On Dani Sordo's home gravel and asphalt! Three weeks after Rally France in which Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and the CitroÃªn Total Rally team clinched the world titles,* the FIA World Rally Championship heads for Catalonia. Rally Spain, ...
On Dani Sordo's home gravel and asphalt!
Three weeks after Rally France in which Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and the Citroên Total Rally team clinched the world titles,* the FIA World Rally Championship heads for Catalonia. Rally Spain, traditionally run on asphalt, has innovated this year with drivers tackling gravel roads on the first day. Dani Sordo and Diego Vallejo are determined to shine in front of their home crowd.
Hardly had the Citroen Total Rally Team recovered from the joys of Rally France when it had to get down to preparing for the second-last round of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship. The team will run its C4s in asphalt setup for the last time, and even though it is no longer under pressure, its determination to win is as strong as ever. But the crowd will have to wait till Saturday morning to see the Citroêns skim the asphalt on their 18-inch Pirelli PZero tyres. The first leg of Rally Spain will be run in gravel setup. This mixed route will be a big challenge for the crews, and also for the mechanics who will have to make several changes to the cars in a 75-minute period in the service park on Friday evening.
Of course, gravel is synonymous with sweeping and Sebastien Loeb and Daneil Elena, who will be first out on the road, will probably lose a fair few seconds because of this phenomenon. "If the weather's dry I think we'll lose a lot of time by sweeping off the layer of dust on the hard surface," warns Loeb. "In my opinion, Dani Sordo is ideally placed as being fifth out he'll have a clean road in front of him. He can finish the day with a twenty or thirty- second lead. To close such a gap to Dani on asphalt, you have to drive bloody quickly!
"I'll be tackling this rally like any other, and it's not because I've won the title that I'll arrive with my hands in my pockets," the seven-time world champion continues. `I don't like losing and I'll also drive for the fun of it. We'll see how things are shaping up after the first few stages. But it's obvious that I'm not going to take unnecessary risks."
If Loeb is betting on Dani Sordo, the latter is keeping a cool head: "Above all I'm delighted to compete in a rally in front of my home crowd. The French spectators set us a very high target three weeks ago. The Spaniards have to take up the challenge, and be even more numerous on the side of the roads in Catalonia.
"With the first leg on gravel and the next two on asphalt, it'll be a very interesting rally and the same goes for the Friday night service park," underlines the Spaniard. "I'm hoping for a lot from this event and people are hoping for a lot from me! I'm under a little pressure but it's positive, and frankly I feel more relaxed than in France where I had to score points to help Citroên win the manufacturers' title. The desire to score my first victory is as strong as ever but it's far from in the bag."
* Subject to the publication of the official results by the FIA.
Three questions to Sebastien Loeb
When one looks at the incredible media frenzy after you won your seventh title, have you had any time for yourself since the end of Rally France?
"Well, we found time to celebrate with my friends and the whole team! I was back testing on Tuesday morning. I spent two days in Portugal at the wheel of the DS3 WRC. Then I continued with a weekend in Paris. I was deeply touched by the welcome I received at the Paris Motorshow. I also gave the kick-off to the football match between France and Rumania, and it was pretty neat to show off the C4 WRC to the spectators in the Stade de France. When I got back to the house I had the luxury of a few days' rest with Severine and Valentine."
Your dream of winning a seventh title is now reality. Does it feel special?
"I received many messages of congratulations including one from President Nicolas Sarkozy. I really appreciate the fact that he followed what was happening and he took the time to give me a call. At the time I felt that the seventh title and sixtieth victory had a major impact. Much more than if we had won the title in Japan in any case. I don't know, though, what will be the long-term effect."
Rally Spain will be the C4 WRC's last outing on asphalt. Will you feel any different behind the wheel?
"It's true that the C4 WRC is particularly well suited to asphalt and with a lot of hard work we've made it very quick. I'll try and take advantage of it but I'm ready to turn the page. We'll work hard to make the new DS3 WRC as fast. I can assure you that this new challenge motivates me 110%!"