Citroen C2 aims for its third victory Organised within the framework of the Junior World Rally Championship, the C2 Junior Experience will embark on its third round of the season at the Rally d'Italia- Sardegna, round six of the World Rally ...
Citroen C2 aims for its third victory
Organised within the framework of the Junior World Rally Championship, the C2 Junior Experience will embark on its third round of the season at the Rally d'Italia- Sardegna, round six of the World Rally Championship. Six Citroen crews have entered in two of three types of C2 available : the Super 1600 and the new C2-R2 MAX. The Rally d'Italia-Sardegna has been a constant feature of the Junior World Rally Championship since 2004, when it replaced Sanremo, and it is now running for the fifth time on the JWRC series. Since its World Championship debut the route has constantly evolved, with the organisers gradually replacing the roughest sections. This year is no exception, and there will be about 50 kilometres of new stages.
Just over 344 competitive kilometres are on the menu, concentrated on gravel roads in the island's interior. In fact, 16 of the 17 special stages run to the south of Olbia with only `Lisia Ruja' (SS17 2.69 km) running to the north of the host town on the coast. This stage is run on very rough gravel roads, and is deeply respected by all the drivers.
Samuel Barraud, who works in the technical department of Citroen Sport's customer division, explains : "While the actual roads on the last round in Jordan was not too tough on the machinery, the temperatures we experienced were a very tough test for both the cars and the drivers. Sardinia is a somewhat different prospect. It will certainly not be as hot, but the cars will suffer more because of the rocks hidden in the road surface, the ruts left by the WRC cars, and a number of jumps. In order to cope with these challenges as best as possible, we have formulated specific set-ups, as we do on every round of the C2 Junior Experience, to suit every type of car that is competing."
The two opening rounds of the Junior Championship delivered the same result. In Mexico and Jordan, a Citroen C2 Super 1600 claimed the spoils. Nonetheless, the two events were very different. In South America, the car took the lead at the end of the first stage and never lost it until the final podium. Near the Dead Sea, in the Jordan Valley, the same C2 won after fighting its way back up the field. These wins from Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (who are backed by the French Motorsport Federation, the Equipe de France FFSA, but are not participating in the C2 Junior Experience) can only serve to inspire the other competitors...
All the Citroen crews who decided to compete in the JWRC are present. Martin Prokop was absent in Jordan but is now returning. He was third in Olbia in 2007, and has the speed and experience needed to triumph. He will need to defeat another returning driver, Aaron Burkart, who is eager to get back behind the wheel of his C2 Super 1600. Shaun Gallagher was an excellent third in Amman and will be banking on consistency in order to score another podium. The last of the Super 1600s is Sebastien Ogier, who comes to Sardinia leading the championship and can so afford to play a tactical game.
Driving his superbly-liveried C2-R2 MAX, Hans Weijs will start his second World Championship rally in a Citroen. Weijs's mission is to challenge the competitors in the class above and consolidate his promising performance in the Middle East. Finally, Francesco Fanari has a new team at his disposal and a brand-new C2-R2 MAX with which he hopes to challenge Weijs.
Jean-Francois Lienere, in charge of Citroen Sport's customer competition programme, concludes: "Sardinia has always been an interesting test for drivers and cars. The C2 Junior Experience competitors will need a delicate touch with their cars and tyres if they want a good result."
Quotes...before the Sardinia Rally
Sebastien Ogier (F) Julien Ingrassia (F) (Citroen C2 Super 1600)
"This will be my first rally in Sardinia. I've got no real benchmark, and the few bits of information I have is just stuff I have read or been told about. But I'm heading into the event with a positive frame of mind. The stages will be quite slow and tough on the cars. It will be a question of looking after the car as well as the tyres in order to avoid punctures. At the start of the rally, our pace is sure to be quite careful. Our successes in Mexico and Jordan have put us in a strong position, so we don't need to win. In Italy, my aim is just to get to the finish in order to keep scoring points."
Shaun Gallagher (IRL) Michael Morrissey (IRL) (Citroen C2 Super 1600)
"I was very happy with the second place we achieved in Jordan. We were lucky to get there, as our gearbox was beginning to have problems towards the end of the rally. I'm competing in Sardinia for the second time, having also driven there last year with the C2-R2. In a Super 1600, it will be a completely different event. The terrain is very difficult, with several rocks by the side of the road and sometimes in the middle of it as well. After Jordan, I think I'm going to be suffering from the heat again as well. I'd be absolutely delighted with another podium finish."
Aaron Burkart (D) Michael Koelbach (D) (Citroen C2 Super 1600)
"After quite a long break, I'm delighted to get back into competition. In order not to lose our rhythm, we've competed on a rally in Austria and also done some testing. Now, the real action starts ! It seems to me that this year's route is quicker than last year's, which is good for me. I was fifth in 2006 and fourth last year, so this year I hope to improve again with a podium place. All the key players for the title will be there, so it's important for me to score points before the asphalt rallies, which I'm really looking forward to."
Martin Prokop (CZ) Jan Tomanek (CZ) (Citroen C2 Super 1600)
Jan Tomanek : "Since Mexico we've been quite busy, as we competed on the Rally Argentina and then had a test session in order to prepare for Sardinia. Most of the work has concentrated on suspension set-up, which is tested to the utmost in Italy. It's our fourth participation in this rally, and the third one at the wheel of a Citroen C2 Super 1600. I particularly enjoy this rally ; the stages are very varied with a number of challenges. Last year we were on the podium and this year our goal is to try and win. This is essential to make up for our mistake in Mexico and challenge for the title."
Francisco Fanari (I) Massimilano Bosi (I) (Citroen C2-R2)
"I don't have very good memories of the Jordan Rally. We had a few problems and unfortunately the team was not quite up to it, so at the end of the rally we decided to change. So I'm going to be in Sardinia with a brand new car. I hope to be able to challenge Hans Weijs with it. This is my home event, so I would like a good result. I learnt a lot from my participation there in 2007, where I finished 24th. From what I could see of it last year, the route should suit our C2-R2 MAX very well."
Hans Weijs (NL) Hans Van Goor (NL) (Citroen C2-R2 MAX)
"We can draw a mixed conclusion from our first rally behind the wheel of the C2-R2 MAX in Jordan. I had an excellent feeling with the car and I thought that it was very competitive. But we also had the misfortune of retiring on the very last stage of the rally. The tyres that we had at our disposal were not at all adapted to this type of terrain. This will be very different in Sardinia. It's my second time on this rally, where we were 27th last year. I like this very difficult type of terrain. Our objective will be to be as close as possible to the C2 Super 1600s. I hope to have a good battle with Francesco Fanari in the other `MAX' and I also hope to be on terms with the Juniors in more powerful cars, in order to get as high up the order as possible."