Citroen Junior Team tastes Bulgarian asphalt The second part of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship gets underway with the Rally Bulgaria. On its World Championship debut, the Balkan country hosts the crews in the town of Borovets, the oldest...
Citroen Junior Team tastes Bulgarian asphalt
The second part of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship gets underway with the Rally Bulgaria. On its World Championship debut, the Balkan country hosts the crews in the town of Borovets, the oldest ski resort in Bulgaria. Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia and Kimi Raikkonen /
Kaj Lindstrom will defend the colours of the Citroen Junior Team on the event. Of the seven rallies still to come, four will be on asphalt. Two of them will be on known territory in Germany and Spain, while the other two are completely new events in Bulgaria and Alsace. In order to prepare for the second half of the season, with its strong asphalt bias, the Citroen Junior Team has been testing in France and also took part in the Rally della Lanterna in Italy.
"This has allowed our drivers to stay match fit so that they are in the best possible position heading into the second half of the season," explained team manager Benoit Nogier. "We have been working on how to get the best use and performance out of Pirelli's new tyres. This experience will be very useful for the rallies still to come."
As the roads will be new for all the World Rally Championship competitors, the Citroen Junior Team crews will suffer less from their comparative lack of experience relative to the other crews. "It's the first asphalt rally of the season," added Nogier. "It's not necessarily the surface that we're going to be the most comfortable on. As has been the case since the start of the year, our objective is simply to take away as much experience as possible on the forthcoming rallies. That will be our watchword with Sebastien and Kimi."
Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, the winners of the recent Rally of Portugal continued their winning streak on the Rally della Lanterna. "That was a different type of thing, but it's all good for the confidence," said Ogier, who is currently second in the World Championship standings. "Rally Bulgaria will be new for everyone so we are at less of a disadvantage even though we still lack experience. From what we know the roads will be fast and quite flowing with a lot vegetation at the side of the stages. A lot of the corners will be hidden so it will be extremely important to have good pace notes."
Ogier continued: "The second half of the season might not be so easy for us. The goal for this first asphalt rally will be to make progress and again get closer to the frontrunners, while hoping that we can challenge for a podium."
The best result for Kimi Raikkonen and Kaj Lindstrom so far has been fifth in Turkey, and now they get to discover a new surface. "Now we start a new chapter," said the former F1 World Champion. "After snow and gravel, here we are on asphalt. It's something that I'm really looking forward to. I had a really good feeling during the tests and I hope to be able to show that on the roads in Bulgaria."
Three questions to... Kimi Raikkonen
How did you get on with the Citroen C4 WRC on asphalt so far?
"I was keen to drive on asphalt since the very start of the season. From the very first few kilometres in testing, I had a really good feeling with the car. That feeling was confirmed when we took part in a rally in Italy, which I enjoyed hugely. Even if we missed out on victory on the final special stage, we can only be pleased with our performance. The whole team helped us a lot on our asphalt debut. The experience that we've built up since the start of the season is beginning to pay off."
Is being on asphalt an advantage for you?
"Even though I've spent several seasons in Formula One, the asphalt you find on circuits is not at all comparable to what we will encounter in rallying. Formula One and rally are two completely different disciplines. In the WRC, we will be competing on a number of different asphalt rallies with very diverse characteristics. You can't compare the Rally Bulgaria with the Catalunya Rally, or with the roads in Germany or France. In just one stage you can go from wide and flowing roads to narrow or bumpy sections. The grip levels change from one corner to another too. It's also vital to have a good feeling with your co-driver and the pace notes, as well as being able to make the most of a well-balanced car. "
What do you expect from the Rally Bulgaria?
"It's certainly going to be a very different type of playing field, and that is one of the things I like most about rallying. The flip side of this is that rallying is a very hard sport for anybody new to it. This first asphalt rally of the season will be a very important part of my learning process in the WRC. I've realised that it vital to pick things up as you go along and not try to run before you can walk. My objective is to get to the finish and completely understand my Citroen C4 WRC. We'll see where we are at the end of the first day and then try to close the gap to our rivals."