The Citroen Junior Team aims higher
After a month-long summer break, the FIA World Rally Championship heads to Finland for the ninth round of the series from 30 July to 2 August. The Citroen Junior Team will be running three C4 WRCs: for Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia, Evgeny Novikov / Dale Moscatt and Conrad Rautenbach / Daniel Barritt.
By improving both its performance and reliability throughout the second third of the season, the Citroen Junior Team has gone from strength to strength since April. In Argentina, Italy, Greece and Poland, the Citroen Junior Team always managed to place at least one of its C4 WRCs in the points, thanks to Sebastien Ogier, Conrad Rautenbach and Evgeny Novikov. Some fastest times from Ogier and Novikov on the world's toughest stages have also underlined the growing potential of the Citroen Junior Team.
One month after a promising performance in Poland, the Citroen Junior Team now faces a real icon in the world of rallying. Finland is well known as the spiritual home of rallying, producing six World Champions that have claimed 13 of the 30 world titles allocated since 1979. The event's rapid stages and rollercoaster crests make it an unforgettable experience for everyone who goes there.
Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia and Evgeny Novikov / Dale Moscatt have been nominated to score manufacturer points for the Citroen Junior Team. Conrad Rautenbach / Daniel Barritt are entered in a third Citroen C4 WRC. In order to prepare for the quickest rally of the season, the three crews will undertake a three-day test on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to set-up their Citroen C4 WRCs and get to grips with the unique conditions of Finland.
Having first sampled the Finnish stages at the wheel of a C2-R2 MAX, Sebastien Ogier will re-acquaint himself with the rapid gravel roads at the wheel of a C4 WRC: " While I've already been to Finland, everything's going to be a lot quicker this year " he said. " Our test before the start of the rally should help me a lot. Our main objective is to continue building up experience by driving consistently and getting to the finish of each rally without hitting problems. "
After putting in some remarkable performances throughout the season to date, Evgeny Novikov starts his very first Rally Finland with plenty of confidence. " This extremely tricky rally will be a completely new experience for us " he explained. " Our recent performances have been encouraging. I'm beginning to develop a really good feeling with the C4 WRC. Our ambition is to continue the progress we have made by setting some good stage times and getting to the finish without resorting to SupeRally. "
Conrad Rautenbach will start the Rally Finland for the sixth time: his second Finnish event at the wheel of the Citroen C4 WRC. The Zimbabwean finds it impossible to hide his enthusiasm for the rally. " There's nothing that comes close to the feeling you get when you launch a WRC car into the air for 30 or 40 metres " he said. " This is a very technical rally that you have to approach with really good pace notes. My objective is to get to the finish and set some good times along the way. If everything goes well, we should be in a good position to score points. "
Three questions to ... Benoit Nogier, Citroen Junior Team Manager
Have the latest results led to new ambitions for the Citroen Junior Team?
" It's fair to say that the last few rallies have gone well for our entire team. When you have young drivers, you obviously always have to climb a bit of a learning curve with them. The WRC is an extremely difficult category where you have to work extremely hard to have any hope of a good result. Now, all the efforts of our crews and team are beginning to pay off. Our objective is simply to continue our progress by making the most of everything that we have learned up to this point. "
How is the Citroen Junior Team shaping up prior to the start of the Rally Finland?
" For the first time, we have nominated Evgeny Novikov / Dale Moscatt and Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia to score manufacturer points for the Citroen Junior Team. Conrad Rautenbach and Daniel Barritt will drive the third car. We would like all the crews to make their own individual contributions to the season. The end result in the World Rally Championship for manufacturers is the result of hard work from every single one of our crews. So it is only fair that everybody gets the chance to contribute towards it. "
What are the objectives for the team on this particular event?
" Rally Finland is relatively new for us, even though we ran a Citroen C4 WRC there for Conrad Rautenbach last year. Sebastien Ogier has already driven this rally in a C2-R2 MAX, but he is sure to notice a big difference with the C4 WRC. Finland is definitely one of the rallies that requires the most experience to master. The characteristics of the stages are not so different though to the ones found in Poland, where we were not that far off the pace of the top runners. We all know that this is going to be an extremely tricky event, but we remain optimistic. The objective is to get our C4 WRCs regularly into the top five stage times. It would be great to finish in the top five overall as well, but we all know that the local drivers have the habit of causing an upset on their home event. "