Loeb and Elena targeting a sixth world title in Welsh shootout After wrapping up Citroen's fifth Manufacturers' world title* in Spain, the Citroen Total World Rally Team heads for the Rally of Great Britain looking to pull off yet another feat.
Loeb and Elena targeting a sixth world title in Welsh shootout
After wrapping up Citroen's fifth Manufacturers' world title* in Spain, the Citroen Total World Rally Team heads for the Rally of Great Britain looking to pull off yet another feat. This time, its mission will be to give Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena the means to secure a sixth consecutive Drivers' crown. For the Franco-Monegasque pair, the arithmetics couldn't be simpler: they must necessarily finish in the points ahead of Mikko Hirvonen. Meanwhile, Dani Sordo and Marc Marti will be given a free rein to target victory in the 12th round of the season.
In keeping with tradition, this month's Rally of Great Britain will be the final round of the 2009 FIA World Rally Championship. It is also an event that the WRC regulars know particularly well, although this year's visit to Wales is scheduled one month ahead of its slot in the 2008 calendar. "Unless the weather takes a real turn for the worse, I'm pleased to say there is little chance we will face the prospect of having to tackle icy stages on gravel tyres, as we did last year," observes Sebastien Loeb. "That said, the cocktail of rain, mud and fog especially in the dark has a habit of making this a very tough event. But even then, it's a great rally which I thoroughly enjoy."
"Unlike the conditions, our mission in Wales is pretty much straightforward, though," continues Seb. "We will need to finish ahead of Mikko Hirvonen, and in the points. The two of us will obviously be under a great deal of pressure, and even a small mistake could put either one of us out of the running for the title. I don't want to dwell too much on the stakes, however, otherwise we run the risk of not being able to put one foot in front of the other! As far as possible, I will try to put all that to the back of my mind and simply get on the fight. Mikko and I have enjoyed some particularly close scraps this year already in Norway, Finland and Australia and I hope we will see another exciting battle in Wales."
To prepare for the year's closing round, the Citroen team spent four days testing in Wales: "Everything went very well. As in previous years, I think my C4 WRC will be very competitive on this sort of terrain. Mikko is driving the course car on a rally in Wales this weekend, so I will put in an extra day of testing on Sunday, and both of us promise to be in tip-top form when we arrive in Cardiff!"
After making a big contribution to Citroen's 2009 Manufacturers' title, Dani Sordo will be given a free rein on the British round: "That doesn't mean I will win, but I have every intention of being part of the fight. Had that not been the case, then I might as well stay at home! I won't be under any pressure, so I will be able to drive with a freer mind. Last year, I finished on the podium in Wales to help clinch the Manufacturers' title. Our pre-event testing went well; I enjoyed driving the car and I feel confident. You want me to predict the result? OK: Sordo ahead of Loeb. Then we will be able to have a huge party on Sunday evening!"
Three questions to... Olivier Quesnel
Citroen made sure of its fifth Manufacturers' World Rally Championship title in Spain. How much did that moment mean to you?
"Rounding off what turned out to be a perfect weekend for us with a one-two finish and the world title in our pocket was simply fantastic. Everyone in the team can take pride in the knowledge that they did a tremendous job. While it's true that the Drivers' title probably gets more media coverage, the Manufacturers' crown is still very important. It is vital for the Citroen brand to be able to say 'we are the World Rally Champions'."
Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen face a shootout for the Drivers' title in Great Britain. How do you weigh up their chances?
"In the past two years, Mikko has shown that he is perfectly capable of holding his own. He is not fazed by pressure; he is another 'Iceman'! His handicap, though, is the fact that he has never been World Champion. With five consecutive titles and 53 WRC wins to his name, Sebastien is accustomed to this sort of situation. He fears no one! In Wales, he will also have the advantage of running just behind Mikko in the order to begin with, and I believe it is effectively preferable to be the hunter rather than the hunted in this sort of situation. Mikko will have to choose between hitting the ground running or taking time to bed himself in. Seb will be able to adapt as a function of that choice..."
Dani Sordo will be free to approach the rally as he sees fit. Do you think he can notch up his first WRC win in Wales?
"Dani isn't the only driver who won't be under any pressure. Sebastien Ogier, Petter Solberg and Jari- Matti Latvala would all dearly love to win, too! I even believe that the fight for outright victory won't necessarily feature Seb and Mikko. Wales isn't Dani's favourite terrain but he is capable of putting in a top performance. Remember last year, when he finished 18.5 seconds clear of his closest chaser on the 30km Resolfen stage! If he does succeed in winning, I am sure it will be a watershed moment that will enable him to target victory after that on any type of terrain."