Citroen ready for the 'off' on the road to Monte Carlo A year after making its competition debut with a resounding one-two finish on the 2007 Monte Carlo Rally, the Citroen C4 WRC is poised to tackle the World Rally Championship's...
Citroen ready for the 'off' on the road to Monte Carlo
A year after making its competition debut with a resounding one-two finish on the 2007 Monte Carlo Rally, the Citroen C4 WRC is poised to tackle the World Rally Championship's longest-standing event for the second time. For the first round of the 2008 season, Citroen Sport has entered two cars for four-time World Champions Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and their Spanish team-mates Dani Sordo/Marc Marti.
In the course of its long history, the Monte Carlo Rally has emerged as the world's most famous rally. Last year's event saw the return of legendary stages like Saint Jean en Royans, Burzet and Saint Bonnet le Froid, and this year's menu features the comeback of yet another classic: the Col du Turini. Should snow make an appearance, the setting will be ideal!
"I'm obviously dreaming of a white Monte Carlo, with real wintry conditions," says Sebastien Loeb. "The route focuses on three different regions, so the stages will be very varied. Thursday evening's tests are wide, fast and smooth. Those in the Ardèche are more technical, narrower and occasionally bumpy. Last year, the conditions were particularly dry but it should be fun if we get snow and ice this time round! I am delighted to see that the Col du Turini and some other classic stages in the southeast corner of France are back. That said, the challenge of having to contest the final day's four stages with the same tyres could well turn out to be quite delicate."
The stage conditions encountered on the Monte Carlo Rally have always been one of this fixture's main difficulties. The asphalt tests take place to a mountainous backdrop, with numerous high mountain passes to cross, and competitors constantly switch from shade to roads that are more exposed to sunshine. In the course of a single stage, it is consequently by no means rare to come across portions of clear asphalt and other parts that are covered in ice and/or snow, so tyres frequently play a decisive role.
"We will have the choice between three types of tyre," explains Citroen Sport's Technical Manager Xavier Mestelan-Pinon. "If the conditions are dry, the only option we will have will be the soft compound dry weather tyre. If it snows, our crews will be able to choose between studded and non-studded snow tyres, depending on the temperature and how much snow they expect to find. The Monte Carlo Rally promises to be a particularly tough rally because, like the other teams, we have no real hindsight following the work we have put in with our cars running on Pirelli tyres. As far as the evolutions to the C4 WRC are concerned, we will have a new engine the 'EW' for the Monte Carlo Rally, as well as some aerodynamic evolutions at the front."
"We will take a measured approach to the start of our 2008 WRC campaign," points out Citroen Sport's new director, Olivier Quesnel. "The switch to a single tyre manufacturer will be the principal change for the first round of the championship and, as always in such cases, we will need time to adapt. We have done as much work as we can to amass as much data as possible concerning the tyres we will have for the Monte Carlo Rally but we are aware that we still have a great deal to learn. The Monte Carlo Rally has always been a challenging event, not only because of its stages but also because it is the first round of the season. It will be especially difficult this year because of the tyre factor with which we will have to come to terms on the event itself. The competition promises to be extremely fierce, too, but I have every confidence in our technical staff who have worked hard to make the Citroen C4 WRC even more competitive. I also believe that Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti form a very strong line-up and I know they will be looking to start the year with a repeat of their exploit of last year. Our objective for 2008 is to win both the Manufacturers' and Drivers' world titles, so a top result would obviously be a first class omen."
"As is often the case at the start of a new season, there are a lot of unknown factors," explains Sebastien. "We will need to find the best match between the tyres we have and the stage conditions, but our aim is to try to win and get the year off to a positive start." Should Seb and Daniel succeed in adding a fifth Monte Carlo victory to their record, they will become the most successful crew in the winter classic's history. "I'm very much looking forward to the start of the Monte Carlo Rally, although we will probably need time to adapt to our new tyres," echoes Dani. "We have prepared thoroughly for this event but nothing can replace actually being on the rally. The Monte's stages are fantastic but we will need to stay focused from start to finish if we want to achieve our objective which is a top-three finish with a view to scoring as many points as possible for Citroen."
Event notes: the 2008 Monte Carlo Rally
The 76th Monte Carlo Rally (January 24-27): round 1 of 15
Surface type: dry or wet asphalt, ice, snow
Where: Valence, the Ardèche mountains, Monaco, the southeast French Alps Service Park in Valence from Thursday to Saturday.
Technical matters: the engines and chassis of the C4s are sealed and will also be used in Sweden. The engine will also go on to compete in Mexico. Two gearbox/differential packages are authorised per driver. Five sets of dampers and five hub carriers are authorised per event.
Tyres: tyres a draw will decide the allocation of tyres to teams by the FIA. For the Monte Carlo Rally, three types of tyre will be available: soft compound asphalt tyres, studded tyres on 18-inch rims and non-studded snow tyres on 18-inch rims. The number of tyres that can be used during shakedown is limited. It is mandatory to fit fresh tyres at the start of each group of stages. It is possible to carry two spares.
New: this year's rally takes place a week later than it did in 2007. The Ardèche stages have been modified. The portion between Col de la Fayolle (SS3/6) and Antraigues will be run as a road section. The finish of St Bonnet (SS10/13) has been slightly modified and SS11/14 now runs from Lamastre to Alboussière. The major difference compared with 2007 is the return of stages in the mountains near Nice.