Citroen in the spotlight in Faro
Victory in Portugal this weekend went to Citroen Sport's Sebastien Loeb, his Monaco-born co- driver Daniel Elena and the C4 WRC, while Dani Sordo and his right-hand man Marc Marti took their C4 WRC to 5th place.
For its return to the World Rally Championship scene after an absence of five years, the 2007 Rally de Portugal lived every bit up to its former legend, despite its switch to new territory at the southern tip of the country. The Algarve region's stages turned out to be extremely selective and, although essentially smooth, featured numerous pitfalls that both Citroen Sport succeeded in steering clear of. And as if the tests weren't challenging enough in the dry, the picture was complicated further still when rain moved in over the region on Saturday morning, although this change in the weather failed to catch Citroen Sport by surprise since it had been accurately predicted by Meteo France, one of the team's technical partners this year.
This year's Rally de Portugal will be remembered as one of the most thrilling of the event's history thanks to the breathtaking clash between Sebastien Loeb and Marcus Gronholm that kept the large, perfectly-behaved crowds on their toes. The outcome of their duel was finally decided over the five stages of the third and final leg on Sunday morning which saw Seb base his pace on that of Marcus Gronholm to take his Citroen C4 WRC to its third win of the season. Like his team- mate, Dani Sordo preferred not to take any risks on his way to 5th overall.
"I was one of the few drivers to have prior knowledge of the stages," observed Dani at the finish, "but I'm not sure it was that big an advantage. I drove better at times on the stages that were new to me and I was sometimes a little hesitant over the portions I knew. Once again, I have been able to see how much work I still need to do, especially over the slower sections. My knowledge of the C4 WRC is improving and I am using more of its potential, so that's positive. It was nice to see all the flags from my region on the stages. The noisy support from the Spanish spectators was much appreciated too."
"It was pretty much a perfect weekend for us," commented Sebastien after claiming the 31 st world class win of his career, all of which have been obtained driving a Citroen WRC. "My set-up wasn't ideally suited to the terrain during Friday's first loop but we managed to fine-tune the balance and it was much more to my liking after that. The recent Rally of Mexico and the testing we have done since also helped us find a good set-up for the C4. Step by step, we are gradually exploiting more and more of its potential. It is as easy to drive as ever and our work, notably on the suspension, has enabled us to improve its traction. The change from dry to very wet conditions didn't pose a problem for us. We were well informed about the changes in the weather and that enabled us to anticipate and make two very good tyre choices. Today's result is also very positive in championship terms because it takes us two points closer to Marcus Gronholm."
"Everyone at Citroen Sport did a remarkable job throughout the weekend," enthused Guy Frequelin at the finish. "In addition to the very specific challenge of the stages, the picture was further complicated by rain on Saturday morning. However, we benefited from accurate weather forecasts and that enabled us to make two particularly good tyre choices. After selecting soft compound BFGoodrich tyres on Saturday morning, we switched to a harder compound for the afternoon's loop. It's rare to make such a big jump when contesting the same stages twice the same day. This rally was incontestably very positive for Citroen Sport: we succeeded in making even more of the C4's potential, Sebastien has closed the gap on Gronholm and Dani has gained more valuable experience."
"Six weeks after tak ing over at Citroen, I was keen to see a WRC event for myself," said Citroen's Managing Director Gilles Michel. "It's nice to be able to share the celebrations here in Portugal with everyone at Citroen Sport. My trip allowed me to see how popular rallying is and how close it is to the public. It's a discipline that reflects Citroen's dynamic image and brand values."