Junior Experience is ideal for young drivers who want to get to grips with the World Championship with cars that are already very competitive."
The 2007 Rally Norway Juniors in brief...
* This is the 22nd edition of this event which, until 2006, was known as the KNA Rally Finnskog Norway and featured as a qualifying round of the European Championship. This year's Rally Norway counts towards the World Rally Championship for the first time.
* All the rally's key facilities (service park, parc ferme, media room, HQ, etc.) are located in Hamar (population: 28, 000), the Hedmark region's biggest town. Located on the shores of Norway's biggest lake, Lake Mjøsa (362 sq. km), Hamar is situated 127km north of the capital, Oslo, and 60km south- east of Lillehammer which hosted the 1994 Winter Olympics. The start ceremony (20.00, Thursday February 15) and the finish podium (from 15.00, Sunday February 18) will both take place in Stortorget, in the centre of Hamar.
* The total length of this year's event is 1,109.57km, including 355.99km divided into 18 stages (13 different ).
* The time in Norway is GMT +1, the same as Western Europe. The local currency is the Norwegian Crown (NOK). NOK10 1.22.
* Recce is scheduled for Tuesday February 13 and Wednesday February 14. Two passes are authorised over each stage.
* The 3.71km shakedown stage (Thursday February 15, between 12.30 and 15.00) is located near the village of Nydal, 9km north of the service park.