Citroen drivers eager to get back to business The C2 Junior Experience, which forms part of the 2008 Junior World Rally Championship, gets underway again in Finland after a 10-week break. Rally Finland, the fourth appointment of the Junior...
Citroen drivers eager to get back to business
The C2 Junior Experience, which forms part of the 2008 Junior World Rally Championship, gets underway again in Finland after a 10-week break. Rally Finland, the fourth appointment of the Junior season, is the final gravel round of the year for the Junior drivers. Five Citroen drivers will take the start, at the wheel of the C2 Super 1600 and the C2-R2 MAX. Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia will drive a C2-R2 MAX on the event with the support of Citroen Sport in order to learn the stages, but they are not counting this as one of their nominated Junior rounds.
Finland is the quickest rally of the World Championship; coming before the final three asphalt rallies of the season in Germany, Catalunya and Corsica. The Rally Finland, which is notoriously specialised, will present a tough task to all the drivers this year: whether they have previous experience of the event or not. Of the 342.08 competitive kilometres that are on the programme, 13 of the 24 stages are either new or somehow modified compared to previous years. However, the area in which the rally is run has not changed at all. The compacted gravel stages still run around the many lakes in the Jyvaskyla region, giving the rally its nickname of the "1000 Lakes.".
"After the varying degrees of rough gravel encountered in Jordan and Sardinia, the drivers will have to deal with a quite different type of surface," commented Alexis Avril, who is in charge of engineering at Citroen Sport's customer division. "The route is mechanically gentler on the cars, but it is a huge challenge for the drivers. The roads are extremely demanding, and some previous knowledge of the terrain definitely helps. Jumps and blind corners are the most notable characteristics of the terrain, and these make life far from easy for all the drivers."
In their C2 Super 1600s, Aaron Burkart, Shaun Gallagher and Martin Prokop will be pushing to the maximum in order to try and take advantage of the fact that the championship leader, Sebastien Ogier, has not chosen Finland as a scoring round in his campaign this year. With four participations already under his belt, Martin Prokop will start as the most experienced driver of the field. The Czech driver had the misfortune to retire from the lead on the final leg of the Sardinia Rally, the previous round of the Junior World Championship, and he is now hoping for a maximum points score in Finland. Shaun Gallagher has been doing an excellent job since the start of the season thanks to his metronomic consistency. The Irishman is third in the championship after three rounds and aims to keep up his record in Finland, where he was 11th last year. Following his third place in Sardinia, Aaron Burkart will once more try to finish on the podium, in order to stay in the top five of the championship.
In the Citroen C2-R2 MAX, Hans Weijs and Francesco Fanari are discovering this classic event for the very first time. Their aim will simply be to steer clear of the bad luck that has dogged them since the start of this year's championship. Finally, Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia will be aiming to make use of their Finnish experience driving a C2-R2 MAX backed by BFGoodrich and Total in order to learn all about this very specialised event.
Jean-Francois Lienere, who is in charge of Citroen Sport's customer division, commented: "At the halfway point of the season, we are reasonably pleased with the results we have obtained since the start of the year. The drivers need to continue to make progress, and above all they should concentrate on maintaining or improving their championship positions. In the absence of Sebastien Ogier, for championship purposes, Shaun Gallagher, Aaron Burkart and Martin Prokop have the chance of getting a good result, so they should concentrate on making the most of this opportunity to score championship points. As for Hans Weijs and Francesco Fanari, they need to continue their development at the wheel of the new Citroen C2-R2MAX."
Quotes before Rally Finland
Aaron Burkart (D) Michael Koelbach (D) (Citroen C2 Super 1600)
"This is a really special event where you need to concentrate on pace notes even more than on the other rallies. Above all, the important thing is not to go off. All the blind corners and jumps are not going to help, so it's mostly a question of being careful. In order to prepare for this event, I've competed on two national rallies in Finland. I think I've found a good set-up for the rally now, which should the particular characteristics of the stages. I contested Rally Finland last year, but I wasn't happy with the result. So I hope to end up higher in the classification this time, and I would like to set some decent stage times as well. At this point in the season, it's vital to score some championship points."
Francesco Fanari (I) Fabio Andrian (I) (Citroen C2-R2 MAX)
"This is the rally of the year! Of course it's the quickest one of the whole championship, but it's also the one that everyone dreams about driving in. It's obviously a very difficult event and all the more so if you are competing on it for the first time, so I'm looking forward to getting to know it and I am going to try to go as quickly as possible. Along with my team, I've carried out two test sessions on asphalt and two on gravel, where everything has gone well so far. I'm building up more confidence with the car now, and the team is very good as well. Now that we're at the halfway point of the year, I've got mixed feelings really. I'm pleased with our classification in the rookie championship, but I need to set better stage times. Nonetheless, I'm feeling optimistic about the second half of the year."
Shaun Gallagher (EI) Paul Kiely (EI) (Citroen C2 Super 1600)
"I've got good memories from my participation on this event last year, and I'm feeling quite confident heading into the final gravel rally of the year. After the good results we obtained at the start of the year, I hope to continue on the same track and I hope to finish in the top three by the end of the rally. I'm also looking forward to the rallies that are still to come, because I probably feel a little more confident on asphalt. Nonetheless, I believe that Sebastien Ogier will be a formidable opponent on asphalt as well. In any case, I'm going to do everything I can in order to hang onto my position in the Junior Championship."
Sebastien Ogier (F) Julien Ingrassia (F) (Citroen C2-R2 MAX)
"For me Finland is the best but the most difficult rally of the year. I really wanted to do it, and I'm very pleased to get this chance in the Citroen C2-R2 MAX. It's a great opportunity for me to get to know a bit about this mythical event and enjoy myself at the wheel of the Citroen C2-R2 MAX. This drive was made possible for me thanks to the support of Citroen, Total and BFGoodrich, so I will be very proud to carry their colours on this event which for me marks a departure from my usual championship programme."
Martin Prokop (CZ) Jan Tomanek (CZ) (Citroen C2 Super 1600)
"I love the Rally Finland. Even though this is my fourth participation, I start just as motivated if not more so than ever. After some disappointing results at the start of the year, Finland will be a new challenge for us. Before this event I was invited to compete on the Voru Rally in Estonia by Urmo Aava and his co-driver Kuldar Sikk. I think it was good preparation, as the conditions were quite similar to Finland. I can't afford to make any mistakes at this point in the season, so I'm hoping for a new start here and some slightly better luck in future."
Hans Weijs (NL) Hans Van Goor (NL) (Citroen C2-R2 MAX)
"This will be my first time in Finland, and I know very well that it is going to be far from easy. Just like Jordan, the rally covers some quite specialised terrain. On top of that, there are several crests and blind corners. I hope to do my best in the R2 class. I'm very pleased to see that Sebastien Ogier will be competing in a C2-R2 MAX, as he will certainly be a good reference point for me throughout the rally. My goal is to lose as little time as possible whilst learning the stages and improving my general feeling with the C2-R2 MAX."