The Citroen Junior Team heads Down Under After a month-long summer break, the Citroen Junior Team returns to action on Rally Australia, round 10 of the 12-round 2009 FIA World Rally Championship. Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia and Conrad ...
The Citroen Junior Team heads Down Under
After a month-long summer break, the Citroen Junior Team returns to action on Rally Australia, round 10 of the 12-round 2009 FIA World Rally Championship. Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia and Conrad Rautenbach / Daniel Barritt will drive the two Citroen C4 WRC entries on this brand- new event based at Kingscliff in New South Wales.
After 19 years in Perth, to the west of the country, Rally Australia now moves to New South Wales for the 2009 event. This 3600-kilometre move gives an opportunity to all the World Rally Championship crews to branch out into new and unknown territory.
Located in the north east of New South Wales, the town of Kingscliff is in a national park only a 100 kilometres or so away from Brisbane. The acclaimed Gondwana forest, which forms part of the route on the final day, has been a Unesco world heritage site since 1986 and is subject to more than 1100 millimetres of rainfall per month. The organising committee has worked hard with local authorities to reduce the environmental impact of the rally and to highlight the extraordinary ecosystem that characterises the area.
Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia and Conrad Rautenbach / Daniel Barritt have been nominated to score manufacturer points for the Citroen Junior Team in their C4 WRCs.
Sebastien Ogier is currently eighth in his first season at the top level of the FIA World Rally Championship, thanks to a series of remarkable performances that have amply underlined his potential. After finishing second in Greece and just missing out on a podium in Poland, the Frenchman also set a fastest time on the legendary stages of Rally Finland. He said: " Myself, Julien and the rest of the team are now reaping the rewards of all the hard work we have put in since the start of the season. I'm feeling more and more comfortable with the C4 WRC and I can't wait to get back into it for my first Rally Australia. " As this event is brand new for all the crews, Sebastien Ogier will start the rally on a level playing field with everybody else. " For once we do not begin with a lack of experience compared to the other drivers " he added. " It's just an event like any other for us. And the main objective is also the same as we have on all the other rallies: we need to be there at the finish. "
Just like the other drivers, Zimbabwe's Conrad Rautenbach is expecting some radically different new territory. " We really don't know what will be waiting for us as we head off to the recce " he said. " We've never rallied in this part of Australia before and it seems that the conditions will be very different from how they were in Perth. On the east coast, the stages are likely to be wider and quicker, a bit like they are in New Zealand or Finland. It's the sort of thing that I think I will like. There are several stages and the long final day could be tricky. I can't wait to get there now because Australia is a place I absolutely love! "
So did you manage to fit in some holidays during August?
" Not exactly! I was able to escape the rally world for just a few days, but of course I was sticking to my usual exercise regime. I also went on a high-altitude physical training course run by Xavier Feuillet, who looks after several drivers. I originally met him through the FFSA Rallye Jeunes programme. We went to Font-Romeu in the Pyrenees in order to work through a specific routine. The different elements to the course helped me to improve my reflexes and power. But for my proper holidays, I will stay on in Australia after the rally. "
It's an all-new Rally Australia this year. Is it an advantage for you to take part in a rally that everyone is learning for the first time?
" You cannot really say that it is an advantage. However, it means that we will not have less experience of the route than the other drivers, which is normally the case, so at least we do not start at a disadvantage. Everything will be new to us from start to finish, so this will be pretty much the same situation that we have faced all year. But for the team it will be a little bit different, as they will not have all the information needed for the car set-up. It will be more important than ever for us to do a good job during the recce. As far as we know the stages will be fast and flowing, with a few more twisty sections as well. "
Do some of your recent performances mean that you can target a good result?
" Both myself and my co-driver Julien Ingrassia are feeling more and more confident with the Citroen C4 WRC. But equally we know that we can take nothing for granted and that it is very important for us to keep on working hard. Since the middle of the season, we've definitely been going down the right road. Despite a few mistakes, we've learnt a lot from our first few events and this experience is beginning to pay off now. I'm getting increasingly used to the speed of a WRC machine and the hard work from the team has allowed us to get some good results. In Australia, our priority once more is to be there at the end. In the normal course of events I think we could aim for top-eight finish; maybe higher depending on how things go. Then we will have to see what the strategy from the team is. I've got complete confidence in the Citroen Junior Team and I cannot wait to get back behind the wheel of my C4 WRC! "