Norway blows hot and cold for CitroÃ«n CitroÃ«n Sport's SÃ©bastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc MartÃ completed the first Rally Norway to count towards the World Rally Championship in 14th and 25th places with their respective...
Norway blows hot and cold for Citroën
Citroën Sport's Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Martí completed the first Rally Norway to count towards the World Rally Championship in 14th and 25th places with their respective Citroën C4 WRCs.
Sweden and Norway, which both featured snowy, icy conditions, were the 2007 season's first paired events and the winter's mini-Scandinavian tour concluded with the visit to Norway which was uncharted territory for practically the entire WRC field. Its stages were globally slower and twistier than those encountered just across the border in Sweden and also featured many bumpier portions.
Like almost everyone at Citroën Sport, Guy Fréquelin travelled directly from Karlstad to Hamar without returning to France, and this gave him an opportunity to take a quick look at all the stages early in the week. His conclusion couldn't have been nearer the mark: "With all the blind corners, jumps and technically demanding portions I have just seen, I don't think this is going to be an easy rally," he predicted.
Citroën left Norway with a just one Manufacturers' point to show for its efforts, the team's least good result at this level since its full-time involvement in the WRC. "The snowy Scandinavian rounds often haven't gone well for us," commented Guy Fréquelin at the finish. "Indeed, the last time we scored this sort of result dates back to Sweden 2005. The way this weekend's event unfolded only serves to confirm what I often say: winning requires a big effort, but a tiny detail can cause even the best-laid plans to go wrong.
"The first day was quite positive," he continued, "but Leg 2 proved more complex. SS9 didn't go well for us, with Dani making a mistake and Seb losing time. It was while trying to make up for this lost ground that he was caught out shortly afterwards. Fresh snow and thick fog made the conditions more than just tricky. But that's rallying. That said, the result of these two events is far from negative. True, we had been hoping to come away with more points than we did, but the C4's overall showing on slippery surfaces means we face fewer unknowns as we look ahead to the next rounds. It shouldn't be forgotten either that Seb and Daniel posted the highest number of fastest stage times this weekend. It is important now to build on the potential we saw on those stages that offered more grip. We have also learnt a lot about the car's reliability, with only a hydraulic problem in Sweden to report. That, too, is positive."
The long third leg ( 7km) had little effect on the positions of the two Citroën C4 WRCs as Sébastien and Dani profited from the morning to do a little testing which obtained some interesting results.
"It's been a tough weekend. This wasn't a rally for us," observed Sébastien. "But it wasn't entirely negative because we learnt a great deal about the car which we are discovering bit by bit as we compete on different types of surface. Our times on Friday's hard-packed surface confirmed our strong showing in Sweden and suggest that we shouldn't be too wide of the mark when we move on to gravel. It's now up to us to keep up the hard work especially on the differentials and suspension with a view to bridging the gap that has opened up in the championship standings after these two events."
Equally disappointed with his pickings this weekend, Dani Sordo leaves Scandinavia after learning some important lessons about competing on snow. "It's a surface on which you need lots of experience if you want to be competitive and consistent. I haven't yet perfectly mastered the technique and I'm still too hesitant. That said, we shouldn't come across any more ice until next year and I don't have a problem with that. Now I'm simply looking forward to getting back onto dirt on which I hope to obtain some better results. The C4 was quick here and it also promises to be quick when we move onto the loose in Mexico."