Citroen targets victory in Sardinia The 2008 World Rally Championship moves on to Sardinia for the sixth round of the season, the Rally d'Italia Sardegna. Citroen Total has entered two C4 WRCs for its usual crews Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and...
Citroen targets victory in Sardinia
The 2008 World Rally Championship moves on to Sardinia for the sixth round of the season, the Rally d'Italia Sardegna. Citroen Total has entered two C4 WRCs for its usual crews Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti, while two privately-entered C4 WRCs run by PH Sport with the support of technicians from Citroen Technologies will contest the Italian event in the hands of Conrad Rautenbach/David Senior and Urmo Aava/Kuldar Sikk.
For many years, Italy's round of the WRC was based in Sanremo before switching to Sardinia in 2004. This year, the all-gravel fixture features 344.73km of competitive action divided into 17 stages. Only the final test, which hugs the coast to the north of Olbia, is new, while the rest of the route uses tracks inland to the south of the host town.
With four previous visits to the Mediterranean island under their belts, the teams and drivers are now perfectly familiar with the specific challenges of Sardinia, especially since the WRC teams come here often for testing purposes. The stages are generally twisty, narrow and lined with inhospitable rocks, so average speeds are quite slow and even a tiny error can prove costly. The sandy surface tends to evolve over the weekend, grip is often at a premium and running order can play an important role, with the first drivers on the road facing a significant amount of 'road sweeping' duty. Citroen's two crews will start in second and fifth positions respectively and will endeavour to make the most of their start order.
Following their wins in Sardinia in 2005 and 2006, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena came close to making it three in a row in 2007. They succeeded in finding a set-up and pace that put them in a strong position but a mistake then put them out of contention for victory. They prefer not to talk in terms of revenge, but the reigning champions are especially keen to top this year's final podium in Porto Cervo. "I'm not one to dwell on the past and last year's incident is well and truly behind us," says Sebastien. "This is a particularly selective rally which I enjoy very much, but this year we will need to see how our tyres perform without run-flat mousse."
This is effectively a factor that will need to be taken into account in Sardinia where Seb and Daniel are targeting outright victory. "Our misadventure in Jordan is behind us, too," adds the World Champion. "We were on top and looking good to extend our lead in the championship, and here we are now with a five-point deficit to make up. We will be looking to start bridging that gap in Sardinia and I am encouraged by the C4's competitiveness over a broad variety of terrains, as well as by the work put in to adapt it to its tyres."
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti spent much of the Jordan Rally in the lead and their run produced several valuable pointers, beginning with the Citroen C4's potential against its rivals, as well as the speed of the Spanish pair who now stand out as potential winners on all types of surface, not just on asphalt. "Leading is nice but not always easy," admits Dani. "I had an excellent feeling with my car and the times I posted were big confidence boosters. Although I believe I still lack experience when it comes to finishing, adapting the way I drive and regarding how best to approach running first on the road, Jordan was positive on those fronts, too."
Despite winning the Junior category in Sardinia in 2005 and coming third last year, Dani only moderately enjoys this event. "It's not my favourite," he recognises. "I think it will be tricky and tyres promise to play a major role. For instance, how will our Pirelli Hard tyres which we won't be able to 're-cut' perform here? And with so many rocks about, it will be important to steer clear of punctures." These considerations don't prevent the Spaniard from targeting another podium finish in Sardinia. That would clearly be beneficial for both championships and would notably permit Citroen to keep up its bid for the 2008 Manufacturers' crown.