Citroen and Loeb targeting a top result at the halfway point The fast and furious pace of the 2008 WRC calendar sees the championship's regulars move on to Turkey for the eighth match of the season. Citroen will have two C4 WRCs in Kemer ...
Citroen and Loeb targeting a top result at the halfway point
The fast and furious pace of the 2008 WRC calendar sees the championship's regulars move on to Turkey for the eighth match of the season. Citroen will have two C4 WRCs in Kemer for Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti. Two privately-entered Citroens will also contest the Rally of Turkey in the hands of Conrad Rautenbach/David Senior and Urmo Aava/Kuldar Sikk whose C4s will be run by PH Sport with the support of technicians from Citroen Sport Technologies.
Following its absence from the 2007 World Championship, the Turkish fixture returns this year and will run to a very similar format as before, with a start ceremony and super-special in Antalya and Kemer hosting the service park and Event HQ. The route, too, bears a striking resemblance to the 2006 event, with a programme of 19 extremely selective gravel stages totalling 360.12km of competitive action.
"After the lessons learned in Greece, we are taking a cautious approach to the Rally of Turkey," says Citroen Sport's Technical Manager Xavier Mestelan-Pinon. "This event has always tended to be less rough than the Acropolis, but the stages are still tough on the cars and the probable hot weather means that the tyre factor promises to play a big role, especially if storms break out over the high-altitude stages. Our crews know they will need to take this parameter on board once again, while particular care will go into rebuilding the cars that have just competed in Greece."
Meanwhile, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena have every intention of defending the lead they have recovered in the provisional Drivers' championship standings. "It took three wins in a row to retrieve top spot, so there is no question of letting it slip from our grasp again," smiles Sebastien. "That said, even though we don't drive as much on bare bedrock here as we did in Greece, I know Turkey won't be easy. The stages are very varied, with a big range of difficulties. On top of that, my last participation on this event was three years ago because my shoulder injury prevented me from starting in 2006. That shouldn't be too much of a problem, though, because the stages have changed little since 2005."
"One big difference, however, will be the tyre factor," adds the winner of 41 world class rallies. "The result could well depend on how well we succeed in looking after our Pirelli tyres. Once again, Daniel and I face the delights of 'road-sweeping' and that promises to be a big handicap, unless the conditions are damp. The work Citroen Sport has put in with the C4 WRC means we will have a competitive, reliable car. To boost our chances and those of Citroen in our respective championships, we will be targeting victory, but I think we can expect a big fight."
Seb's opinion is shared by team-mates Dani Sordo and Marc Marti. "It was in Turkey that I claimed my first fastest time on the loose," recalls Dani. "I've only done the event once, but it went well for me. I remember taking time to familiarise myself with the terrain before fine-tuning my pacenotes and then gradually upping my pace. I like the stages. You can drive with a slightly freer mind than you can in Greece because they're not so hard on the car. To keep up the sort of good runs I've been enjoying recently on gravel, I need to learn to adapt my driving to the condition of my tyres. I know the C4 is capable of challenging for victory, and I'm also aware that everyone in the team is behind me, pushing me forward as they did a fortnight ago. It will now be up to me to profit from all that."
Olivier Quesnel's mid-season analysis
The Rally of Turkey marks the 2008 season's halfway point. After six months at the helm of Citroen Sport, Olivier Quesnel reflects on the season to date, Citroen's crews, the C4 WRC and the remainder of the championship...
Going into the Rally of Turkey, what is your opinion of the season so far from a personal viewpoint? Has running a team like Citroen Sport been what you expected?
"I think you can sum up the year so far in a few figures: six months, seven rallies and five wins! Sebastien and Daniel are a point clear in the Drivers' championship, while Citroen is two points off top spot in the Manufacturers' standings. The first half of the season has gone satisfactorily so far, although we haven't entirely been spared ill-luck, as we saw in Jordan, for example. I've only been in the job a short time, but it's been something of an emotional roller-coaster. The work itself is as interesting and captivating as I had imagined it. When you're enjoying a successful run, you feel neither the fatigue nor the pressure; you just learn to live with them. In any case, I don't feel that I've been overtaken by events. One thing I especially appreciate is seeing a car return to service after winning a rally. That is a special moment that the entire team can share and profit from just before the official finish ceremony."
Both Citroen crews have enjoyed strong runs during the first half of the season...
"With a score of five wins from seven starts to their name, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena had a practically perfect run so far. They have taken their total score to 41 WRC wins and the more I work with them, the more I see how complementary they are. Dani Sordo and Marc Marti have improved each time out, too. They are close to being able to maintain the same, fast pace over the full three days of an event and to obtaining some top results on gravel."
The Citroen C4 has perhaps never been as impressive as it has been so far this season?
"That has been one of my principal sources of satisfaction over the first half of 2008. Despite our win in Mexico, we saw that work was still needed to make the C4 even more competitive, but that is less the case today. Citroen Sport's engineers and mechanics have done a remarkable job, and Seb and Dani are delighted with the car. That's a good sign, because it means that our technical staff haven't been resting on their laurels despite our run of success; they are still capable of calling their work into question. They have found solutions to the questions that arose following the introduction of a control tyre system. The work on adapting our car to the Pirelli tyres is going in the right direction."
How do you see the rest of the season unfolding?
"Turkey marks the halfway point in the season and the gaps at the top of the championship are very small. We face a tough fight but I am nonetheless confident. Of the eight rounds still to come, three are on asphalt. Seb and Dani have traditionally always been strong on the sealed surface events which have produced some good results for the team. One of our objectives, too, will be to help Sebastien and Daniel win the Rally Finland."