Sébastien Loeb will drive the no.1 Citroën DS3 WRC at the fifth round of the World Championship - Rally Argentina
Rally Argentina, the fifth round of the World Championship, will see the much-anticipated return of Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena in the no.1 Citroën DS3 WRC. The nine-time World Champions will line up alongside Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen in the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. As was the case in Sweden, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio will be competing in the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT’s car.
Very much like Monte-Carlo or Finland, Rally Argentina is one of the WRC’s special rounds. A typically Latin atmosphere, passionate crowds and the sublime beauty of the surrounding countryside combine to make this an event that every crew dreams of winning! In fact, the last eight times it has featured in the WRC, a Citroën driver has topped the podium, with Carlos Sainz’s victory here in 2004 followed by seven wins for Sébastien Loeb. This rally is therefore an eagerly awaited event for fans of the Brand, especially as it will see the return of Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena!
As is the case every year, Citroën Argentina has pulled out all the stops to welcome the eight-time World Championship-winning team. Starting this weekend, the crews will be taking part in a series of promotional activities in Buenos Aires, before heading to Cordóba for a roadshow held in the city this Sunday at 4.30pm.
Recce starts on Monday morning, as the event gets underway a day earlier than in recent years. The rally is therefore scheduled to finish on Saturday 4 May, after three days of racing. The route is mainly made up of conventional stages, with plenty of long tests. The two runs on Ascochinga/Agua de Oro (51.88km), Santa Rosa/Villa del Dique (40.69km) and Amboy/Yacanto (39.16km) make up almost two thirds of the total distance of the timed sections.
Unbeaten in Villa Carlos Paz since 2005, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena start their third rally of the season with their sights clearly set on maintaining their record here. “It’s difficult to say whether not competing in the last two rounds will affect my pace at the start of the rally,” wondered Sébastien Loeb. “But I’ll obviously be aiming to secure the best possible result!”
In 2012, Mikko Hirvonen pushed Sébastien Loeb all the way, before making sure of a one-two for Citroën. The Finn hopes to enjoy the same level of performance this year: “Since the Rally de Portugal, we have continued to work in testing and have made some more positive steps forward in the set-up of the DS3 WRC. After finishing as runner-up in the last two rallies, I’m certainly aiming to be even faster here and to win my first race of the season.”
Dani Sordo, the third Citroën Racing driver competing in Argentina, has also finished as runner-up, back in 2009 on his last outing in a C4 WRC. Last year, the Spaniard looked very comfortable here when running in third place in his first race in a Fiesta, before he was let down by a mechanical failure. After running at the front in Portugal, Dani is very determined to underline his growing confidence at one of his favourite rallies. “I love Argentina! It’s a rally where I feel pretty much at home,” he commented. “In Portugal, I felt revitalised in the DS3 WRC. I could do what I wanted with the car and I think I could’ve challenged for the win. I’m not going to get too carried away, however, because the conditions in Argentina will be very different. But I’m certainly on the right track!”
THREE QUESTIONS FOR… SÉBASTIEN LOEB
You seem to have been very busy in the last few weeks. Have you had any time to relax?
“Not really… Whenever I thought I’d have some free time, I found myself busy, more often than not at the wheel of a racing car! After Argentina, I’ve gone another four other racing weekends. I think I’ll only be spending something like two days at home in May. But I can’t really complain – I was the one that chose to accept the opportunities that came up. I’m even busier than I have been in recent years, but it means I can work on my ability to adapt and acquire some experience geared towards the plans I share with Citroën. This was the year that we had to do all of this. I can learn how to do nothing later…”
Did you get the chance to follow Rally Mexico or Rally Portugal? What did you think about them?
“Obviously, I watched the rallies and saw how they went. It wasn’t always easy for Citroën faced with a rival that was already managing to combine very high levels of performance and reliability on a state-of-the-art car. But the season isn‘t over yet, because winning a thirteen round championship where all the rounds count also requires consistency. We saw that the DS3 WRCs were quicker in Portugal than in Mexico, so that suggests that the team is making progress. It also confirms that the DS3 WRC is more comfortable when there is a high level of grip.”
How have you prepared for this Rally Argentina? Do you feel ready to go after an eighth consecutive win?
“Apart from one day of testing, I haven’t driven on gravel since the 2012 Rally de Espana. So I don’t know what sort of feeling I’ll have on the first few stages in Argentina. I think that you can lose your rhythm pretty quickly, and that’s why I’m cautious about my chances. There’s no denying the fact that I have pretty much moved on from rallying and am now focussed on the future. This reduced programme is a good way to continue to compete for Citroën in 2013, but I’m not as well prepared as Mikko, Dani and the other guys. We’ll see what happens when we get our helmets on…”